MANILA — A fan of Darna who has followed the superhero’s flight in the original comics and on the small and big screens, acclaimed filmmaker Chito S. Roño felt “like a kid again” when he was offered to helm the latest TV adaptation of the Mars Ravelo character.
“Maliit pa ako, nababasa ko na ang comics. Isang pelikula palang yata noon, nagbabasa na ako nito. Naging part ng buhay ko ang Darna,” Roño said during the recent media launch of “Mars Ravelo’s Darna,” ABS-CBN’s modern retelling of the pop culture icon starring Jane de Leon in the title role.
Darna debuted in her own Pilipino Komiks series in 1950. Only a year later, the story of a girl who transforms into a warrior of extraterrestrial origin was adapted as a film, with Rosa del Rosario as the first actress to bring the character to life.
Roño was particularly a fan of the ‘70s version of Darna portrayed by screen veteran Vilma Santos, who starred in four movies inspired by the comics. He would go on to direct Santos in numerous films, including “Bata, Bata, Paano Ka Ginawa?” in 1998 and “Dekada ‘70” in 2002.
The prospect of finally helming “Darna” came to Roño at a time when he had sworn off directing for TV. In fact, he had not directed a series for nearly a decade by choice, but ultimately could not pass up the opportunity to re-introduce his childhood superhero.
“When it was offered to me, I got excited like a kid again. Sabi ko, ‘Sige na nga, gawin ko na.’ I dared myself to do it. Kabataan ko pa pangarap ko nang gawin ang ‘Darna,’” he said of the decision that gave him the distinction of directing two series based on different Mars Ravelo characters, the other being Lastikman in 2007.
‘BEARING WITH TIME’
The “Darna” project landing in Roño’s lap followed tumultuous years for its development, with directors (Erik Matti, Jerrold Tarog) and lead actresses (Angel Locsin, Liza Soberano) twice replaced for various reasons, and the production delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“It took ABS-CBN a long time to produce this project,” Roño said during the press launch. “They cannot let go because this is one of the most exciting materials they have, and I don’t blame them for bearing with time and difficulties.”
De Leon, Roño’s Darna, has been open about grappling with the “pressure” of being given the role after the nearly decade-long anticipation for ABS-CBN’s adaptation.
But the actress, who admittedly also once questioned her casting given her few years in showbiz, can now heave a sigh of relief, as Roño, a long-time of Darna, only had glowing words for her portrayal of the superhero.
The director pointed out that in the ongoing series, de Leon plays “three versions” of the same character: an insecure Narda in her teenage years (shown in the pilot), a headstrong Narda as an adult (introduced in the second episode), and the superpowered Darna in full battle gear (yet to be seen).
“Jane worked very hard for her role in this series. She had to balance being Narda and being Darna, talagang mahirap,” Roño said.
“Ang Narda, dalawang characters — iyong bata at iyong age na malaki-laki siya. Ang dami talagang roles niya na ginagampanan. It’s really a challenge for her as an actress. I think she did very well,” he explained.
‘SHE HAS DONE VERY WELL’
Asked how he would assess de Leon’s performance so far, Roño answered, “I am very pleased that not only is she focused, not only is she concentrated, but she’s also done very well as an actress for Darna.”
Once admittedly “scared” of Roño, especially on their first few days on set, de Leon has since formed a close relationship with the director, whom she now regards as a father figure.
“Noong una ko siyang na-meet, sobrang kinakabahan po talaga ako. Kasi, knowing Direk Chito, napaka-terror! Tama ba?” a laughing de Leon said as she turned to Roño, who was seated beside her during the conference.
“Ang maganda kay Direk Chito, kabisado niya lahat — blocking, ganiyan, kahit marami kayong mga artista. Oras na magkamali kayo, ano’ng sasabihin mo direk? Puwede ba sabihin? Ayaw lang niya ng tatanga-tanga, kailangan focused ka, alert ka!”
De Leon and her fellow cast members agreed that Roño’s meticulousness, fueled by his own passion for the character as a bona fide fan, only served to better their performances and more importantly the quality of the show.
“Marami talagang aral ang binigay sa amin ni Direk Chito,” de Leon said.
“Mars Ravelo’s Darna” airs weeknights on A2Z, TV5, Kapamilya Channel, CineMo, Kapamilya Online Live, iWantTFC, and TFC.