‘We must tell native stories’: Tagaru Palya director Umesh K Krupa to TNM

Interestingly, ‘Tagaru Palya’ is the third film in recent years, to have the name of a meat-based dish in its title. In an interview, director Umesh speaks about the process of bringing his idea alive on screen.
Umesh K Krupa
Umesh K Krupa
Written by:
Edited by:

In the four weeks since its release, debut director Umesh K Krupa’s Tagaru Palya has charmed audiences across the state. Many shows went housefull, and the film, starring Rangayana Raghu, Tara, Nagabhushana, and Amruta Prem, stepped into week five with multiple shows in 10-plus screens across Karnataka– no small feat for a small movie with heart, in the face of stiff competition from across languages.

If someone had told you that a film set in a forest clearing, about a family out to sacrifice a goat for its family deity, would be lapped up by urban and rural audiences alike, you might have laughed. Until four weeks ago. But, the film, produced by Dhananjaya, did just that. It reminded people of their childhood and trips to the village. It helps that the writing is real, the screenplay taut, and the performances natural. The technical crew does its part too, and Vasuki Vaibhav’s music is an added plus.

This coming together of talent is what got actor-lyricist-producer Dhananjaya to back the film. “I loved the script because it was so rooted. I hail from a village, and could completely connect with it. I felt Umesh had the potential to make it big, and invested in the film,” he says. 2023 has been good for Dhananjaya the producer — his Daredevil Musthafa, another small gem, did well at the box office too. “I am very happy with the response to Tagaru Palya. The audience came trusting us and the content because we know that without a star’s face, it is difficult to draw in the crowds,” he adds.

Interestingly, Tagaru Palya is the third film in recent years, to have the name of a meat-based dish in its title — after Abhilash Shetty’s Koli Saar and Champa Shetty’s Koli Esru, all of which celebrate regional cuisine and cultural practices. 

In an interview, director Umesh speaks about the process of bringing alive his idea onto the big screen. Excerpts

Umesh, while the film looks simple, executing it within a small patch of land is not. How did you go about it?

I am primarily a visual artist and have worked in the Ramakrishna Mission Vidyalaya,  Coimbatore, for two years, where I created their Ramayana theme park. I see life through visuals. 

From where I hail, it is common for the entire family to head out like this. And since I am from Malnad, I knew which location could handle this story. That’s how we zeroed in on Barachukki waterfalls, near Malavalli in Mandya. During pre-production, I created miniatures for all the characters and did many recces to determine how we would light up the place. That was our starting point.

Tagaru Palya is also your debut film at 38. How long did you have to struggle for a break?

A long struggle. I dreamt of the stage and films and left Coimbatore in 2012 to see if my passion would become my profession. I began as a clap boy, assisted a whole lot of people, and worked on close to 40 films. My last one was Yogaraj Bhat Sir’s Gaali Patta 2.

Then I began exploring directorial options. 

A commercial story would get approved, but not at the budget I sought because I was a first-timer. And so I decided to begin with a low-budget film without any big faces. I thought of a film about a missing ram. My friends liked it, and some of them were willing to help me make the film. Technicians decided to be co-producers who contribute through their work. And then one day, Dhanu Sir (Dhananjaya), to whom I’d narrated a story during lockdown, asked me what I was working on. I sent him the script, and he offered to make it. Today, when I see people paying a premium to buy tickets, and many shows going housefull even in the fourth week, all the struggle seems worthwhile.

Did you ever wonder how people would react to a title like Tagaru Palya (which means mutton fry), and the theme it speaks of?

Never. I knew that once people entered the theatre, they would be drawn into this world because my intention when I wrote the story was very clear. I was not judging anyone. I hoped I would get an ice cream as a gift for my efforts — people gave me ice cream loaded with unexpected almonds and pistachios.

While the location and setting of the film look lovely, how daunting was it to shoot there?

Literally, each person in the team climbed 270 steps every single day of the shoot to reach that forest clearing near Barachukki Falls. They struggled the first week, but by the time we wrapped up shooting, they did not mind that climb. We shot for 30 days there, and everyone wore the same costume and had to sit around the same places. That was necessary because we wanted the audience to ‘know’ the locale sometime into the movie. Now, all the team remembers is how happy we all were during the making of this film.

You grew up in Shimoga. How did your exposure to cinema happen?

I studied in the government school and failed my SSLC exam. In the gap I had to write my supplementary exam, I decided to help at home by working with someone. I trained with Nagesh Sharma, who would paint in temples. I learned to make clay Ganeshas. I joined PUC, and my principal Shalini madam told me that I should take up a degree in fine arts. I went to Davengere’s Kuvempu University for that and passed out five years later with a gold medal. That stint is one of the main reasons why I see everything visually.

What has the Tagaru Palya experience taught you?

That every newcomer entering the industry needs someone to believe in their vision. Take this film, for instance. I might not have been able to scale it up but for Dhanu Sir’s vision. We can write a wonderful script, but we all need hand-holding. 

Subha J Rao is an entertainment journalist covering Tamil and Kannada cinema and is based out of Mangaluru, Karnataka.

Join TNM and Newslaundry as we bring to you the most compelling reporting and analysis during the upcoming elections in Telangana, Mizoram, MP, Chhattisgarh, and Rajasthan. Click here to support our election coverage.

Related Stories

No stories found.
The News Minute