'Rathnan Prapancha will be a torchbearer for Kannada films on OTT’: Rohit Padaki intv

Director Rohit Padaki spoke about the idea behind choosing self-exploration as the central theme, casting the lead actors, shooting during the pandemic and more in an interview with TNM.
Director Rohit Padaki along with other crew members on the sets of Rathnan Prapancha.
Director Rohit Padaki along with other crew members on the sets of Rathnan Prapancha.
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Rathnakara (played by actor Dhananjaya) looks uninterested and disoriented in the first few shots from the trailer of the Kannada film Rathnan Prapancha, which is set to stream on Amazon Prime Video. “The truest embodiment of a goddess that I’ve witnessed is... My mother,” we hear Rathnakara’s words. Soon, we are introduced to his mother, whose sassy comebacks and dramatic lines prove otherwise. His mother is on the quest to find a bride for her son, which only seems to be making Rathnakara’s life worse. But in a surprising turn of events, Rathnakara’s life turns ‘upside down.’

Accompanied by Mayuri, a journalist (played by Reba Monica John), he sets on a journey to rediscover his roots. A journey that takes him across Jammu and Kashmir as well as the interiors of North Karnataka — where he encounters residents, thugs and perhaps even mob leaders. What he is looking for and where his quest takes him form the rest of the plot of the upcoming Kannada film, Rathnan Prapancha.  

Helmed by director Rohit Padaki, the film will stream on Amazon Prime Video on October 22. Produced by Karthik and Yogi G Raj under the banner of KRG Studios, the cast also includes actors Reba Monica John, Umashree, Ravishankar, Anu Prabhakar, Pramod, Vainidhi Jagadeesh, Achyuth Kumar and Shruthi Krishna in pivotal roles. 

Ahead of the film’s release, director Rohit Padaki spoke to TNM about the idea behind choosing self-exploration as the central theme, the casting process, shooting during the pandemic, opting for release on an OTT platform and more.

What is Rathnan Prapancha about and how did you come up with the idea for the story?  

I had a basic idea for the film in 2019. I had a one-line plot. I pitched it to producers Karthik and Yogi, and they were excited. We started writing during the pandemic, when we had the time to write the script. Five of us (including Samarth M Rao, Kshema B K, Sharath Manjunath and Ajay Kulkarni) wrote the whole screenplay. 

Why did you choose self-exploration as the core theme? 

Every journey has a self-exploration story. The theme of the film has more to do with the idea that everybody has to change themselves at some point. In our films, we very rarely see the protagonist changing. The protagonist changes the society and the world around them but not themselves. So, we thought it would be good if we saw the protagonist changing himself, which was why we chose self-exploration as the theme.  

How did you decide to cast Dhananjaya and Reba Monica John as the lead characters?  

Dhananjaya was the automatic choice. He has been playing various kinds of roles and he easily fits into all the characters. I know him personally as well, we have been friends for a long time. He is a completely different person from what we see on screen but he pulls it off at ease. With Reba, there were a lot of similarities between her character in the movie and her persona in real life. She comes across as a very genuine and natural person.  

A Behind-the-Scenes (BTS) image of actor Dhananjaya from the sets of Rathnan Prapancha.
Image Credit: Amazon Prime Video 

The film has a lot of interesting characters, such as the ones played by actors Pramod Panju (as Udaal Babu Rao) and Umashree (as Saroja). Did you have to research for building their characters or was it through observation?  

The characters we see in this film are people we meet in our day-to-day lives. They are all around us. These are very day-on-day characters. We all come across people who talk like actor Umashree talks in the film or might find people from north Karnataka whose body language and characterization resembles actor Shruti’s (plays the role of Yellavva) from the film. So, I think by observation as well.  

The background score used in the trailer sets the tone for a comical film. How did the music for the film come about?  

I wanted Ajaneesh Loknath, the music composer for the film, to make the songs and background score very quirky. The music had to tell a story. He came up with three tracks — a travel song, one about North Karnataka and an introduction song. He also came up with a catchy background score. I finished the edit and sound effects so that he could get a sense of the film’s tone, and then we used to sit and discuss. I also explained the places where I wanted to have music since background music has more to do with where one should not give music. Every place and character in the film also has a different theme. The journey was nice.  

Were there any challenges you faced while shooting during the pandemic?  

We had an extensive shoot in Mysuru, followed by major schedules in Kashmir, Pahalgam, Gulmarg and North Karnataka’s Haveri. Since the shoot was happening during the pandemic, we had to stop mid-way during one of the schedules. In terms of crew, we couldn’t take a big crew in Kashmir. There was snowfall and the size of the crew was less due to restrictions. So, we had to take care of our own stuff. There was no difference between cast and crew. Everyone had to take care of their tasks. But everything was normal in North Karnataka.  

A BTS image from the sets of Rathnan Prapancha in Kashmir. Image Credit: Amazon Prime Video 

Why did you opt for an Over-the-top (OTT) release? We don’t often see Kannada movies on OTT platforms, why do you think that is the case?  

We made a conscious decision long back. We thought OTT would thrive with theatrical releases and go hand in hand. There are a lot of releases and a lot of rush to theatres. We wanted our film to reach a lot of people and OTT felt like a nice way of doing that since there are many people who are also not ready to go to theatres.  

I think this film will be a torchbearer for Kannada movies on OTT. That was one of the reasons why we wanted to go for OTT. We felt that one good film releasing on OTT would open the door for other filmmakers. 

From your debut film to Rathnan Prapancha; comedy has been an important part of all the films you’ve directed. How do you keep it natural? Did actors improvise too?  

We need to draw a line between going over the board and being satirical. The dialogues and body language, if it comes naturally to the artist, it's fine but when it looks like overreacting or over-acting, it does feel like going overboard and overdoing it. That does not look good on screen as well. We used to discuss how we can go with the flow. We used to communicate with the artists. All the artists in the film have been in the industry for a long time so they would improvise when they got into the skin of the character. They would make changes to the character’s body language and appearances but not on the dialogues. They did not go out of the script to build a scene from scratch. 

Could you tell us a bit about your upcoming projects? You made your debut with Dayavittu Gamanisi, an anthology, a format that’s not as popular in the Kannada film industry as it is in other south Indian film industries.  Can we expect another anthology from you? 

The main reason I wanted to do an anthology at that point in time was because I wanted to narrate different stories. I felt there were different characters in Bengaluru whose stories we don’t see often on the big screen. I don’t think I will be doing it in the near future for sure. I am currently waiting for the release of Rathnan Prapancha, I might start planning for upcoming releases after that (laughs). But my last film was four years back, so I won't take that much time in between projects from now on. The next announcement will be sooner. 

Watch the trailer of Rathnan Prapancha here:  

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