EXCLUSIVE: Shades of grey, politics, and Kishore Kumar’s artistic pursuits

Kishore is debuting as a director this year with the Kannada film 'Drive'. He has also written and co-produced it.

BySwaroop Kodur

Published May 22, 2024 | 9:30 AMUpdatedMay 22, 2024 | 3:27 PM

Actor Kishore Kumar G is debuting as director with Drive

Variety, quite indeed, is the spice of life for actor Kishore Kumar G, who now looks to expand his already enviable repertoire with a new kind of endeavour.

His ongoing gig is his directorial debut titled Drive, a feature film that he modestly describes as a journey transpiring between Udupi and Kodachadri, bringing together five different people from varied backgrounds.

This film, which Kishore has also written and co-produced along with actor Sangeetha Bhat, intriguingly carries the ethos of his career.

While Drive is set in Karnataka and is technically a Kannada film as per its billing, the story’s many participants come from different parts of the country.

“A few (characters) come from Tamil Nadu, a few from the Kundapura region; another character comes from Bangladesh. Even though the main language of the film is Kannada, characters end up conversing a lot in English,” Kishore reports over the phone, while nestled in the quaint village of Longwa in Nagaland.

Kishore with team Drive

Kishore with team ‘Drive’. (Supplied)

Turns out that the 49-year-old actor is on the Northeast border of the country not just to shoot portions of his indie project but also to carry out research for his next direction.

So, aside from having his hands full with exciting gigs, he has other creative pursuits to chase.

In his usual reticent manner, Kishore tells South First that he has managed to rope in senior actors like Avinash and Prakash Raj for key roles in Drive.

“Both of them have been my source of confidence, being so kind to a small filmmaker like me,” he says.

Drive, which Kishore hopes to bring out later this year, is currently in the last leg of shooting.

In line with his curiosities, the versatile actor-writer-debutant director says the writing is imbued with subtleties like the local political and social issues, the hierarchy that exists among the characters and so much more.

“It is a ‘serious’ film but it has humour that arises out of situations. This is also an investigation thriller at the outset, but we have tried to explore many more elements,” Kishore adds, before revealing that he plays the role of a realistic police officer in Drive.

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Kishore’s creative zest

In the same vein, Kishore remains a go-to actor for filmmakers of all sensibilities.

Though his filmography already boasts big names like Vetrimaaran, Mani Ratnam, Pa Ranjith, and Duniya Suri, he continues to experiment and attract challenging roles.

Kishore is a go-to actor across industries

Kishore is a go-to actor across industries. (Supplied)

It’s the hunt to find stories that strike a chord with his worldview that keeps him going.

“If a story is socially, and politically relevant and can strike an argument with status quo, then I will be attracted to that project,” he smiles.

Even his role in the anthology Modern Love Chennai (2023)—where his particular segment Paravai Kootil Vaazhum Maangal explores a peculiar marriage situation—is set well within that social context, he points out.

“(That story) pushes the boundaries of what’s acceptable and what’s right or wrong when it comes to love and relationships. So, I feel these love stories, too, are socially relevant and also necessary.”

But the Kantara (2022) actor has grown to master the art of balancing a creative zest and the need to be accessible to all kinds of roles and films.

On the one hand, there’s the slew of small-scale projects that he wholeheartedly backs.

“Multiple Kannada films I have been part of haven’t managed to see the light of day because it’s hard to release a film in today’s scenario,” Kishore tells South First. 

On the other hand, there are mainstream films (like Hombale Films’ recent release Yuva), where he continues to feature in parts of differing significance and run-times.

As much as he would like to be part of a meaningful film, one gathers that Kishore likes to be practical about what’s offered and how he can make the best out of it.

“There are no regrets,” the actor says, to suggest that had he been offered the lead role in a film like Kantara, he would have embraced it with the same eagerness as any other part in the film.

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A go-to actor across industries

Sriya Reddy and Kishore

Sriya Reddy and Kishore in ‘Thalaimai Seyalagam’. (Supplied)

The same sense of practicality, indeed, has led him to explore several diverse characters and he is well aware that a bona fide leading man cannot afford to be so flexible.

“So many times, a superstar’s stardom has become his or her obstruction. Even if they want to experiment, they are unable to because of the expectations”.

One such fruit of labour is the role of Tamil Nadu’s incumbent chief minister Arunachalam in Vasanthabalan’s web series Thalaimai Seyalagam, which was released on Zee5 on 17 May.

Joined by a host of talented actors, including Sriya Reddy, Remya Nambeesan (his Modern Love Chennai co-star), Bharath, and Kani Kusruti, the show reveals a power tussle for the highchair in Tamil Nadu politics and how Kishore’s role becomes the main lure for all the drama.

The juggling act, though, doesn’t end and the actor tells me about a range of films across multiple languages that one will get to see him in.

“I recently finished a small, horror Kannada film titled Aidu (Five) and I have got my own directorial, as well. I am doing a Telugu film titled Matka alongside Varun Tej and my Malayalam film Vadakkan is slated for release.”

Does Kishore prefer to stay busy as he always is or does he long for days when he can leisurely tend to his interests?

“There are days when I would want to have all the time for myself. But pretty soon, I start to feel anxious about not having much work (laughs),” he signs off.

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