The songs, says the actor, propel the narrative forward in the Dr Raghavendra BS directorial, which opens in theatres today.
For close to two years, the only film Nenapirali Prem has been speaking about is his milestone 25th, Premam Poojyam, which opens in movie halls today. It’s a film that he spent a year shooting and another in putting together during the pandemic – a risk he took because of how much he believed in the subject and the story he and his team had. It’s also a film he chose after listening to 80-odd other scripts.
But then, this is also a film written and directed by Raghavendra BS, whose professional expertise is in medicine and not filmmaking. “The fact that he has no experience in films played on my mind before we met for a script narration, and I was not sure about working with him. But once the narration happened, I was bowled over. Now, I can confidently say that he is an asset for the Kannada film industry. Yes, I had heard around 84 scripts prior to Premam Poojyam, but they were all run-of-the-mill subjects that I found boring. I wanted to do something different, with a good story, which plays to my strengths as an onscreen lover boy. I found this story quite sweet, and ticked all the boxes I was looking for – a fresh subject and a passionate team,” says Prem.
The online discussions about the film in recent days have been about the film’s almost three-hour run-time and that it has 12 songs in it. Isn’t that a bit too much? “Not really. It is actually a musical journey and just because we say there are 12 numbers doesn’t mean that these are regular song-and-dance routines. See, this is a big and lengthy story and most of the songs in Premam Poojyam take the narrative forward. The songs are an integral part of the story, on the lines of the kind of musicals that composer Hamsalekha used to do. In fact, in some portions, instead of a background scrore, a song will play. Also, these are not long-drawn-out songs, some of which last only 30 seconds, while others may play, say, 2 minutes,” explains Prem.
How creatively satisfying was this film for the actor? “It was a challenging character for me as an actor, but I loved working on it. There’s a lot of strength to Dr Raghavendra’s writing. I had to also play my character with age progression from about 16 to 40 years and revisit most of the locations in the film in each of my looks for the film. For instance, there are sequences in Ooty and Darjeeling that I had to shoot at three times in three different looks. This is also why the film took a year in the making and because I had to maintain certain looks for continuity, I could not even take on any other project. As a mainstream hero, dedicating two years to only one film is a big risk. But looking back, I am immensely satisfied with the effort that has gone into making this film and believe that audiences will like it too,” says Kannada cinema’s Lovely Star.
So, how would he sum up the film? “This must be the only film in which from start-to-finish I don’t even touch the heroine. Imagine the tragedy; I played a lover boy in 24 films and in my 25th I am madly in love and don’t even touch her,” he laughs and signs off.