MANILA — Growing up as a fan of Vilma Santos’ “Darna” films, acclaimed director Chito S. Roño finds a unique thrill in re-introducing the superhero to a new generation of viewers.
Roño, in fact, had not directed a series for nearly a decade by choice, but was ultimately convinced to return to television, to helm “Mars Ravelo’s Darna: The TV Series.”
“I found the material very exciting. Ayoko na talaga mag-soap. Matagal ko nang iniwanan ang mundo ng soap,” he told ABS-CBN News.
“When I heard the story, when I heard everything, nagustuhan ko. Tinanggap ko na rin,” Roño said.
Roño is no stranger to helming a Ravelo property. In 2007, he directed the primetime series “Lastikman,” starring Vhong Navarro.
“Pero siyempre ngayon, mas modern na ang technology, so mas bago na tingnan. Bago na ‘yung gagamitin namin. Hindi na ‘yung mga lumang technology. Exciting din ‘yun,” Roño said.
For one, “Darna” is set to be filmed at the ABS-CBN sound stages in San Jose del Monte, Bulacan, starting November. The sprawling, Hollywood-standard production hub is also seen as an ideal setup for quarantined filming, in line with prevailing pandemic protocols.
Despite the limitations of new-normal productions, such as the prohibition of crowd scenes, Roño said “Darna” will be presented as “bigger than the usual soap that we see.”
“Ang challenge ko talaga is to make sure that what we have and what is available to us is workable and will do well for the project,” he said.
‘LESS SOAPY, MORE REAL’
On Tuesday, Roño finally met with the cast of “Darna” for its story conference, a month before cameras are scheduled to start rolling.
Joining de Leon in the main cast are Iza Calzado as the original Darna and Narda’s mother Leonor Custodio, Zaijan Jaranilla as Darna’s sidekick Ding, and Joshua Garcia as a new character, a police officer named Brian.
During the cast reveal, Calzado described her character as a “prime warrior” from Planet Marte, who then passes on her powers to her daughter Narda.
In the comics lore, Narda is a young woman or girl who transforms into Darna, in full battle gear, when she swallows a tiny meteorite and shouts the name of the extraterrestrial warrior — an iconic imagery that has been a staple in all “Darna” adaptations onscreen since 1951.
In Roño’s version of “Darna,” these iconic fantasy elements will be intact — but will be seen through a “more gritty and natural” lens.
“I want ‘Darna’ to be less soapy, more real — but retain the character to be bigger than life, and obviously different from everybody else,” Roño explained.
A long-time fan of cinema since his childhood, Roño has seen many “larger-than-life” Darnas in his life, most memorably Santos’ portrayal which spanned several movies.
“Si Vilma Santos ang Darna ko. Lumaki ako na iyon ang Darna na nakikita ko. Ako, ilang beses ko pinanood ang Darna before, kasi nga enjoy na enjoy ako,” he said.
The goal now for Roño, as a returning director of a superhero title, is to “bring the same experience to the kids today, that they would be excited and would love watching Darna.”