Art Should Question Our Existence In The World: Raj B Shetty

The actor is gearing up for the release of Toby, which co-stars Chaithra J Achar
Raj B Shetty
Raj B Shetty

For the Kannada audience, it seemed like actor-director Raj B Shetty came out of nowhere and became a star. His successful debut came with the delightful slice-of-life comedy Ondu Motteya Kathe (2017). He then came out with the violent crime drama Garuda Gaman Vrishabha Vahana (2021), which propelled him into stardom. He wrote, directed, and starred in the film, playing the role of Shiva, the underdog who is the right-hand man of Rishab Shetty’s Hari.

He will now be seen in Toby, another crime drama which is also written by him. The trailers hint at him being another underdog who is treated unfairly by the powers that be. He stars in the film along with Chaithra J Achar.

“I am not an underdog,” says Raj B Shetty when asked if he gravitates toward such characters because he considers himself as an underdog, “I hope people don’t see me as one because I can bite hard. I am a dog. Jokes apart, I don't really have issues if the audience sees me in any way. But I want some of the people who are close to me to not see me that way because I have an army”.

Despite that cryptic and serious response, Raj B Shetty is mostly known for his fun and profound persona. Shetty adds that he does not consider himself to be a star.

Raj Shetty in Toby
Raj Shetty in Toby

“The people see me as a star, I don’t,” he says, when asked how he deals with his stardom. “I am an actor because I act. I have come here to work. I will use the resources that stardom gets me and my team to make a film. I cannot deny that. I don’t believe in that distinction between an actor and a star persona. I want to portray myself just the way I am, with all my flaws so that people who are watching me can feel some satisfaction. I believe the same about other people and I hope I am not being judged. Even if I am, I don’t really care. I am comfortable with being who I am. Not to say I am perfect, I have flaws. I have the same flaws as you.”

Speaking of flaws, his filmography indicates a liking for flawed characters. While many stars try to portray a perfect image of themselves, Shetty goes the opposite way. He portrays the problematic yet human Janardhan in Ondu Motteya Kathe (2017) as well as Shiva, a victim of childhood abuse who grows up to be a ruthless murderer in Garuda Gamana Vrishabha Vahana (2021).

“It is not possible for me to write perfect characters,” he says, when asked about his penchant for writing negative characters. “I have always seen myself in my characters, be it negative or neutral roles. I don’t usually create purely positive characters. More than that, I feel art should lead to some amount of introspection. It should question the purpose of our existence in the world and make us more self-aware. When I’m watching a film, I want to say, "Hey! This guy is somewhat like me." Such films or such a piece of art will always give me happiness.”

Toby is directed by Basil Alchakkal from a script by Raj B Shetty. It stars Shetty in the titlular role and features Chaithra J Achar, Gopalkrishna Deshpande, and Sayuktha Hornad. The film is all set to release on August 25.

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