Stardom did not take long to find Sudeep, the actor who made a mark in Kannada cinema, before he travelled across the Hindi, Tamil and Telugu industries as a bonafide star. He was a star from his early days — from the time Huchcha (the remake of the Tamil blockbuster Sethu) hit theatres in Karnataka in 2001, to be precise. And while he reigns Kannada screens as the do-gooder, he’s also made a mark as a dignified yet feared antagonist in other industries. This has kept alive the performer in him.
Heroes are usually pigeonholed into doing the best for society, even going to the extent of sacrificing their lives for the sake of their people. But such qualities aren’t thrust upon peripheral characters and, so, Sudeep continues to dazzle us via numerous avatars, building up a formidable oeuvre. As he gears up for his magnum opus, Vikrant Rona, the title logo of which was unveiled on the façade of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai recently, here’s a list of his best performances in non-Kannada films.
In this Ram Gopal Varma horror thriller, which also marks Sudeep’s debut in Hindi cinema, the actor plays an atheist who learns that good and evil forces can exist outside the purview of science. Initially, his character appears to belittle the superstitious practices followed by those around him, but when trouble reaches his home, he looks for alternative solutions so that his daughter — affected by black magic — can live peacefully. His performance seems a little less convincing here since he didn’t dub for his role, but his eyes do most of the talking.
Dabangg 3 (2019-Hindi)
This film must have been a walk in the park for the actor, for he plays a typical antagonist who kills a woman because she doesn’t love him. This is the sort of third-rate cliché that goes into sketching a villainous character for a film featuring an A-list star (Salman Khan). But Sudeep, nevertheless, brings gravitas to the screen by chuckling and imagining his power, which he considers to be greater than the hero’s. Though Chulbul Pandey (Khan) gets to utter the final punch line, it’s Bali Singh (Sudeep) who manages to keep the cat-and-mouse chase alive until the climax in Dabangg 3.
In a seriously under-written and under-valued role, Sudeep shines as Jalatharangan, the cunning commander. In many places, you can see him almost uninterested in the rhyming one-liners that his enemy (obviously, the hero portrayed by Vijay) throws. If you look closely, you can probably listen to his thoughts, too. With his blue eyes and flowing mane, he definitely looks scary — a person you wouldn’t dare mess with. And, in the little time that he gets to perform his sinful activities, he shows brilliance. Raghuvaran, who bid us goodbye more than a decade ago, would have, perhaps, liked to play Jalatharangan.
Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy (2019- Telugu)
Sudeep (as Avuku Raju) takes a breath between each word he speaks, and makes it seem his arrogance is based on the self-centered nature of his character in Sye Raa. He doesn’t appear throughout the film, as he’s seen in an extended cameo. Whenever he does, though, he brings a certain charm to the screen. You can sense his haughtiness in the scene where he offers to chop his head off instead of tendering an apology for a crime he commits. This is the result of a star playing to the gallery without losing sight of his goals.
Eega/Naan Ee (2012-Telugu & Tamil)
Who can forget the revenge of a fly? Sudeep stars as a larger-than-life businessman, womaniser, and murderer in this hilariously-entertaining movie by SS Rajamouli. It wouldn’t be an understatement to say that Eega brought him global recognition. He became a star-performer with this film, and his efforts were recognised by several awards’ committees. We have all been irritated by the constant buzzing of flies around us, but when Rajamouli structured an entire feature-length film about a fly troubling one man in revenge, he roped in Sudeep and, today, we just cannot picture another actor in his shoes. He’s a man for all seasons and roles.