The filmmaker offered Yash, who was a TV serial artiste back then, a role in the award-winning film only because his initial choice of actor met with an accident and could not make it.
The 2008 film Moggina Manasu was a game-changer for actor Yash, who is, today, one of the biggest stars in Kannada films with a pan-India following. A TV actor who made the transition from the small screen to cinema, it was director Shashank’s film that gave Yash his first lead role, as one of two heroes in Moggina Manasu. The film, a critical and commercial success, got Filmfare awards for Best Film, director, actress, supporting actor and actress, among other nominations. The supporting actor nod, incidentally, was for Yash, who played Rahul in the film, which also starred his now-wife, Radhika Pandit.
But the chance to work in Moggina Manasu was purely coincidental, as Shashank had cast another actor for the role. “Just as we were about to shoot the portions of this character, the actor who had been cast, met with an accident and fractured his leg. We waited for a while to let him recover, but then realized that he would need close to six months at least to be able to join the shoot. That is when we started looking for a replacement and in a strange twist of fate, I chanced upon Yash in an episode of his serial, Preeti Illade Mele, which was playing at home while I had my dinner. My parents and wife used to watch the show religiously, as it also starred artistes like Achyuth Kumar and Anant Nag, among others. While I had seen episodes of the serial earlier, it was only then that I paid more attention to Yash and his performance and I quite liked what I saw. I then reached out to him and offered him a role in Moggina Manasu,” recalls Shashank.
At the time, though, Yash was sporting a beard for Preeti Illade Mele and Shashank’s character was meant to be a soft lover-boy. “I needed him to be clean shaven, but knew that it would cause continuity issues for the serial. So, I asked him to sort it out with that team. Yash realized the importance of the character in the script – although he was written as a parallel lead, it was as good as being the hero of the tale – so, he figured out his dates for the serial and turned up on my set clean shaven and ready to play Rahul,” adds Shashank.
On the first day of Yash’s shoot for the film, Chitra Shenoy, who played his mother, was apparently mighty impressed with his portrayal of the character and how good he looked onscreen. “The whole team was surprised at the level of talent he had even as a rank newcomer (in films). In fact, we planned the schedule in such a way that we’d begin with a song to get him accustomed to being on a film set and get rid of any nerves in the process. The plan was to can his talkie portions later, because all of his scenes were pivotal to the narrative and quite intense. But we later realised that we did not have to do that,” says the filmmaker.
Shashank, of course, is very proud of the growth trajectory Yash has had, which did not come easily to him. “Yash has had his fair share of ups and downs, but if he is a pan-India star today, it boils down entirely to the commitment he has to his craft. He’s been highly dedicated to all his films, right from Moggina Manasu. Our set was actually like a college campus, given that most of the cast comprised youngsters. Although Yash hung out with the team and made merry on set, he was focused on his work and made sure that he did not let anything else affect his onscreen performance. He always came well-prepared to set, including memorizing his lines and what was required of him in each scene. Looking back, I think Yash was God sent, because his performance elevated the script to another level,” he signs off.