Pannaga Bharana
Pannaga Bharana Image Credit: Supplied

This has never happened before, with two Kannada films releasing online across two weeks.

After ‘Law’, which dropped on July 16, ‘French Biriyani’ is next on the roster, from Puneet Rajkumar’s production house.

Directed by Pannaga Bharana, son of award-winning director T.S. Nagabharana, the film is his second attempt at direction after pursuing a career in acting for which he also won an award for a supporting role in ‘Mrugashira’.

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In an exclusive conversation with Gulf News, Bharana talks about cooking up a biryani with a French twist.

You are ready with an unusual biryani this time around, so tell us, what’s cooking in ‘French Biriyani?

It’s about a French guy Simon who is visiting Bangalore for the first time and the love-hate relationship he shares with Asgar, an auto driver. What happens over the next three days in the life of Simon is told with humour.

It’s an experimental film, a plot not explored in Kannada cinema before.

British theatre actor, Sal Yusuf plays Simon while Danish Sait — comedian, TV host and radio presenter — is the auto driver.

Since ‘French Biriyani’ is placed in Shivaji Nagar in Bengaluru — a Muslim neighbourhood — the biryani is an intrinsic part of their culture.

What sparked off this story?

I got the idea for a one-liner following a visit to Chennai and my experience with auto drivers there. Initially, my story was based in Chennai but after meeting Danish and discussing the script, we decided to place the story in Shivaji Nagar. Shooting was the biggest challenge with the place teeming with crowds.

Do you remember the first time you faced the camera as a child?

My first film happened when I was barely two years old. I don’t remember it. Subsequently, I worked in television serials produced by my father’s company. I was usually brought in as a substitute when someone did turn up. Skipping school for a shoot was the biggest draw. And, the non-vegetarian food on the sets excited me.

In my childhood I was part of award-winning films such as ‘Chinnari Mutha’ and ‘Naviddeve Yecharike’. I have performed on stage as well with ‘Benaka’, a theatre group under the legendary late B V Karanth across more than 500 shows. Some of the plays were ‘Hayawadhana’ ‘Gokula Nirgamana’ and ‘Sattavara Neralu’.

With a production banner at home was a film career easy?

No, it did not come easy. I have climbed up the ladder working from scratch — from intern to third assistant — on my father’s sets.

Yes, we have been producing serials for Doordarshan since its inception. My parents were very strict. Mom never gave me pocket money. She believed that whatever you need, you must earn it.

During my pre-university days I used to work in my mother’s studio as assistant. One day she told me, ‘It’s easy to sit here and comment. Why don’t you go on the sets and learn?’ So I joined the sets.

When I told my father that I wanted to direct, he suggested that I study filmmaking first. After studying filmmaking at New York Film Academy, like any new director I went around meeting producers for my first film and narrating stories. It’s been my journey and has its own kicks.

How was it working under PRK productions?

Unlike other producers who bank on big stars and make mass films, Puneeth Rajkumar was keen on experimenting with a subject that’s far away from the kind of films he works in. He has been a great support.

How has the Indian lockdown been?

Initially, it felt like a holiday with parents and cousins home. But after a while, the creator in me got restless. There was a good deal of negativity around so I decided to do something to uplift the mood of people.

My first experiment was an online play staged on Instagram with singer Ananya Bhat — it was a scene from Girish Karnad’s play ‘Hayawadhana.’ The response was overwhelming with an audience of around 5,000 people. Our experiment became an example for others to follow.

Don’t miss it!

‘French Biriyani’ streams on Amazon Prime Video from July 24.