ROCKLINE VENKATESH - “I decided that this was the kind of film I wanted to remake in the south”

His last co-production in Hindi, ‘Bajrangi Bhaijaan’, took the box-office by storm. Now leading south producer, distributor, exhibitor and actor, Rockline Venkatesh, who has over 40 films to his credit, is all set to remake ‘Sairat’ in the south in association with Essel Vision-Zee studios. The unassuming filmmaker talks about this and also about the prospects of the Rajnikanth starrer, ‘Kabali’, which he recently acquired for an unprecedented price for Karnataka.

By Manishaa R

What was it that got you interested in ‘Sairat’ to remake it in the south?
I was in Mumbai for a business meeting for another project, when I learnt of this film which was making waves all over Maharashtra. When I saw the film later, I was absolutely impressed by this love story of a young boy and girl, who were determined to go against all odds, to see their love through. There had been love stories before but I was impressed with the narrative and the way it unfolded so naturally. I decided that this was just the kind of film I would want to remake in the south. I approached Mr Nitin Keni and we decided to join hands for this endeavour. I consider myself lucky to be a part of their endeavour.  

"I have been keeping a close track of recently released Marathi films"

Have you always been fascinated by Marathi films?
I have been lately keeping a close track on some recently released Marathi films, which have done exceptionally well at the box-office. Some of them have very interesting stories too. Another film that I was particularly impressed with was a film called Lai Bhaari, which I watched some time back. I now keep a tab on most of the Marathi releases.  

On why he found the role of a rockstar addicted to drugs a formidable challenge:
The biggest challenge about playing a substance addict was the fact that I never knew what the experience was like. I am a teetotaler, I don’t smoke and I have never tried substance in my life. The film portrays the fall of a rock star because the musician in him falls prey to the addict in him and ends up fighting the reality. The character in this case is bizarre, entertaining and surprises the audiences every step with the complexity of his personality. There was also the more difficult journey of understanding the state of mind of an addict. He is a cocaine addict, who is chasing drugs and feels the needs to be on a high all the time because it gives him confidence. In that space, people are either over-confident and behave like kings or they are extremely under- confident when they are denied drugs. The scariest part was whether I would make a fool of myself while pushing my boundaries to achieve something that I had no exposure to. I had to depend on Abhishek (director Abhishek Chaubey) because I had no direct exposure but the actor in me prodded me to go on. In that respect, the entire credit goes to Abhishek, for the way he researched and came up with this hard-hitting script.  

Will you also be distributing the south remake of Sairat?
Yes I will be distributing the film in the south and making sure that it gets its due.  

What kind of changes are you planning to introduce in the film for the south market?
It is a known fact that remakes need to be adapted to the particular region where they are sought to be released. The main track of the movie and its spirit will remain unchanged. We intend to stick to the original story, we will simply adapt in keeping with the south. Also I have roped in director Nagraj Manjule on board. He is in effect the hero of the film. He is also conversant with the Telugu language and knows very well the graph of the movie. I plan to start work on it in September in a start to finish schedule.  

You are also said to have acquired the Karnataka distribution rights for the Rajnikant’s much anticipated film, ‘Kabali’. Apparently the film will be released in a record number of screens?
Kabali is a big film and Rajnikant fans are eagerly waiting for it. I have shared a close association with Rajnikant over the years. I had earlier produced his Lingaa. This time however, I will only be distributing his film in Karnataka. I am planning to release it in a big way in over 300 screens in Karnataka, which is the biggest release for any film in the recent past. The film is scheduled to release next month.  

You are also said to be very active on the exhibition scene in Karnataka. Do you have any expansion plans?
I already have my own multiplex chain, Rockline cinemas in Bangalore. Also I have taken eight screens of a multiplex on lease.

Are there any plans to work with Salman Khan once again after Bajrangi Bhaijaan? Also you were last said to be planning a co-production with Rohit Shetty?
I believe in going about the process of approaching stars and co-producers only after I have a concrete script in hand. I would love to associate with Salman Khan once again if the opportunity arises. Right now, my team is working on some projects which are in the scripting stage. I will be able to make my next move only after I have definite script in my hand.

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