Kangana Ranaut’s Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi is doing great at the box office and won glowing reviews too. However, the film has been mired in controversies right from day one. It began with the original director Krish, also called Radha Krishna Jagarlamudi, exited the film and Kangana Ranaut took over. After this, several other actors and technicians left the film, the most prominent of which was Sonu Sood, whose ouster caused a lot of controversies. Most recently, the producer Kamal Jain, was hospitalised with a paralytic stroke. Nevertheless, Kangana marched on and the film released a few days ago to a great response.
However, Krish, who has been given the co-director tag and whose name appears after Kangana in the credits, has opened up. In an interview with a news portal, he narrated his side of the story. Now, in another detailed interview, Krish gives all the details of what EXACTLY went wrong between Kangana and him.
THERE IS A LOT OF SPECULATION ABOUT HOW MUCH OF MANIKARNIKA YOU DIRECTED. CAN YOU CLARIFY?
Do you mean what you see on screen? I saw the film. I’d say more than 70 per cent is mine. I remained quiet until the release. I had to remain quiet for the sake of the film and for the entire team which worked so hard on it. But now if I don’t speak about what Kangana did to the film, I’d be doing a disservice to all our hard work. Many people advised me to talk after the film was taken away from me. I’d say what I directed was pure gold. Kangana turned it into silver.
WHY DID YOU LEAVE THE FILM WHEN IT WAS ON THE VERGE OF COMPLETION?
You know, every time I am asked this, my heart sinks to the ground. Let me say this outright. I did not leave the film incomplete. I left it when it was almost complete. I shot Manikarnika for 109 days whereas I completed the NTR biopic in half that time. Then we did the dubbing post-production, everything for Manikarnika. Only then did I move to my other commitment (the NTR biopic). For me, the film was complete. Everyone had dubbed except Kangana.
THEN WHAT HAPPENED?
Once I finished, she promised to do some patchwork completely under my guidance. She promised she’d shoot for 4-5 days extra and send me all details of the shoot. No such thing happened. And she says she had to re-shoot many portions because my cinematographer Gnana Shekhar had not done a good job. What nonsense is she talking?! Every actor, every technician gave their life and breath to their film.
THIS FILM SEEMS TO HAVE TAKEN FROM YOU MORE THAN IT HAS GIVEN…
At the end of the day, it is my baby. I have seen the movie. And I am relieved that the grandeur vision and scale that I imagined for the film remains intact. The climax in Jaipur (doubling up for Gwalior) was shot entirely by me. I charged half of the fee that I get for my Telugu films as I wanted to be a part of this historical attempt to bring Rani Laxmibai’s story to screen. This is the highest number of days I’ve shot for any film. And I’ve directed complex costume dramas like Kanche and Gautamiputra Satarkarni. In Kanche I had shot five war scenes. So I know the complexities of shooting a period film. We shot a huge battle scene in Hyderabad. We shot in Jaipur and Jodhpur, etc. The film was supposed to release on August 15, 2018. I completed the film in June, only a small portion remained which we agreed to shoot later and then I had to direct the NTR bio-pic since the director who was supposed to do that project was shifted out. Then that whole thing with Sonu Sood happened.
Kangana decided to re-shoot Sonu ’s entire portion. He had shot for 30 days! So you can imagine what she wanted to remove. I remember when she saw the first cut, the first thing she said even before praising the film was, ‘Sonu Sood is too overpowering na?’ Because as an antagonist Sonu Sood was very strong. That’s how we had designed the film. For the protagonist to appear powerful, the antagonist has to be strong.
IN THE CREDITS OF MANIKARNIKA HER NAME COMES FIRST THEN YOURS?
I must tell you how this whole tamasha of the credits unfolded. In the beginning, it was just my name ‘Krish’ on the poster. In fact, I remember we released a poster on my birthday November 10. Kangana cut the cake with me, we hugged, etc. Anyway….But on the second poster and in the trailer achanakmera naam Radha Krishan Jagarlamudi ho gaya.
