Nagesh Kukunoor’s announcement last year that he would make a film in Telugu took many by surprise! He had made his first film 22 years earlier, and had 13 films to his credit, but he hadn’t made a single one in Telugu, despite being born and raised in Hyderabad.
“Let me tell you, I was offered several Telugu films earlier, but I turned them down politely. I believe that you can make a film only if you are comfortable in that language. Even though my mother tongue is Telugu, while growing up, I spoke Deccani. I only got comfortable with Telugu over the last couple of years, and that’s when I decided to make a Telugu film,” says the National Award-winning director.
While Nagesh’s father spoke Deccani and wrote poetry in Urdu, his mother spoke Telugu. “I grew up watching Hindi and English cinema. I am a hard-core Hyderabadi, and I love the flavour of my city,” says the filmmaker, who keeps shuttling between Hyderabad and Mumbai.
“I stay longer in Mumbai because most of my work happens there. But I drop in on Hyderabad often to visit my parents. And I have a huge friends’ group in the city. I hang out with them regularly”, shares the Dhanak helmer. He adds that he particularly visits Hyderabad during the Ramzan period to re-live his memories and get nostalgic.
But he isn’t enthused by the new Hyderabadi culture. “The new Hyderabad is filled with Telugu and cosmopolitan people, and I am not interested in Banjara and Jubilee Hills. Although I wanted to shift my parents there long back, they refused to go, and continued staying at Narayanguda. So, I am an old Hyderabadi, where the culture is derived from the Nizam’s rule, with the integration of Telugu people. But unfortunately, this culture is now restricted to the old city,” the filmmaker rues.
Talking about his work, Nagesh says he always made films in his signature style, following the success of his debut film, Hyderabad Nawabs. “Very few people are blessed to do the things they love doing and make a good living out of it,” he notes, adding that he enjoyed the process of filmmaking itself, rather than the box office results.
Asked whether he has any friends in the Telugu film industry, he replies, “I know Shobu Yarlagadda and Rana Daggubati. I meet them occasionally.”
Nagesh is single, and interestingly, says he doesn’t believe in the traditional institution of marriage.
“Life is too big to spend with just one person,” he states, adding, “Although I met many ‘right’ girls, I believe the concept of settling down is an outdated one. I feel marriage is a useless institution which has no value other than the fact that it legally gives you rights over your partner.”
But has he ever fallen in love, we ask. “Being in relationships and falling in love were part of my life, but I am against traditional practices and settling down in a marriage,” he replies, adding that his parents never pressured him to enter into wedlock. “Although the topic of my marriage popped up several times, they were very liberal and have always respected my decision. And I always kept my life private too,” he says.
Nagesh describes his Telugu debut, Good Luck Sashi, starring Keerthy Suresh, as a sports rom-com. “The film is about whether there’s anything called good or bad luck in life. And Shooting (the sport) is just an element in the narrative,” he reveals.