Gultoo director Janardhan Chikkanna discusses the cyber-crime thriller, Sonu Gowda's performance

Karthik Keramalu

Apr 21, 2018 13:30:13 IST

Gultoo — the small-ticket release starring Naveen Shankar, Sonu Gowda, and Ram Dhanush – has hit the bull's eye. People haven't stopped talking about it since its release.

Janardhan Chikkanna, the director of the fun Kannada thriller, talks to Firstpost about what makes his directorial debut stand out from the regular fare in an exclusive interview.

Here are the edited excerpts from the phone conversation:

How did the idea of jumbling the words “Log Out” come to you? And how did it become Gultoo? Doesn’t the title sound like Guldu (a word used to refer to an idiot in the Kannada world)?

This is my first film. I wanted the title to carry the essence of the genre. A common word, or a meaningful word, wouldn’t have served the purpose. I thought “Log Out” as a straight title wouldn’t build the necessary amount of curiosity. That’s how Gultoo happened. But many people were of the opinion that the title meant Guldu only… (laughs).

The most important details about the movie, which deal with the Aadhaar scheme, weren’t revealed during the promotional phase. There were just hints about Gultoo being a cyber-crime thriller. Were you afraid of getting attacked by the government?

I didn’t want to talk about the plot of the movie before the release. Also, I didn’t want to attract problems. Moreover, I was confident of the movie getting a wider attention as a drama. So, the publicity material was designed keeping in mind the story. That way, when the audiences walk into the theaters, they’ll get connected to the film better.

Aadhaar became Sudhaar, and Karnataka’s Chief Minister Siddaramaiah became Anantharamaih, in Gultoo. Did the thoughts of politicians protesting against your movie cross your mind?

I had that fear (laughs)… it’s still there. However, we didn’t intend to mock the CM. Anantharamaiah was actually Ananth as I wanted Anant Nag to play that character. It didn’t happen. And, when Rangayana Raghu joined the cast, we added Ramaiah to Ananth.

What kind of research went into the movie as Gultoo speaks about the ill-effects of data breach, dark web, etc.

I wrote the entire crux of the story in 1-2 days. When I started researching for the crime angle of Gultoo (wherein a person is murdered heinously), lots of debates were taking place around the collection of data for Aadhaar on Twitter and other platforms. I realized then that the chances for data breach were high. And, I had to take support from my classmates and lecturers for the hacking concepts as I wanted to push these matters logically. Since this is a national issue, the story could have unfolded in Delhi, Mumbai, or Chennai. But, I chose Bangalore as the setting because the Aadhaar Data Centre is here. So, it felt right for Kannada cinema.

Sonu Gowda has been in the film industry since a decade. All the reviews are calling this her best film. How did you rope her in?

I liked Inthi Ninna Preethiya (her first film) a lot. And, she was very accessible. When we reached out to her, she was doing a play. I didn’t want the female lead to be an eye-candy. And, I knew that she’d fit into the role. We spoke about the producer-pitch (a trailer was made by the team of Gultoo to pitch to potential producers two years ago) and she said “yes”.

Gultoo director Janardhan Chikkanna discusses the cyber-crime thriller, Sonu Gowdas performance

The poster for Gultoo/Image from Twitter.

Ram Dhanush, the film’s main comedian, gets the best lines. How did you get him to play the Aasthi character?

He has got a knack for comic timing. I’ve known him for a long time and I knew that he could pull off that role. More than comedy, through his character, we’ve tried to run a commentary on the usage of digital devices. He’s either taking selfies, or texting; and the plot itself opens with his dialogue – where he says he’s lost his mobile.

There’s a difference between the first half and the second half. They look like they belong to different genres. Was it a commercial decision to have romance, comedy, and songs in the first half, and have all the thrilling moments in the latter half?

Yeah! It’s a commercial decision as the risk factor is more. Still, you never know if the formula’s going to work. Having said that, we didn’t push ourselves to make a love story; the story between the leads isn’t romantic at all. I may have gone overboard by trying to blend the comedy scenes and songs together. If I could have done two songs the way I wanted, it’d have been better. I suppose, we took some wrong creative decisions.

There are various layers in Naveen Shankar and Sonu Gowda’s characters. They can go to any length to get what they want. Naveen has a criminal bent of mind, and, on the other end, Sonu, who’s with the Cyber Crime Cell, honey traps Naveen. Interestingly, though, they don’t question each other’s motives.

Naveen’s character doesn’t want to become a Robin Hood for others. He’s doing everything for himself. And, Sonu Gowda’s character is a thorough professional. There isn’t any emotional bonding between the two characters from the first scene. Both of them were merely playing around.

There’s a dialogue toward the climax where Naveen Shankar’s character says that a person from the lower class has to work hard for 15 years to earn name and fame, whereas his plan is to reach that position in just three years. That dialogue, sort of, acts as a motivating factor for the things he does. Is that a comment on the society?

Yes, it can be. It doesn’t matter how much you earn… when you’re starting from zero, it’ll be really difficult. Say, you’re not earning anything, and, then, you get Rs. 25, 000 the next month. From 0, Rs. 25,000 looks big, but, once you start spending, you’ll still be in the same loop. Naveen Shankar’s character doesn’t want to fall into that trap. In any case, I’m not motivating anybody to take extreme steps (laughs again).

Updated Date: Apr 21, 2018 14:09:21 IST