KYON HO GAYA? (WHY DID IT HAPPEN?)
Perhaps to confuse the audience about my identity. I asked why my name was being changed in the poster. She said I hadn’t supported her when Sonu Sood spoke against her so why should she bother? Why should I have supported her, when I knew Sonu was right and he took a stand and said he won’t shoot the film with her!
WHY DID YOUR CHANGED NAME BOTHER YOU SO MUCH?
In Telugu cinema, they know me as Krish. Then in the trailer, her name came as director after mine. And then at the time of the film’s release, her name came first as director, then mine. When I rang her up to confront her, she said, ‘No No I’ve shot so much’. What she did basically removed Sonu Sood’s role, reduce it substantially and replace him with another actor, Mohammad Zeeshan Ayyub, and then she shot the new actor’s close-ups and inserted them in scenes that I had shot. I am telling you 70 per cent of what you see on screen is mine. Please understand, this is my fourth-period film. And I was given to do Manikarnika because of what I had achieved in the other three period films. It was (the scriptwriter) Vijayendra Prasadji who called me to direct this film. He had seen my work and knew what I was capable of. In fact, I am the one who suggested the title Manikarnika. I read close to 20 books on Rani Laxmibai before directing this film. I worked closely with Vijayendraji. We began shooting at Annapurna Studios in Hyderabad after the puja. I was the director. When people ask me why I left the film, I get very upset. I didn’t leave. I shot 95 per cent of the film. She did her own thing with 5 per cent of the film. She did her own thing with Sonu Sood ’s role just to satisfy her ego.
I never wanted a confrontation. I am not that kind of a person. But when I see what was done do to my vision, I feel very angry and sad. I am talking now regardless of how the film has fared because that’s how I had planned to speak. I remember Sonu Sood’s character was introduced with a kushti (wrestling). Kangana wanted to know why he should do kushti. I wanted the action to be raw and real. Even the fights with the women were designed as raw.
REVIEWS SAY EVEN ATUL KULKARNI’S GREAT CHARACTER OF TATYA TOPE WAS UNDERDEVELOPED…
Yes, really sad. This film was not made to glorify Kangana Ranaut. It was mean to extol our great freedom fighters. The film is great even now. But I had made a greater film. She didn’t understand that. She didn’t understand that she couldn’t play God with history. Yeh yahan se nikalo, wohyahan dalo…. It doesn’t work that way.
WHY DID THE PRODUCER ALLOW KANGANA TO OVERRIDE YOUR VISION?
Exactly. The producer should answer that. What authority did she have to remove Sonu Sood? Have you ever heard of anything like this? She was, of course, the protagonist. But I am a reputed director directing a genre that I know. What gave her the right to tamper with what I did? And the team’s hard work, the sleepless nights, the toil…More than anything else, when you are working on an epic film, it is easy for anyone to come at the last minute and claim credit. Sonu Sood also directed 5 shots. He can also claim to be co-director. The few scenes that needed to be shot after I left were to be done by my assistant director. Suddenly I discovered she is co-director. What happened?
YOU TELL ME…
It was pre-decided, an elaborate plan to undermine my directorial status. On August 15, 2018, I was the director. October 1, 2018, I was the director. Then suddenly she’s also the director. I argued with the producer, Kamal Jain. But he stood by her. I do n’t want to say anything about him as he’s in the hospital. What was the necessity of taking out Sonu Sood and doing her own thing?
NOW THAT YOU’VE SPOKEN, DO YOU THINK THERE WILL BE REPERCUSSIONS?
I had to set the record straight. I needed a proper closure for my film. Manikarnika is my baby. Would Sonu Sood or Atul Kulkarni have signed the film if Kangana Ranaut was the director? They put their heart and soul in it. It is my team’s hard work being undermined. It’s not about shooting. It’s about executing. Many people from Mumbai have called to congratulate me. What I made was to perpetuate the phenomenon of Jhansi Ki Rani. Not Kangana Ranaut.