There is no youtube link for the lost footage, so you are going to have to leave my site and go to bollywoodhungama. But then, they are the ones who tracked down this footage, so they deserve the clicks.
I give BH a lot of grief for a lot of things. But for some reason, they are really going after the Manikarnika story in a way I respect. They are dealing strictly with this very unusual situation in which a star with no directing experience took over a film from a National Award Winning director. There is no attempt to confuse the issue with Kangana the politician, or Kangana the personal person, it is just her professional life.
Anyway, they are the one who did the full length interview with Krish that just came out. And what Krish says is what we can all see from the public record, I find absolutely no reason to doubt him. You can read the full interview here (and I encourage you to do so). There is also a video version, but I always like the plain text better.
These are the parts I found interesting:
Let’s start with the question of in what state the film was when Krish left. Here is the quote that relates to matters of public record:
The film was supposed to release on August 15, 2018. I completed the film in June; only a small portion remained which we agreed to shoot later and then I had to direct the NTR bio-pic since the director who was supposed to do that project was shifted out.
Yes, the original release date was August. And as recently as June, that release date was still expected for the film. And the NTR director dropped out last minute and Krish was called to replace him. Based on what we the public know, the producers of Manikarnika thought they had a film that was ready to be released in two months at that point. And the director left the set not because of a dispute or anything, but because he was offered another job last minute.
And then there is the issue of Krish’s name in the credits. Again, the shift in how the credits are listed is a matter of public record:
In the beginning it was just my name ‘Krish’ on the poster. In fact I remember we released a poster on my birthday November 10. Kangana cut the cake with me, we hugged, etc. Anyway….But on the second poster and in the trailer achanak mera naam Radha Krishan Jagarlamudi ho gaya…… Then in the trailer her name came as director after mine. And then at the time of the film’s release her name came first as director, then mine.
Again, this is easily verifiable public record data. The first poster had his name, with his usual professional credit, listed as director. The trailer changed his name to erase his professional listing. And the second trailer added Kangana. The final film put Kangana above him, with his professional name erased.
So, let’s start with that. The parts that are pure public record, which help me believe the rest of Krish’s version, which is not public record.
And then there are the parts that refer to elements I had already noticed, WITHOUT having read this interview, just from watching the film.
What she did basically was remove Sonu Sood’s role, reduce it substantially and replace him with another actor Mohammad Zeeshan Ayyub, and then she shot the new actor’s close-ups and inserted them in scenes that I had shot.
Which is exactly what I saw happening watching the film, that Zeeshan’s reaction shots were clearly inserted into certain scenes.
Because as an antagonist, Sonu Sood was very strong. That’s how we had designed the film. For the protagonist to appear powerful, the antagonist has to be strong.
Also what I noticed, that Zeeshan was weak and Sonu even in stills in costume was powerful.
This is why I choose to believe the rest of what Krish says. Because he includes clear facts, and he includes elements I had already seen in the film on my own.
Now, let’s look at the rest of what he says. One thing that leaps out at me from his interview is the South-North divide. He has directed 4 historical films, and won a national award for one of them. But they were all southern films. In the south, his name “Krish” means something, and he is recognized as a premiere director. But this was his first northern film. Let’s look at his version of how and why he took this job:
I charged half of the fee that I get for my Telugu films as I wanted to be a part of this historical attempt to bring Rani Laxmibai’s story to screen. This is the highest number of days I’ve shot for any film. And I’ve directed complex costume dramas like Kanche and Gautamiputra Satarkarni. In Kanche, I had shot five war scenes…. It was (the scriptwriter) Vijayendra Prasadji who called me to direct this film. He had seen my work and knew what I was capable of. In fact I am the one who suggested the title Manikarnika. I read close to twenty books on Rani Laxmibai before directing this film. I worked closely with Vijayendraji. We began shooting at Annapurna Studios in Hyderabad after the puja. I was the director.
This all tracks for me. He doesn’t even bother mentioning the National Award for Kanche, just leaves it that he has directed complex costume dramas before. The scriptwriter (Rajamouli’s father by the way, who wrote Bahubali and Eega and Bajrangi Bhaijaan among others) is also from the Telugu industry. It makes sense that he would be Krish’s entry into this film. And the rest of it makes sense too, this is an experienced director of historical films, he would do research and careful preparation. And starting the shoot in Hyderabad, that was a place where his experience and position would be recognized, he began in good faith thinking that he was respected. The scriptwriter wanted him, the crew was handpicked by him, the main antagonist (Sonu Sood) was another southerner, and the filming location was a southern studio.
