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In a dual role

Puri Jagannath is the director to look out for, specially with his forthcoming film "Idiot" which he's producing.


SUCCESSFUL YATRA: Puri Jagannath

PURI JAGANNATH belongs to the breed of successful young directors launched in the new millennium. Since his first venture, the difference in his work and other debutants in Telugu cinema is pronounced. Jagan, as he is affectionately called, is fast turning out to be a multi-lingual director with two of his Kannada films proving big hits. Of course, the phenomenal success of the two out of the three Telugu films he has directed so far need not be outlined at all for public awareness. His first Hindi debut starring Tushar Kapoor and Amritha Arora - - a remake of Badri - - is also in the offing and slated for release shortly. Like most of his contemporaries, Jagan too turned a producer by launching Idiot, a remake of his Kannada super- hit Appu.

"No, I am not following the popular trend like other directors, who after a couple of films are entering into production. I have taken to production for flexibility and freedom," he justifies himself.

But then, is it not cumbersome to juggle between the dual role of producer and a director? "Yes", he says and goes on to add that the pain and stress does have a toll on the creativity. "So, I have entrusted the job of looking after the finances and production to my friends, who were once co- strugglers in the industry with me. I am concentrating only on the creative side leaving the business deals to them. That way I have the freedom to handle the subject the way I want without any compromise on the budget," Jagan points out.

With only five films to his credit, the young director has earned for himself a rare fame that more often than not comes to directors only after years of hard work. But modesty and humility, being the cornerstones of his character, Jagan is still grounded and working hard to churn out the best of himself everyday despite the fact that his early success has already catapulted him to the seventh heaven, where he can afford to take life easily. "Success has not come easy for me and hence I do not want to let go easily," he says.

Straight from his college, Jagan - - a young lad then, walked into the Madhu Film Institute in 1989 and joined as an assistant to Ram Gopal Varma. As he evolved over a period of time, he started penning down scripts for serials and teleplays. Although each of his piece was actually a masterpiece in itself, worth mentioning will be the centurion episodes he scripted for Doordarshan, which included the Nandi award winning serials Prathyusha Nakshatram, Jeevitham and Prithvi.

"Writing has been a long-ingrained habit with me since childhood. My father had a massive collection of books in his library. My voracious appetite for books had helped to read most of them, which later proved a basis for my scripts. Even now, I write dialogues for my films," the master director reminisces.

As he rewinds his memories, Jagan remembers, "My interest in movies was triggered off in me right from my formative years. I never missed a single movie at the touring talkies owned by our family near Narsipatnam. I used to carry the daily collection report home after the movies everyday. I was an avid reader of the Telugu film magazine Vijayachitra. All this had an aura which actually kindled an interest in me to join this field."

When asked about his Kannada affiliation, he retorts that his first film Yuvaraj with Sivaraj Kumar was actually a remake of Thammudu. "Following the enormous success of the film, Dr. Rajkumar's family approached me for a subject to launch their third son Puneet Rajkumar. I scripted a story for them, which I had actually planned to do in Telugu. Rajkumar, himself, liked it so much that he requested me to make it in Kannada first and then in Telugu as it was his son's debut. And then, Appu happened. The film turned out to be super-duper hit. Satisfied with the treatment meted out to the movie, he gave me one more offer to direct a film. I am indeed fortunate that such a legend appreciated my work."

Influenced by directors like Bapu, Balachander, Bharathiraja, K. Viswanath and Vamsy, Jagan stresses more on screenplay and treatment. "Even an old subject can be told like a fresh theme with a new presentation. We can play the contrast in the treatment. All these subjects I am handling now were written long ago by me. But due to the novelty in treatment they look fresh," he points out.

Amongst his forthcoming ventures is the Anjana Productions blockbuster starring Cheeranjeevi and Naga Babu that will start rolling soon.

For a man who does not believe in competing with fellow directors, who has won the adulation and admiration of celebrated film makers, including thespian Rajkumar, what more does he require.

"My real competition is with the audience. My aim always remains thus-how to mesmerise them and wean them towards my movies so that they get their money's worth," he concludes.

M.L.NARASIMHAM

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