Jacqueline Fernandez is soon going to be a multilingual actor. She is appearing in Kiccha Sudeep-starrer Kannada film Vikrant Rona, which releases in theatres later this month. So far, Jacqueline’s film appearances have been largely in Hindi (barring a single appearance each in British and Sri Lankan films). Never having spoken or learnt Kannada, many expected Jacqueline to struggle with Vikrant Rona and the film’s director Anup Bhandari was one of them. However, the actor not only managed to surprise but also won him over with her professionalism. In a chat with Hindustan Times, Anup spoke about Jacqueline, the film’s grand scale, and its superstar hero. Also read: Jacqueline Fernandez completes shooting for Kannada debut film Vikrant Rona
The film has been almost three years in the making, courtesy its scale and the pandemic. But Anup feels the delay has been beneficial for the film. “I always feel certain things just fall in place for some movies. Even things that go wrong help us. Covid-19 happened and with that, people tuned into OTT content from across the globe, which is helpful for us because the kind of content we are trying to bring is not regular,” he says.
Vikrant Rona is part of that recently-created niche of Indian cinema called ‘pan-Indian films’. The term which came into being after the success of the Baahubali franchise, largely refers to south films that are marketed in the Hindi belt as well, either with a dubbed or a simultaneously-shot version. These films almost always have Hindi films stars in supporting roles too (think Alia Bhatt and Ajay Devgn in RRR or Raveena Tandon and Sanjay Dutt in KGF: 2). Vikrant Rona is being marketed as a pan-India film too. However, Anup isn’t a fan of the term. “You have to call it something,” he says with a laugh and adds, “You can’t call it a Hindi film. You can’t call it a Bollywood film and at the same time, you can’t call it a Kannada film since we are doing it in multiple languages. There needs to be a term. There are certain terms, which over the period of time become derogatory because people start abusing the term. I guess that’s where pan-India is headed. As it stands, there is no other name so we say pan-India.”
Keeping in line with its pan-India credentials, Vikrant Rona has Jacqueline Fernandez in what is being described as an extended cameo. Many have argued that it would have made more sense to cast someone who can actually speak the language. Talking about the decision to rope in Jacqueline, Anup says, “It was partly creative, partly a marketing strategy. I won’t call it marketing strategy actually. When I wrote the character, I knew this had to be somebody big. When the discussions happened, Jacqueline’s name came up initially but I wasn’t sure whether she would want to come on board. But I knew she would be perfect because this is a character where there is a Western influence in her appearance but she is very desi. Jacqueline has both those aspects.”
In fact, Anup adds that he did anticipate some issues with regard to Jacqueline delivering her lines in Kannada but was left stumped by the actor. He shares, “I told her you need to remember your lines before you come down to the set. We hired a diction coach for her. I expected she may have learnt a few lines here and there and with some prompting, she would probably be able to pull it off. I designed my shots in such a way that she doesn’t have too much discomfort delivering the lines. The day before we shot the scene, we had a rehearsal. That whole scene, both of them, did it one take. I was amazed because she has no idea what the language is but her expressions and pronunciation was amazing. It wasn’t 100% but still good. That was one surprising aspect for me.”
Vikrant Rona has been mounted on a budget of ₹95 crore as per reports, making it one of the most expensive films to come out of the Kannada film industry. As per Anup, he has the film’s hero Kiccha Sudeep to thank for it. He explains, “When I write something, I visualize it in a very big way. But unfortunately, you don’t have the budget to do all of it. My first film (RangiTaranga) was conceptualized in a very big scale but ended up being executed on a small scale. It became a huge success because ultimately content is what matters. When Sudeep sir came on board, he said ‘let’s do this on a big scale’. That is a dream for any director. You are being told what you wanted to do in ₹10-15 crore budget will be done in 5-10 times that. You can then go crazy with the ideas you have and visuals you have to create.”
But as the scale grows, so do the expectations from a film. The last pan-India film from Kannada industry (KGF: Chapter 2) made over ₹1200 crore. Does that make Anup nervous? He replies, “I am not nervous. The fact that people are excited should be exciting for me. The whole purpose of making a film is to reach a large number of people. Getting a big opening is a dream for any director, any actor. But when you have a superstar who guarantees a good opening and on top of that, there is tremendous hype for the film, all that combined definitely excites me.”