Dattanna played an aged engineer in the film, part of the core team that succeeds in executing the Mars mission on a tight deadline.

Unparalleled experience Veteran Kannada actor Dattanna intv on Mission Mangal
Flix Interview Monday, August 26, 2019 - 12:35

Former Wing Commander Harihar Gundurao Dattatreya, known to Kannada audiences as veteran actor Dattanna, needs no introduction and, is best known for calling a spade a spade.

At 77, he’s worked in around 80 films, and is now in the news for his role in Mission Mangal, the Bollywood multi-starrer on India’s mission to Mars. Dattanna plays an aged engineer who is part of the core team that succeeds in executing the audacious mission within a tight deadline.

Speaking to TNM, Dattanna says that he had fun working on the sets of Mission Mangal.

“Once we were on the sets, all of us were actors, each trying his/her best to live the character.  Excellent teamwork, hassle-free, and enjoyable. Off the set, it was full of leg-pulling (in good spirit), pranks - Akshay is a master at that, both on and off the set -  and some special items of food every day sourced straight from Akshay's home, and also from others',” reminisces Dattanna, speaking about his experience.

While he’s not keyed into the numbers game, Dattanna has no qualms accepting that he was incredibly excited about Mission Mangal having entered the 100-crore club.

“In all honesty, being part of a Bollywood commercial and the attendant experience of working with the stars was unparalleled. More than the role, it was also a lot of learning, which added to the experience. Everyone was really professional, and it felt good to be surrounded by actors who respect their craft,” says Dattanna.

The actor, who plunged into a gamut of professions before stepping into showbiz, believes that the role he played in the film came naturally to him.

“Actors get inspired by the role if it is meaty and it challenges them. All the roles were written very well. As for me, I am an engineer myself, and have worked in related spheres in the Air Force and HAL for long years. It was hence easily relatable,” he says.

Dattanna says that we’ve finally entered an era of cinema where great content pays a thousand times over.

“The film has grossed a record Rs 140 crores in just 10 days. And is going strong. From what I hear and see on social media, regular film-going people seem to have enjoyed it thoroughly. But some who wanted to see the exact replica of events leading to the mission have expressed certain reservations, which is understandable. But what needs to be understood is that the film is not a documentary. It is based on this great event, but fictionalised in some sequences to make it entertaining and also reach out to a large common audience. Mission Mangal does not claim to present 100% actual details of the mission,” he says.

Aside from Mission Mangal, 2019 kept him busy with Brahmachari, a Kannada romantic comedy drama, which is slated for an early October release. “Brahmachari has been a very satisfying experience. I wouldn’t want to disclose a lot because we aren’t too far away from the release and I would like the audience to decode whatever they like from the film. Personally, I’m grateful to the team for having me as a part of the movie. I also have immense respect for Uday K Mehta and Chandra Mohan for all the efforts they’ve put into this.”

The actor, who’s got a witty side which he doesn’t shying away from flaunting, recently found himself in the midst of controversy for an interesting opinion: egging actors on to charge per scene! Speaking of this, he chuckles, “Well, that statement was said in a lighter vein. I don’t know how it got so much importance in the first place. Obviously, it is not feasible, and it clearly wasn’t anything that I gave a lot of thought to. In fact, I’m personally of the opinion that star remuneration is very high. It would be in the interest of the industry if these highly-paid stars share box-office risk also.”

A meagre 20-minute conversation with Dattanna gives one a peek into a key aspect of his personality — he detests being rushed. Over the course of this interview, Dattanna would gently remind this writer to “slow down a little”. And the same attitude spills over to how he balances his personal life with work.

“Life is more important than work. Proper balance has to be found,” he says. Despite being the recipient of National Award, Dattanna believes that recognition and satisfaction are not one and the same. And, if given a chance, he would choose the latter.

“Awards come their way. I don’t wait for it. For that matter, awards are not as important as the satisfaction of having done a good film. But, there’s a thrill nevertheless in getting awards,” he says.

With four films in his kitty currently, Dattanna’s prepared for a packed year end. But, it’s not like he’s complaining.

“So, I have two Kannada films and one tri-lingual flick in the pipeline, I’m excited about the time ahead,” he says. “One of it (Kannada film) deals with caste system, while another is a children’s’ film. Yet another deals with problems arising out of unregulated use of mobile phones by children. And, then there’s comedy too! The trilingual movie deals with the childhood of Gandhi,” he says.

As someone who’s been in the industry for decades, we ask Dattanna that one question which is directed at most seasoned actors:  On whether he’d be directing a film anytime soon.

“NO. A director’s job is too complicated and requires a great deal of patience. I am not up for it,” comes the clear answer.

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