For about half his life, Rajesh Devraj wanted to be a cartoonist. He’d often be caught doodling in odd places and even had a cartoon column in A&M magazine when he was in his mid-20s. But when a gun-toting south Indian cowboy became a doodle, the kernel for Quick Gun Murugun began to blossom.
“I had this absurd idea that an Indian cowboy would be more interested in protecting cows, instead of raising them for slaughter. So I’d kept a sketch in the ad agency I worked for,” says Devraj, now known as the scriptwriter of Quick Gun Murugun, which released on Friday. “And I pitched it a few years later as a promo idea to Channel [V]. And, well, it worked!”
That was in the mid 1990s. Since then, Quick Gun, the superhero with ‘guntastic’ powers, has tickled many a funny bone . The catch phrase — Rajnikanth’s ‘mind it’, still raises a grin. So much so that even Farah Khan used it in her film Om Shanti Om.
“I always wanted to create larger than life characters with distinct identities. And though I didn’t know Tamil, I knew something colourful like this would work well,” says the 44-year-old, who is originally from Jaipur.
Converting the idea into a full-length feature film was, however, quite a challenge. Devraj says that 14 years ago, he had no idea how to write a film, though the idea of a lone vegetarian crusader battling an evil fast-food empire was always in his head. And then he remembered how restaurants down south put up boards reading ‘Meals Ready’ or ‘Rice Plate Is Ready’ for lunch, and the villain Rice Plate Reddy was born.
But didn’t he want to direct what he created? “Shashanka (Ghosh, the director) and I have been friends since our ad agency days. He shared a cubicle with me and really wanted to bring Quick Gun to TV,” Devraj says. “So while I was clear about what I wanted for this film — no Bollywood actor as lead — things went quite smoothly. But now I think I want to try film direction. It would be interesting to implement all that I have learnt as a writer, working with different directors.”
From illustrator to director to screenwriter, Devraj has donned many hats. While Quick Gun was one of the first milestones on his CV, he is also the creator of other memorable characters like Aunty 303 and Space Khalasis (remember Macho and Banjo?), and the developer of shows like Toofan TV.
“After [V], I worked as an independent producer/director, making advertising commercials and also a documentary called Drum + Space, with musician Talvin Singh,” says Devraj who, as creative director at Sony Entertainment Television, developed Jassi Jaisi Koi Nahin. “Now, I’m a creative consultant on TV shows like The Great Indian Comedy Show.”
Devraj has also written the script for Anand Surapur’s The Fakir of Venice and Farhan Akhtar’s short film Positive, but what’s really waiting in the wings is a graphic novel, which he hopes will be out early next year. Maybe he’s finally coming back home.