Kukunoor is best known for his success in alternative
cinema. His Hyderabad Blues, promising more fun, a bigger
budget, music and of course coffee.
"Coffee and tea keep me going. I can guzzle gallons,"
says Nagesh, sipping his favourite at Food Court, Lajpat
Nagar in the heart of Delhi. "My day starts with
black filter coffee. Post breakfast, jasmine or green
tea is a must, and I finish the day with a mug of black
tea. And in between it can make an entry."
With Hyderabad Blues, in which he played the lead role
of Varun Naidu, we got a director whose dreams are not
grandiloquent but his plot striking, an actor who doesn't
require greasepaint and padding to emote and above all
a complete entertainer, which the critics termed as
genre bender. So is there anything left to be told?
"Yes. I didn't want to make the second part. But
six years later I thought there are things, which can
be told to the viewer. We have maintained the same flavour,
the same earthy empathy. Even when we changed the female
lead, we could have signed a leading Bollywood actress.
But I wanted a girl who could look as real, as part
of the script." In came Jyoti Dogra, a theatre
actress from Delhi to play Ashwini Naidu. "This
time we could afford it, so we have some good background
songs including the punch line of the first part 'Dil
Par Mat Le' by the Hyderabadi group, Alter Ego."
Slim Nagesh surprises when he asserts he loves food
of all kinds, including the fast food his crew is savouring
at the Court, where the ambience is perfect to spend
a sweltering afternoon with shopping centre and silver
screen in close proximity. "I am not feeling well,
otherwise I can finish it all, especially the burgers."
Joking? "No, I work out a lot, and my metabolic
rate is such that it doesn't show. Though with age catching
up, now I have to put in some extra effort. I love every
kind of Indian food, especially Hyderabadi and Konkani.
Tandoori pomfret and Hyderabadi biryani are my favourites.
Then come hamburgers and Thai food."
This chemical engineer, who left his secure job in Atlanta
for the celluloid world, also loves to cook. "Though
I used to adore my mother's cooking, I learnt it out
of necessity, because once you are in foreign territory
it becomes a matter of survival. It started with mother
telling me the recipes, and today I know a million dishes.
I can cook a variety of chilly-based chicken dishes
and Thai food. However, I particularly like barbeque
No wonder one of the scripts he has in hand is Tandoor.
"It is going to be an English film about an Indian
cook based in New York and his interactions with an
American lawyer," he says, adding Amitabh Bachchan
has agreed to do the film. "I am looking for finances
and a mainstream Hollywood actress for the role of the
Coming back to mother's recipes, is she happy with his
professional recipe? "She likes my films. But my
parents are not happy with the lifestyle of the film
industry. There are no fixed working hours. Life is
disorganised. They want to see me settled." So
has he found his Ashwini? For now, it's just Bollywood
Calling for Nagesh.
3 Deewarein (2003)
Bollywood Calling (2001)
3 Deewarein (2003)
Hyderabad Blues (1998)
Nagesh Kukunoor would have been labeled a maverick filmmaker
had his much-acclaimed 'Hyderabad Blues' not fared well.
A chemical engineer turned filmmaker; Nagesh belongs
to the relatively younger brigade of directors for whom
cinema is a passion. Nagesh has always chosen to make
movies about real people doing mundane stuff. He picks
up ideas and themes by observing people.
With his subsequent ventures, Nagesh was unable to fully
live up to the splash and hype he managed to create
at the time of 'Hyderabad Blues'. Yet he is a big draw
with the media at least because he consistently attempts
to craft something real and different.
After 'Hyderabad Blues', the Atlanta-based Andhrite's
next film was 'Bollywood Calling', starring Om Puri
and Perizaad Zorabian. It was about an out-of-work B-grade
American movie star who gets a culture shock on seeing
the Indian film industry, especially when he is pitted
against an ageing but legendary movie star, played by
Navin Nischol. The film bombed. Before that, he released
'Rockford', an out-and-out entertainer and comedy, for
the masses and yet without the usual commercial grime.
It was a peep into teenage psychology with a dusky schoolteacher
(Nandita Das) thrown in for good measure.
Nagesh Kukunoor's 'Teen Deewarein' with Jackie Shroff,
Naseeruddin Shah and Juhi Chawla, which released last
year, bagged a fair share of award nominations and glowing
reviews, but did not fare well at the box office. The
film, which had a lot of English in it, according to
Nagesh, was never intended to be a commercial film.
Nagesh's sequel to 'Hyderabad Blues' has just released.
Here, he returns to his beloved middle class India and
grapples with its idiosyncrasies. His next film will
be about death. It's a film where you know that the
lead actor is going to die in the first 10 minutes.
And he promises that it'll not be a cutesy film, but
not too grim either. So let's wait and watch!