A Gentleman: Directors Raj Nidimoru, Krishna DK talk about upcoming film, meeting Ram Gopal Varma
It is lunchtime, and director-duo Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK are famished, but the thought of finishing another quick interview in a day packed with many others is tempting. It’s a different matter that the conversation lasts for 45 minutes, and the disruption caused by the PR lady's request to finish their lunch is spurned. When I meet Raj and DK, directors of the upcoming flick A Gentleman, they epitomize the dream life that every college-goer looks for. Engineering degrees, well-paying jobs in the US, plenty of travel and well-settled lives. The only catch is that this is all past for them.
After being lured by Bollywood, the two have now succumbed to its charm. The duo is back with an action-comedy featuring Sidharth Malhotra and Jacqueline Fernandez, after having won laurels with their brand of quirky humour in the past. So, does A Gentleman have any connection with Hrithik Roshan’s Bang Bang? “No. Fox approached us and they asked us if we were interested in making a sequel to Bang Bang. That’s how the news got out after the conversation started. We then proposed another script, which was more of an action-comedy. When they read the script, they said, 'Let’s do it,' and that’s when things switched gears,” explains Raj.
Though they have jointly been directing films since 2003, their partnership began much earlier – during their college days. They went to college together and would team up to participate in cultural events, dumb charades and quizzes. The quest of pursuing jobs took both of them to the US later in life. Their ‘software consultant’ profile entailed travelling, and this allowed them to traverse all across the US, from Houston to Chicago to New York to Ohio and even the Midlands.
“We both were software consultants working in the US, but later, we realised that this was too tough and mundane. We had both reached a point when there was nothing much to achieve from the family point of view,” explains Raj. While Raj was based out of Detroit, DK was working in Minneapolis. To while away time on their off-days, they used to call each other and then fly to meet at a common point to shoot random things. For them, it was a case of 'reverse engineering'. “It was also the time when we learnt about this European filmmaker who shot an entire film through his mini DV camera. We then decided to start experimenting, though there was no definitive idea,” adds DK.
They believe that their engineering background helped them in their practical and analytical approach. When they landed in Mumbai, they decided that they will neither stand in queues, nor will they assist any filmmaker. They tasted both critical acclaim and box office success with their films Shor In The City and Go Goa Gone, but forfeited a chance at achieving a hat-trick when their Happy Ending collapsed at the box office. The failure of the film was a learning experience for them, in terms of budget and locations. The film was primarily written as an indie film based out of Mumbai, but ambition proved to be their nemesis. “We pulled off quite a bit of Happy Ending in a tight budget, but then there were also other problems with schedules and other things too, which included strikes. We did lose a lot of money in terms of budgets,” recalls Raj.
After the setting of the film was shifted to Los Angeles from Mumbai and with stars like Saif Ali Khan, Ileana D’Cruz and Govinda on board, everything went for a toss, and the essence was completely lost. “The shifting process of the film, which was written more as an indie film, to proper commercial cinema, was a mistake. The connectivity goes away when you take a writer to LA versus a washed up director in Mumbai. The setting was a mistake, and we learnt a lot from it,” admits DK.
The same budget that destroyed Happy Endings has been tightened in A Gentleman. Without disclosing the actual figure, they maintain that the budget of their latest flick is similar to a high budget rom-com. “When the trailer was launched, I sent the link to few of my friends based in the US and asked them to guess the budget of the film. They replied saying that the movie I was making looked big, but not this big. They said it must have costed close to $ 50 million for the whole deal. I then told them we managed to pull off this film in one tenth of it [that figure],” reveals Raj. The duo is confident about the latest flick.
This conversation also revealed that it was a screening of Ram Gopal Varma’s Shiva which actually put the seed of celluloid dreams inside their minds, though it took years to fertilise. “Shiva in its Telugu version is unbelievably path-breaking cinema. It was one of the mind blowing events of my life, as everything was real yet crazily dramatic and cinematic,” recalls Raj. Years later, they were successful in meeting the man who had sown the seeds. Their first and only encounter with RGV turned out to be a hilarious one that they learnt much from.
“When we met him at his Factory office, he asked us what we have made, and then we told him about a small film we made in America which has really been appreciated. We then gave him a DVD and a small sheet, which carried glowing reviews and quotes from The Hollywood Reporter, Toronto Star, The New York Times and others. He started reading all the reviews patiently and stopped at one, which said that it’s a treat to watch this film, which has no violence, cuss words and sex. He then said to us, how can you make a film like this, this is exactly the film I don’t want to make,” said DK, as he laughed uncontrollably.
Raj and DK are also known as directors who have never resorted to re-shoots in their entire career. When asked who their favourite filmmaker is, pat comes the obvious reply: the Coen Brothers. Raj quickly adds that they are also fond of Judd Apatow, Edgar Wright and Spielberg in the earlier part of his career. An interview with these two is incomplete if you don't ask about whether Go Goa Gone is going to have a sequel. “It is happening and its just a matter of time; ‘When?’ is the only question. We are in talks with Illuminati and Eros, and we are trying to figure it out,” informs Raj.