Saturday, May 29, 2004

Shall V? – An interview with Venkatesh

“I am doing the role of Ramchander IPS at a time in my life where I am looking at things differently. I have mellowed down, and am also doing fewer films.” says Venkatesh Babu aka ‘Victory’ Venkatesh aka Venki, Telugu actor and son of Dr. D.Rama Naidu, one of the foremost producers of the Telugu Film Industry.

In Chennai to complete the climax sequence for Gharshana (Kaakka Kaakka in Telugu), Venkatesh is all praise for the Tamil original and Gautam Menon. In his career spanning 18 years, he believes, he has not been presented in a role like the one he assays in Gharshana. “The success of the film is its fresh style. Technically, it is very slick and what you would expect of a Hollywood film.” He is paired with Asin in the role played by Jyotika in the Tamil original.

Straddling philosophy and films comes easily to Venkatesh. Although he has been spiritual from childhood, films were never part of the equation until 1986. As an MBA from the US of A, who was initially reluctant to join the industry, he believes, “Some things were just meant to happen. There is a higher major framework behind it all, which designs something else for you.”

Venki has carved a niche for himself by the range of roles he has portrayed - from Angry Young Man to Lover Boy to Man-Next-Door. His first Telugu Film, Kaliyuga Pandavulu won him acclaim as well as awards. “At the time I entered the industry, the style of acting was quite old-fashioned and loud. However, that was the ‘in’ thing at that time. I have also played those roles. But along the way, there were opportunities to do different types of roles and the audiences have accepted me in those as well.” says Venki. He is much appreciated for his roles in movies like Swarna Kamalam, Prema and Kshana Kshanam.  

What about his foray into Hindi? “Anari was special. In Kashmir where I was shooting last week, people recognized me as Rama, the principle character. The success of that story in Tamil, Kannada, Telugu and Hindi, was because of Rama being a powerful character. The story touched a chord among audiences all over India.” Although he did get many roles in Hindi after the success of Anari (a remake of Chinna Thambi), he chose to stay home in the Telugu Film Industry as his Telugu films were doing extremely well. “ If I have to work in Hindi even today, it needs to have the kind of strong characterisation and story that Anari had.”

Speaking of consciously cutting back on the number of films he does per year, Venki says “Sometime in life, it hits you that the whole thing is maya. When you go into it deeply, all else doesn’t matter.”

“In Indian Film Industry, and in the Telugu one as well, the art of film making has undergone a transition. Production-wise, budgets have increased. And so has competition. We have many talented youngsters entering the industry, including directors, who have made their mark and are doing a wonderful job. They have tasted success very early in their careers, and I hope they have a long innings. Thanks to media, audiences are now exposed to other visual forms and performances from other parts of the world and are open to new themes and techniques.”

“I never intended to get into films, so there is no one type of role I crave to do. At this stage, I would still like to do something like a Godfather, something challenging. I have been trying to design a character like the Nutty Professor or Tootsie. That’s going to take some time and work to develop. Now that I am choosing lesser films every year, I hope to get down to designing roles like those.” he says.

On the cards is a period film by director K.Raghavendra Rao, 70 % of it is set in the pre-independence era. “And maybe, just maybe, you will see me in Tamil soon,” says Venki, as a parting shot.

Gharshana is Venki’s 54th film and is slated for a July 2004 release.

Pic courtesy Seven Shots
An edited version of this article was published in Madras Plus in 2004.

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