Actor-writer Vishnu Manchu has grand plans for big-budget Indian epic “Kannappa.”
The film revisits the folk tale of Kannappa, an atheist hunter who became a devotee of Hindu god Shiva and plucked out his eyes in an act of extreme devotion. The story was previously filmed in the Kannada and Telugu languages as “Bedara Kannappa” and “Kalahasti Mahatyam” in 1954, both starring Rajkumar; in the Hindi language as “Shiv Bhakta” (1955), starring Shahu Modak; in Telugu again as “Bhakta Kannappa” (1976), starring Krishnam Raju; and in Kannada again as “Shiva Mecchida Kannappa” (1988), starring Rajkumar, Shiva Rajkumar and Puneeth Rajkumar.
Manchu plays the title role in the latest interpretation of the story, written by him and directed by Mukesh Kumar Singh, best known for his television adaptations of Indian epics “Ramayana” and “Mahabharata.” Telugu film industry stalwarts Prabhas (the Baahubali franchise) and Mohan Babu (“Shaakuntalam”), who also produces, Kannada industry megastar Shiva Rajkumar (“Ghost”) and Malayalam-language industry superstar Mohanlal (“Jailer”) play significant roles in the film, but Manchu is currently not at liberty to divulge what they are.
Manchu says that the basic story of Kannappa is a one-pager at best and South Indian audiences are well familiar with the story. “They all know this legend and they all know what happens in the end – when you’re coming into a theater to see a movie, the biggest surprise element should be the climax, but for us, when the audience is coming into the theater, they already know what the end is going to be. So, it opened up a whole new canvas for me to paint and fill up the first half,” Manchu told Variety. “What was Kannappa before he became a devotee? It’s just a one-liner. So, I thought, why not recreate the world of Kannappa? Why don’t we transport them to a world in the second century and that’s how this whole thing came into play. The visuals and the world we’re taking people in to, it is brilliant.”
The film is currently being shot across Auckland, Rotorua, Glenorchy, Wanaka, Pukaki and Christchurch locations in New Zealand, with Darshan Shetty’s Ki Productions providing local production services. Manchu chose New Zealand as a location after exploring options in Ireland, Scotland, Minnesota, Australia, Switzerland and Canada in quest of a second century world with unpolluted skies and beautiful forests. He fell in love with New Zealand when he visited the country in 2019. “This is probably God’s last beautiful painting which is still intact,” Manchu said.
“New Zealand is known for Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” films. “The Lord of the Rings,’ that’s the way I envisioned ‘Kannappa.’ So, this is my world, I’m taking them into the world of Kannappa,” Manchu said. “I’ve been a fan of the book and movie, I wouldn’t say it would surpass ‘Lord of the Rings,’ that’s a very big measure, but I would definitely love to have the confidence that the visuals we’re trying to bring onto the screen will definitely be sone of the best in recent Indian cinema.”
The film was pre-visualized before the shoot and the VFX is happening across facilities in India, U.K. and Singapore. “Kannappa” also marks a departure for Manchu in that it is not an action comedy, the genre he is best known for. “We did have a lot of discussions, debates and arguments about how Kannappa should behave, whether he is actually a hero, or is he an antihero? It was beautiful, the way we narrowed down on how to bring this character alive,” Manchu said. The writers who helped develop “Kannappa” include Paruchuri Gopala Krishna, Eshwar Reddy, Nageshwar Reddy and Thota Prasad.
Manchu is aiming for global acceptance for the film. “One of the best things I take as an example would be ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.’ It’s a very Chinese centered story with their values and with their legend. That going and winning the Oscar is always an inspiration to many movies that even if you make a movie, which is rooted to your nativity, it will definitely get the recognition if it’s made very well,” Manchu said.
“Kannappa,” produced by 24 Frames Factory and AVA Entertainment is due to release worldwide in the Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada and Hindi languages in the third quarter of 2024.
The filmmakers have revealed a first look poster for “Kannappa.”
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