“Nirel is a clear hit and people are going crazy. It’s created such a buzz that 3000 people came to watch the film in its first show itself. Unfortunately, many had to go back as tickets were sold out,” says first-time producer Shodhan Prasad, who is responsible for bringing Tulu to the fore in Dubai with the production of a film in a Dravidian language. Nirel (Shadow) will go down in history as the first international Tulu film to be shot entirely in Dubai. What is also interesting is that it has been made only by Mangaloreans residing in Dubai, right from the film-makers, actors to the technicians, except for the cameraman Manish Kukal Nair, who is from Kerala. Another highlight is that the film was shot only on Fridays as the entire team is working at different places. They are complete freshers, with no film background. One of the other achievements is that out of six songs, one song has got over 60000 hits on YouTube.
Nirel was released at Bur Dubai’s Golden Cinema, which has the capacity of 1500 seats per show. On February 14, there were two shows which was packed to the brim. “It is a record for a Tulu film that 3000 people came to watch the film on its release day,” says Prasad, who has been in the UAE working at the Tokio Marine & Fire Insurance Company for over two decades; he produced Nirel under the banner of Sandhya Creations. It all started when a group of young people comprising director Ranjith Bajpe, Santosh Poojary and a group of young guys went to him with a dream to make a film. Since Prasad has many contacts in the UAE, they wanted some help from him. When he learnt of the project and seeing their enthusiasm, he decided to produce the film himself and mid-way he was joined by Santosh Poojary as a co-producer.
An ambitious dream
The enthusiastic team began to take their work in the film very seriously. The film was to to be made in a meagre budget but it shot up to over Rs.1.5 crores. Since it was shot only on Fridays, which is the weekly off for everyone, the film took one year to complete. “We would shoot from 6 in the morning till late night. Each one has sacrificed their Fridays for one entire year. The film took off on November 2012 and was completed in November 2013,” says Prasad. Nirel was not short of hurdles. While getting the permission from authority cost 3800 dirhams (around Rs. 55000-60000) per day, the cost of the cameraman team was 2000 dirhams per hour. The film was shot entirely in Dubai and Sharjah.
The heroine Varuna Shetty is presently working in Dubai as an insurance broker in a company even as she is doing her MBA. Even before the release of Nirel, she has started working on a Malayalam film with Mohanlal and has signed a Tamil film. Deepti Salian is working in a hotel industry, while hero Anoop is working for a travel company. Kannada super star Ramesh Aravind appears in a guest role in the film.
Valentine’s Day release
“Nirel is a triangle love story so we thought Valentine’s Day was an appropriate day to release it. There is a saying that the shadow never leaves a person and follows him wherever he goes, hence the title,” states Prasad, who believes that with this film he’ll be able to promote this language. “Tulu is our mother tongue and it has never been promoted. We are more attracted to other language films. Why can’t we make Tulu films and thus promote our mother tongue through this attractive media? It is also one way to get today’s children to come closer to our culture,” feels the producer.
History of Tulu films
Prasad reveals that in the last 45 years, only 19 Tulu films have released in Mangalore. However, in the last couple years, there have been around 42 films of which 10 are yet to be released. Earlier films were not promoted. “The film-maker would be happy with the subsidy that he got for his film. No one thought of taking the film industry ahead. Even today there is a subsidy of Rs.10-15 lakhs for films. When we were making Nirel, we insisted on good quality if the audience has to be attracted. And believe me, this film is so close to Bollywood films.
“Yes, there are plans to release Nirel in Mumbai and Pune in April-May. It is to screen at Abu Dhabi’s Eldorado Cinema and Grand Safeer Cinema on February 21. The Kannada Sangha in Canada is also keen to release the film there. It will also be dubbed in Malayalam, Kannada, Tamil and made tax-free in Karnataka,” says the producer, who has now been bitten by the film-bug and has plans to make more Tulu films.