Kiccha Sudeep has worked in several languages across a career that has spanned over a quarter of a century. But later this month, he is coming up with a film he describes as among his most ambitious so far. Vikrant Rona, his upcoming Kannada film, boasts of a budget of ₹95 crore, large sets, VFX, and even a Bollywood star in Jacqueline Fernandez. In the run-up to the film’s release, Sudeep sat down with Hindustan Times to chat about the film, the North-South divide, and his ‘brother’ Salman Khan, who is presenting the film’s Hindi version. Also read: Kiccha Sudeep to host first edition of Bigg Boss OTT Kannada
Vikrant Rona has been billed as a pan-India film and is releasing in five languages. It is Sudeep’s biggest film and the excitement around it is bigger than most of his previous releases. “The excitement is not because it is travelling in many languages. My excitement is because we had an idea, a vision for this film and we achieved it. Finally, when we get to see the film on screen, 3-4 years ago, this is what we had visualized. Knowing we could achieve that gets me excited,” he says.
The film comes at a time when films from south–including the Kannada industry–have been ruling the roost, surpassing Bollywood films in collections in the Hindi-speaking belt. Sudeep says, “When the content starts speaking, it starts travelling. This hasn’t been forced. It has been happening organically on its own. It’s the victory of content.”
Ask him if it was cultural differences that had stopped this cross-flow till now and he is quick to counter, “We were watching Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Maine Pyaar Kiya, we were watching Sholay, Hum Saath Saath Hain and Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham. So, we have watched films from that culture, stories of Gujarati and Punjabi families, in cinema halls in Bangalore. It’s not about cultural differences. If I give you what you haven’t seen, you will be interested.”
But he does point at what has changed. Films in the south are getting theatrical releases in the north now. He says, “Everything has to come to an end, including the restrictions. Earlier, south films would come to the North but on satellite TV. Whenever I used to travel to Delhi, Goa, Mumbai, or Jaipur, people would recognize me and say he is that Bajirao hero, because my film Kempe Gowda was dubbed in Hindi as Bajirao. They knew us as satellite stars. It’s high time we got theatrical releases, which we are now.”
And he is happy to see the restrictions and language barriers lifting in India, where people sitting in UP and Punjab are watching Kannada and Telugu films. “If you went to Punjab, they would know Punjabi films and Hindi films. Similarly, in Bengal, they knew Bengali films and Hindi films. Hindi was universal. But they never knew south films because our films were not in theatres. It’s just like Thai and Korean series getting exposure, our films are getting exposure too. It was bound to happen but what has happened in these two years is almost 15 years of change,” says the actor.
However, the veteran actor adds that this change does have a flip side, at least for members of the film fraternity, who have to be on their toes now. “Today, the audience is spoilt for choice. They have a menu card like a la carte and they can pick and choose what to consume. That has made things difficult for us. You can’t take your stardom for granted. You can’t take the audience for granted. People won’t be taken for a ride,” he shares.
Vikrant Rona, which releases in theatres on July 28, will be screened in five languages. And the Hindi version has been presented by
Salman Khan, with whom Sudeep worked in Dabangg 3. Talking about Salman’s interest in the film, he says, “I was in Mumbai. He knew I was doing this film and showing the showreel to some companies. When I met him later, he had already heard from people and asked me to see the film. He liked it. In fact, he took a clean interest in the Mumbai market. He called his team to help us. He asked me, ‘do you want me to come shoot for you?’ I just said the maximum you can do is present the film because I didn’t want to ask for anything more. We are like brothers. Our equation is beyond cinema.”