Express News Service
While Vishnu Vishal’s script-selection game has always been on point, it hasn’t necessarily translated always into hits. However, he hopes that Gatta Kusthi will change things around for him, especially because it is co-produced by Vishnu Vishal, along with Ravi Teja. “Ravi Teja sir liked FIR so much that he went on to release the film in Telugu. He had just started to produce films and wanted to know what I was doing next. I narrated the story of Gatta Kusthi, and soon as he heard it, he expressed his interest in making the film.”
Gatta Kusthi, known as Matti Kusthi in Telugu, is produced by Vishnu Vishal’s own Vishnu Vishal Studioz along with Ravi Teja’s new film production company, RT Teamworks. “Ravi Teja sir was confident that the film would work well with Telugu audiences,” says Vishnu Vishal, who reveals that Ravi Teja even flirted with the idea of acting in the Telugu version of the film.
“In my thirteen years of being in the film industry, nobody has believed in me as he has,” says Vishnu Vishal. “For him to trust me with this film at a time when FIR hadn’t even come out… his trust came as a big boost of energy.”
Sports dramas have been an integral part of Vishnu Vishal’s career, with the actor making his debut with Vennila Kabadi Kuzhu (2009) and experiencing a resurgence with the 2014 cricket drama, Jeeva. And now, he returns with another sports drama, and will next be seen in Aishwarya Rajinikanth’s Lal Salaam.
“I guess I have always had a connection with sports films,” he says. “Chella (Ayyavu) narrated Gatta Kusthi to me when we were both working on Silukkuvarupatti Singam (2018). I really liked the story but told him we should wait till we both more experience. I felt that the film demanded a bigger budget and more experienced team members, and he agreed.”
As much as he is happy about returning to the sports film genre, the actor is keen to register that the film is more than ‘just a sports drama’. Despite the copious amounts of adrenaline-fuelled moments emblematic of sports films, the actor says that Gatta Kusthi is essentially woven around a husband-wife relationship. Notwithstanding an emotional core, sports films still bear the pressure of having to justify the genre with action-packed moments. Months of extensive research apparently went into meeting Kusthi coaches from around the country, and in order to make the fights look authentic, the crew, Vishnu says, roped in professional Kusthi players—from places like Mettur, Kottayam and Palakkad—as actors and crew members. “Working with them was a revelation for me; it was a privilege to get to know their life, their struggles, and what the sport has given them.”
A self-proclaimed fan of boxing films, Vishnu Vishal still thinks a Kusthi fight is more demanding and harder to capture on film. “You can hide fake punches in a boxing fight through perspectives and camera angles, but Kusthi is a full-on contact sport. You need to see the fighters grappling and connecting physically for it to look believable. I underestimated the amount of physical preparation needed for the role and underwent rigorous training.”
All the preparation might not have translated onscreen without cogent stunt choreography. From the beginning of the project, Vishnu Vishal set his eyes on Anbariv masters for the role. “I really liked their work in Sarpatta Parambarai and was hell-bent on getting them for Gatta Kusthi. In fact, I told them I wouldn’t do the film until they got on board. They have done an amazing job and have made the Kusthi fights look authentic.”
Vishnu reveals that the challenges weren’t constrained to just the physicality of his character. “I can do serious and dramatic roles with ease, but I was a bit nervous to play this character because the film demanded a lot of lighthearted scenes. I was a bit unsure at first but towards the end, I felt like I did well,” says the actor.
Vishnu Vishal hopes to leverage the confidence he has gained from this film into making exciting new projects. With Mohandas gearing up for a release soon, Vishnu Vishal is set to co-star with Vikranth in Lal Salaam, which features Rajinikanth in an extended cameo. As for experimental films, he hopes to do a superhero film sometime. “I believe I have gained the experience and expertise to pull off the scope and scale that a superhero film demands. I now have the confidence to do something like that.”
In an industry where the gravitational pull of stardom inadvertently bends films into self-defeating orbits, the resurgence of this actor, known for sensible script selection, comes as a breath of fresh air.
Source: The New Indian Express