And then there is his agreement to take a half-rate. He puts it that this was because he so cared about the subject. I believe that, but it has a bigger meaning. When an artist is trying to move between industries, they usually do it for either a higher or a lower rate. If it is a higher rate, it is saying “I know you hate starting from scratch with no respect, here is a gesture promising that at least the producer knows how important you are”. If it is a lower rate, it is an indication of a conversation that said “We can’t pay you what you are used to, but we promise to help you gain attention in a new market that can lead to greater things, we will give you extra respect instead of money”. Krish took a pay cut, and the unspoken return would be that he could make a movie following his vision, introduce himself to the northern markets. And instead, all of his work was erased when his name was removed from the credits.
Here is Krish’s attempt to explain why the name was important:
In Telugu cinema they know me as Krish. Then in the trailer her name came as director after mine. But on the second poster and in the trailer achanak mera naam Radha Krishan Jagarlamudi ho gaya…. Perhaps to confuse the audience about my identity. I asked why my name was being changed in the poster. She said I hadn’t supported her when Sonu Sood spoke against her so why should she bother. Why should I have supported her, when I knew Sonu was right and he took a stand and said he won’t shoot the film with her?
That name thing, there is a lot going on there. As I understand it, it is more common in the South than the North for artists to be known by professional names, often just a first name instead of a full name. Because the naming conventions in the south are very different, with caste names that some may reject as a political statement, or names that are simple patronymics, not “surnames” in the usual sense. Or a name that is listed first which is really the family name, and it is the second name that is unique. And because, similar to the north, there are certain names that are so common it becomes less confusing to use a simplified unique version than to try to use the full name. To decide to change Krish’s name on the poster and in the film is doing him an enormous professional insult, it is also doing professional damage to him (taking away any advantage he could have had from taking on this job). And it is insulting his heritage, his heritage as a worker in the Southern industry, his very identity. Names have power, to take away someones name is to take away the very essence of who they are. There is no logical reason for this change, and it is right there in our faces to see in front of us. It is petty and cruel and bullying.
And then there is what Krish says about the biggest change Kangana made, reducing Sonu Sood’s character at the same time she insulted Sonu in the press.
Kangana decided to re-shoot Sonu’s entire portion. He had shot for 30 days! So you can imagine what she wanted to remove. I remember when she saw the first cut the first thing she said even before praising the film was, ‘Sonu Sood is too overpowering na?’ Because as an antagonist, Sonu Sood was very strong. That’s how we had designed the film. For the protagonist to appear powerful, the antagonist has to be strong…. I remember Sonu Sood’s character was introduced with a kushti (wrestling). Kangana wanted to know why he should do kushti. I wanted the action to be raw and real. Even the fights with the women were designed as raw…. What authority did she have to remove Sonu Sood? Have you ever heard of anything like this? She was of course the protagonist. But I am a reputed director directing a genre that I know. What gave her the right to tamper with what I did?…Sonu Sood also directed 5 shots. He can also claim to be co-director.
You know what jumps out at me here? We have already heard from Sonu about how his role was going to be reduced, Kangana herself in her confused way indicated that she was concerned his character was too strong. But I hadn’t thought until Krish pointed out that Sonu directed 5 shots that Sonu was also the most experienced and comfortable person on set. Sonu has a career 7 years older than Kangana. He is as comfortable working in the south as in the north. He has worked in multiple action films and historicals before this, even including one made by China. And he has been in about 3 times as many films in total as Kangana. He isn’t famous, he isn’t a star, but if you are on a film set in Hyderabad making a costume action epic, Sonu is the person you would turn to out of this whole cast for help, because he has the most experience and the most varied experience in the genre. He is the one you would trust to shoot on his own long before Kangana.
Maybe that’s another part of the story, it’s not just that Kangana was afraid of the strength of his character, it’s that she was jealous of his position on set, being trusted by the director in a way she was not. And that spun out into an effort to minimize his role, force him to reshoot, and eventually punish the director for not supporting her.
