Erectile dysfunction to Exploring Saadhu… Prasanna’s Quest continues, RS Prasanna, Kalyana Samay


I met RS Prasanna at The Park, Chennai, after Kalyana Samayal Saadham’s release. We spoke for more than an hour and I found him really funny, hyper-energetic and passionate. But I’d never have imagined that his passion would lead him here.

A few days back he called me. He said, “Hey man… You got some time? I have to show you something”.

I went to his place and he said he is almost ready with his next movie. I thought he was talking about a new script or something. But no… He was already done with his new film. More precisely, he’ll be going to the Universal Studios with Kunal Rajan for the final mixing and the film will release very soon.

Not only he was really quick, but there has not been a single news about RS Prasanna, the director of the hit, Kalyana Samayal Saadham, doing another film. I had so many questions to ask, but none came out. I sat in front of him not knowing where to start. He probably understood.

He started, “It’s called ‘The Quest’. It’s an English film. Like Bharathi, Gandhi and Periyar, ‘The Quest’ is a biopic on Swami Chinmayananda.” 

More questions… Prasanna continued, “That was my reaction too. I was also wondering how I was going to make a ‘Saamiyaar’ Padam”

“Yeah… Why?” finally I spoke. I might’ve probably sounded too surprised. You cannot blame me. Had he said he was going to remake Sex Tape (The movie… Not the other thing) next, I wouldn’t have been surprised. “You know, I was a student of Chinmaya Mission. This project came to me when I was about to finish Kalyana Samayal Sadham. When they realized that one of their students has turned a film maker, they approached me. In fact, my mother joked that this is my opportunity to wash all my sins off and at least this time she wouldn’t have to feel awkward for bringing all the ‘Mamis’ of our family to watch my film.”

Then he showed me a few footages from the film. I’ll have to admit, I was afraid Prasanna was going to find it really hard to sell the film to our audiences, who seek only entertainment. But he shattered my opinions with his footages. From the look of it, the film has thrills, suspense and some stunning locations, thanks to cinematographer Siddharth Nuni. These are some serious commercial elements for a ‘Saamiyaar Padam’.

Prasanna explained, “True that I felt like taking up a ‘Saamiyaar Padam’. But, when I went through the life history of Swamiji, I realized that it could be made on a large scale. From being an atheist, Swamiji went through a lot to become a believer and take up the huge responsibility of translating our Vedic scripts into English for the world to enjoy its essence.”

“He was also a journalist and a rebel. Can you believe it?” No I couldn’t. “The Quest is a travel of this one man –A highly educated journalist, a rebel, fighting for the Indians against the British, who finds out that he is fighting a war that seems to never end. This film is his search for an answer, which he finally finds in our Vedas.”

As he continued to show me the footages, I noticed that he has shot in a few very picturesque locations. “We have shot all around India, including Kerala, Gujarat, Gurgaon and Pune. There are four parts to the movie and each part will happen in different landscapes. And ultimately the film will conclude in the great Himalayas.”

The film looked technically brilliant. As I was watching, Prasanna was telling me that he had retained most of the members from Kalyana Samayal Saadham. “Arrora has scored music. Art director Arusamy and costume designer Preethi have also worked in the project. Swami Mitranandha, who is currently heading Chinmaya Mission's Youth Wing, has worked on the story.”

I held my breath. There was another surprise. A big one this time… “Is that…” I stopped abruptly. “Thota Tharani sir…” Prasanna finished it for me. “A lot of discussion and work went behind the casting of Swami Chinmayanandha. During one such brain storming sessions, my costume designer suggested Thota Tharani sir. When I saw his pictures, he looked like a twin brother to Swamiji. Then I heard that lot directors including Mani Ratnam had earlier offered him roles, but Tharani sir stuck to his business. But when we approached him with the offer, he took it. I guess the spiritual content caught his curiosity. He did the part without taking a penny from us.”

Sandeep has played young Chinmayanandha. He is a Monk in real life apparently and looks a bit like Hey Ram Kamal Haasan. Prasanna beamed at my observation. For once I surprised him. “Hey Ram was our guide for this project. Siddharth and I studied the film thoroughly and took that as a sample for our visuals,” admits Prasanna.

As we rushed through more footages, I asked him who his target audience was. He thought for a moment, and said, “That would be any human, who’s confused with the world today. So, pretty much everyone…”

That was funny, because, the last time I met Prasanna, he was a different person and showed absolutely no signs of involvement in spiritualism. This time he sounded like…. Buddha.

He continued, “I have also realized that filmmaking is a spiritual exercise. It doesn’t matter what the content is, but for me the whole process of filmmaking is a spiritual exercise. Having directed a commercial movie before, it was also my duty to make this film impressive. I didn’t want this film to be one of those art movies that no one sees. I wanted it to be appealing to the youngsters of today, who like me are seeking answers.”

“Why do a spiritual film?” I asked him, again. First time I asked him because I was stunned. One doesn’t shift from exploring the consequences of erectile dysfunction, directly to seeking the purpose of one’s life. I mean when you discover you weren’t impotent after all, you have sex. You don’t end up a Sanyasi. That kind of ruins the purpose of not having an erectile dysfunction.

Even during my school days, I used to get mad, when my maths teacher skips steps and goes straight to the inference. I get mad when she doesn’t realize that I am not smart enough to understand a concept when she jumps directly to conclusion, as if it was obvious.

But the second time, having understood that the film was nothing like I had imagined and that it overflowed with passion, I genuinely wanted to know why he picked this script so early in his career.

His answer to my question was surprisingly, not spiritual. He said, “Two movies that I find really spiritual are Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ and Kundun. This is the same Martin Scorsese, who made The Wolf of Wall Street and Gangs of New York. Being a fan of him, I couldn’t miss a project like this, which would give me scope to explore more.” Fair enough, I thought…

But they say you take away something when you do a project as intense as ‘The Quest’. “Very true,” he accepted. “I used to not believe in destiny… This film was very close to shattering my skepticism. I was mixing for Kalyana Samayal Saadham in Warner Bros. in LA and I had to come back to India. Suddenly I notice in my ticket that I have to stay in Hong Kong for a day. I immediately called my uncle in Hong Kong and arranged my stay. Then when I was there I didn’t know how to spend the day. And to my surprise, Chinmaya Mission was right next door. Since I was there in Hong Kong, wondering how to spend the rest of the day, I thought it’d be a good idea to visit the Ashram. A Swamiji was there and I introduced myself. She freaked, “Oh my god… They are looking for you in Chennai.” I was taken by surprise. I’ve been in Chennai all my life and Chinmaya Mission is an hour drive from my place. For over a decade I haven’t visited the place. Then one day I land in Hong Kong by luck, happen to visit the Ashram there and they say the organization is looking for me in Chennai. I was of course taken by surprise. Today here I’m, done with the film already.”

I stayed silent, stunned by the sequence of events that happened. Never before I have given destiny a thought and here’s an event that has created an opinion in me already.

“During the making of this film, I got answers for a lot of my questions. For example, when Swamiji was a young atheist and a journalist, he questioned a Saadhu, “If there is God, as you claim, why are there wars, famine, poverty and pain?” That kind of anger and angst, I could really connect to.”

“Life is full of randomness. Imagine, I started with a tale of impotence and now I have something to say on spirituality. I believe you get answers to all your questions, when you make a meaning out of all the randomness. The answers are hidden in the randomness.”

“For me, I’ve had my share of doubts about God. But…” 

RS Prasanna has a quest of his own now…


(The Quest is meant for Film Festivals. Theatrical release is being given another thought. Meanwhile details about director RS PRasanna's next will be announced soon.)

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