Danish Sait talks about his movie Humble Politician Nograj and the inspiration behind the popular satirical character
“Please call me Danny. No one calls me Danish Sait,” he says in a casual tone that leaves you wondering if it’s a prelude to one of his infamous pranks. For more than five years, Danish has been a RJ at Fever 104 Fm in Bangalore where he made quite a name for himself after his pranks went viral. He assumes many roles - Nograj, Asgar, Chacko, Manjunath, Saleem, Charles, Abdullah - each representing a certain ethnic stereotype, while playing a prank with his unsuspecting listeners. But even when he doesn’t seem to be in the mood to play a prank, you have a hunch that he’s going to pull the rug beneath your feet any moment.
The thing is, ever since he can remember, Danish says that he has always dreamt of acting ‘a film’. “Not films, but a film,” he stresses while stating that he hasn’t given a serious thought about an acting career in films, so to speak. Not yet, at least. But all that could change post the release of his debut film Humble Politician Nograj that opened to rave reviews in mid January. “For as long as I can remember, I have considered myself as an entertainer. I tried imitating different accents as a kid, and when I went to Bahrain and Dubai to explore a career in radio, it all came back to me,” he recalls. It was in Dubai that he first began playing pranks as part of his job, and then in 2011, out of desperation, he brought alive the character of Nograj. Although the name is Nagraj, but it is pronounced with a nasal tone, which sounds more like Nograj. “Several years ago, while interacting with a customer care agent, he said his name is Nogesh. When I asked him to spell it out, he said it was Nagesh. That nasal tone in his voice kind of stuck to me, and thus Nagraj is pronounced as Nograj,” Danish guffaws.
So, who exactly is Nagraj? He’s immoral and has absolutely no control over what he says. He is also a jack of all trades. He is eloquent in addressing socio-political issues and also gives his fans a sneak-peek into the crazy world of IPL. He can talk about why Bangaloreans deserve a steel-flyover and also, impress the ladies with his charm. It’s all part of the game and what makes Nagraj so irresistible.
Ask Danish when did the idea of turning this popular character into a subject of a political satire (that eventually became Humble Politician Nograj) occurred to him, the RJ-turned-actor recalls an incident which occurred in New York back in 2016. “I had gone to the US to study improv comedy and one day, while I was at the Museum of Sex, I began doing a Facebook live video after I donned the avatar of Nagraj, with a fake moustache and Mysore Peta (turban). And few minutes later, after I crossed few blocks, few people bumped into me and said that they were watching my video. I was amazed with Nagraj’s popularity and that’s where the thought of making this film began,” he says, adding, “I must add that that particular museum didn’t really inspire me to make this film, before your thoughts go in a different tangent (laughs).”
Directed by his longtime friend Saad Khan, Humble Politician Nograj traces the journey of Nagraj from being a corporator to an MLA. Considering how popular the character was with his fans, especially in Bangalore and elsewhere, it might sound like Danish had a tough task to bring in a novelty factor while writing the film; however, he states that Saad and he were very clear about what they were trying to do.
“For me one of the things was to build a world around Nagraj. All these days, I’ve been looking into a mobile camera wearing glasses and mustache, doing social commentary, satire, comedy, humour. What people have seen so far is Nagraj. In the process of doing all this, especially on radio, I would randomly take names of Manjunath and Lavanya, who didn’t exist. I was just creating a visual in the listener’s mind. People know that Nagraj is corrupt, and he represents the evil in the society, but what are his motivations? Everyone has some kind of desire - power, position, money. We charted that journey for Nagraj as someone who’s seeking power and position. It’s about a corporator wanting to become an MLA. I’ve been hiding behind glasses for so long, that it was refreshing to see my eyes while facing the camera,” Danish adds.
The political landscape in Karnataka has been in the spotlight for the past few years, and it’s evident that both Danish and Saad were never short of content. And Danish is aware that a political satire, especially one encompassing a character like Nagraj, comes with its own baggage. The film essentially makes a bad guy quite ‘likable’; however, Danish confesses that it’s also a reminder that we vote for the wrong people in most cases. “Let me put it this way. No matter how ‘likable’ he is, I don’t want to be Nagraj. Ever. He’s hungry for power, and he’ll do anything to get what he wants. Having said that, Nagraj isn’t going to change either. He represents the corrupt & scheming politician, who just wants to fill his pockets, stir debates to grab eyeballs. I genuinely think that the onus of having a Nagraj among us lies on us. Year after year, we end up voting for the wrong people and then regret it. In the process of being human beings, we forget that our problems, concerns and needs are the same,” says Danish. The film underlines this aspect quite well, but there’s no denying that Danish Sait, aka Danny, has also created a character who deserves his own movie franchise.
Interestingly, it was Rana Daggubati who encouraged the actor-director duo to make the film in Kannada. “I had met Rana at an awards ceremony in Singapore and became friends with him instantly. He had already seen some of my videos that I had done for RCB (Royal Challengers Bangalore) and he had been following some of the pranks, which went viral on the internet. So, when I wrote the script in English, he was the first person I got in touch with. After listening to the story, he suggested that I should go meet his father (Suresh Babu), who’s one of the top film producers in South India. Honestly, I knew Rana but I was clueless about his lineage. When we met Suresh Babu, he was sweet enough to inform us that he was already caught up with production of another film and told us that we’ll have to wait for another seven months or so. Saad and I decided to try our luck elsewhere,” Danish confesses. That’s when, the duo came back to Bangalore and met Pushkar, the producer of Godhi Banna Sadharana Mykattu. “He liked what we had written, and soon, Hemanth Rao and Rakshit Shetty also came on-board to produce the film. I’ve worked hard, but I haven’t really struggled to make the film.”
Post the film’s release, Danish is back to doing what he does best - entertaining millions of Bangaloreans. He has actually kept a count of the number of times he has played a prank during his career over the years in Bangalore - 1076 pranks, to be precise. And not surprisingly, thanks to his popularity, some people figured it out before he could take them by surprise. “But then, why would I put out such clips where they know it’s me. It would make me seem uncool. That’s the trump card you use when you are in a radio station. No hero would want to seem vulnerable,” Danish laughs.
Published Date: Feb 04, 2018 11:32 AM | Updated Date: Feb 04, 2018 11:32 AM