You can feel free to disagree with me and feel there is more to the story, but looking at what is said and unsaid here, combined with Kangana’s history lying about basic established facts (for instance, saying Sonu Sood refused to work for a female director when he had actually worked for female directors in the past and gotten along wonderfully with them), makes me lean towards believing Krish.
And finally, there is the question of why Krish is speaking now.
I remained quiet until the release. I had to remain quiet for the sake of the film and for the entire team which worked so hard on the film. But now if I don’t speak about what Kangana did to the film, I’d be doing a disservice to all our hard work. Many people advised me to talk after the film was taken away from me. I’d say what I directed was pure gold. Kangana turned it into silver….I never wanted a confrontation. I am not that kind of a person. But when I see what was done to my vision I feel very angry and sad. I am talking now regardless of how the film has fared because that’s how I had planned to speak…. I had to set the record straight. I needed a proper closure for my film. Manikarnika is my baby. Would Sonu Sood or Atul Kulkarni have signed the film if Kangana Ranaut was the director? They put their heart and soul in it. It is my team’s hard work being undermined. It’s not about shooting. It’s about executing. Many people from Mumbai have called to congratulate me. What I made was to perpetuate the phenomenon of Jhansi Ki Rani. Not Kangana Ranaut.
I appreciate that he waited until now. The disputes over the production, the disputes that Kangana made public, lowered the tone of the film and were an embarrassment to the workers. Krish waited until the opening weekend was past in order to allow the film to release without controversy. And further, as I read it, he is saying that if the final cut had retained the vision he wanted, if the film had lived up to what he wanted, then he wouldn’t have said anything. It is because the film he planned and made, that the rest of the cast and crew planned out, has been vandalized that he is speaking up. He is speaking out in defense of himself, and of Sonu Sood and Atul Kulkarni and his cinematographer (also insulted by Kangana) and everyone else who worked on the product. Because he sees the final product as not living up to what they intended, he feels the need to say “please don’t judge us by what you see onscreen, what we made was far better”.
And I believe him. I believe that his intention was far more impressive than what we got. The bottom line is. Krish is a National Award Winning director of historical epics. Kangana is an actress who has never directed before. If you remove the gender question, the fact that Krish is not as known in the north as in the south, and that Kangana is a Star and famous while he is merely a director, then isn’t it obvious who to believe in terms of how this film was directed and made? And whose version would obviously be better?
And to help us judge for ourselves, BH has posted a bootleg video of Sonu’s introduction scene. It is powerful and impressive to watch. And it also indicates, I think, what Sonu was supposed to represent. The traditional machismo, the Male energy to contrast with Kangana’s female. That adds a whole other layer to the film, that this is the story of a woman who fought back against chauvinism in her own terms, the female power versus the male power of Sonu. Mercy and care for the people and building bonds of friendship, versus pure aggression.
UPDATE: One other thing I forgot. This is the THIRD time Kangana has been called out in this way by a collaborator. Ketan Mehta, director of Mangal Panday and Maya Memsaab and Manjhi-The Mountain Man, a respected and liked member of the film industry, filed a legal notice against her. He claimed that he had been working with her for two years planning a film on Rani of Jhansi, including sharing research information. And then he learned from the papers that she was making a movie with Kamal Jain on his topic:
Kangana introduced me to Mr Kamal Jain. We had an international producer and we were looking for an Indian co-producer. We had meetings with Mr Kamal where Kangana was also involved and we shared all the information. And then, suddenly, we hear about this project. It is completely unethical. And this was after we shared access to all our research material from past ten years
The other time was with Apurva Asrani, writer/editor of Simran. Which Kangana also gave interviews about how she had to “fix” the script because it was unusable, similar to what she said about Manikarnika. He has been extremely vocal and angry about how his film was hijacked. And in return has gotten constant abuse. Which, blech! I can see why Krish chose to do an interview instead of using social media, since he can just shut off everything coming at him.
Notice that last comment came from Pooja Bhatt. One of the few other female star/directors in the industry. So there is no gender bias there, she is a woman who struggled to make her mark and transition from actress to director just as Kangana is trying to do. Only without taking credit for someone else’s work to make it happen.