There is a saying that goes, “Age is just a number.” Ujwal Kulkarni, the editor of KGF: Chapter 2, has proved it true. He was just 17 when he got the offer to edit the pan-Indian blockbuster starring Yash and directed by Prashanth Neel.
Set against the backdrop of the Kolar Gold Fields (KGF), the sequel continues the story of the ambitious Rocky (Yash), who is born into poverty but wants to conquer the world.
Kulkarni, who is celebrating the film’s success while on a vacation with his family, took some time out to speak to Silverscreen India about working on the project, which he calls “a life-changing experience.”
When did you first realise that you wanted to be a film editor? How did your editing journey begin?
Initially, I was not really interested in films. I was more inclined towards cricket and it was my brother who always wanted to become an actor. During my 10th class summer holidays, I shot and edited some short films for my brother. That’s when I found the spark. After this, I did not feel like taking up pre-university classes. So I dropped out and stayed at home for almost a year exploring editing.
Then, I got to know Shashank Muralidharan (a fellow editor) whom I call my ‘lifesaver and friend’. He spoke to my parents and took me to Bengaluru with him. He was the one to introduced me to the film industry. I spent six months trying to make contacts and develop my editing skills. Then, I joined classes conducted by editor Harish Komme. It was a two-months course but I was only able to complete one month of it. Initially, my parents were a bit worried about my career but they still trusted and supported me throughout.
How did you get the opportunity to edit KGF: Chapter 2?
In December 2018, I watched KGF: Chapter 1 and I was very impressed. I fell in love with the film and went on to watch it about ten times in the theatre. I am a die-hard fan of Yash. The fanboy in me couldn’t help but edit a small clip of KGF footage.
Around this time, the KGF team put out a call for editors for the sequel. I sent the video that I’d edited to Likitha ma’am, wife of Prashanth sir. She showed it to him, and they called me to the office for an interview. They called back within a week and gave me a test to edit some footage. After that, I got a call from the makers and they said that I would be editing KGF: Chapter 2. At that time I was around 17 years old. The offer was a huge opportunity for me and I’ll remain forever grateful for it.
What was your working process? Did you have a framework or a plan in mind to edit the film?
I was part of the team since the pre-production period, around February 2019. We did not have a spot edit facility as Prashanth sir did not want that. In the initial phases, I referred to edits in the first instalment. I also spent a lot of time at the shooting spot to gain a better understanding of the project. I got to learn a lot while being with Prashanth sir. I did not have any concrete plan as such because it was my first film. And I did not know the complete story. I only had a basic idea of what it would be. For about half of the film, I edited scene to scene. After that, I got accustomed to the flow of the screenplay and the pace of the film.
What were some of your favourite sequences to edit?
I loved editing the action sequences. I thoroughly enjoyed working on them. The scene where Rocky and his men attack Adheera with Kalashnikova rifles is one of my favourites. Another is the climax ship scene. My vision, while editing action sequences, was to emphasise slow-motion shots, high-speed shots, and stylish shots. I also edited these action scenes with the audience in mind.
Adding blackouts in the car-chase scene in the first half was Prashanth sir’s idea. We did that to hold up the rhythm. They had used a similar treatment for a fight sequence in the first chapter as well. For the emotional scenes, I let the shots linger for some time so the audiences could resonate to them better.
How did you finalise the runtime of the film?
Locking the runtime was a big task. The film was edited about one and a half years before its release. Initially, its runtime was around 3 hours. After watching the film many times, Prashanth sir suggested that we trim it down a bit. For a fast-paced film like KGF, with a lot of action sequences, the runtime should be kept crisp so that the audience doesn’t lose patience. So, we watched some of the portions again and removed some of the least important bits. We finally ended up with a runtime of 2 hours and 48 minutes.
The film has a lot of VFX portions. Can you describe your collaboration with the CGI team?
The editing and CGI teams worked together in tandem. The editing process happened simultaneously with the film’s shoot. We were staying at a hotel near the shoot location. Every day, we would receive footage to edit. Once I got done with my cut, I would pass it on to the CGI team. After completing the VFX work, we would show it to the director. We would then rework it, as per his suggestions.
You obviously have a high regard for Prashanth Neel. Tell us about your experience working with him over the last four years.
The person I am today is all because of Prashanth sir. Aside from film-related work, I have learnt life lessons from him too. He suggested several films, such as Inception and The Dark Knight, for me to watch and learn from. I was the only editor working on this film. I was able to do it single-handedly only because of Prashanth sir. My key takeaways from working with him are patience and discipline. I learned that I should not stop or give up, until I deliver something close to perfect. I will carry this lesson with me, always.
Now that the film is running successfully in theatres, how have you been enjoying the success?
I feel so happy now. I recently watched the film at my hometown in Gulbarga with my parents. They were so proud of me. I had, of course, watched the film many times before its release, but watching it as a member of the audience was a wonderful experience.
Can you tell us about your upcoming projects?