In 2013, Shiva Rajkumar headlined a fantasy action film Bhajarangi, directed by Harsha. The film was not only declared a blockbuster, but it also brought its hero much praise. This week, Bhajarangi 2 by much the same team is awaited. Ahead of its release, Shiva Rajkumar speaks to Kairam Vaashi about the film, his career, ups and downs, dealing with trolls, future plans and a lot more.
How do you take wins and losses?
Naturally, when a film flops, I feel disappointed. But I make an effort to explore why the film flopped. When a film is a hit, I feel happy and share it with people. I've seen lots of ups and downs. Despite that people haven't left me, my fans haven't abandoned me.
Were you always this way? Since your times with Anand?
In the beginning, I hardly had a flop (he laughs). My first three films were big hits, and the fourth was an ordinary hit. The next three were big again. The eighth film was a little less successful. Again I had big hits. My first 35-40 films have all been successful. So, I didn't feel much of a failure for long.
Then, eventually, when you had a dud, how did you react?
I'm a cool guy. I don't take things to heart. Because I've great family support. My wife is of great support to me. My mother, father, brothers and friends have all supported me throughout. Apart from that, the entire industry and my fans have never let me down.
Is that a place you've now reached?
Oh, I've been this way since I was a child. I'm a very cool guy. Of course, I feel hurt. But there is a confidence that I won't let my producers down. I build a relationship with them that, in some way, I'll make it up to them.
There is a lot of hatred, trolling etc., on social media. What's your view on that?
To be frank, very rarely do I see these comments. Sometimes, my daughter shows me the comments and tells me they're making fun of me. And I always say, "oh, is that so? It's okay. What can we do." I take it easy. I understand that it's that individual's view. I never feel the urge to respond to them or anything.
I listen to the feedback. For instance, initially, I used to speak too fast, making my dialogues incomprehensible. When I got that criticism, I took it, worked on it. I'm not perfect yet. But I've made progress. So, that kind of feedback, I'm okay.
I understand what you're saying about how you take social media criticism and trolling. In your opinion, how should your fans or even the general public react to the advancements of social media?
I think we should be positive about things. I don't mean that we shouldn't point out mistakes. But we should do it in such a way that it should not hurt a person. I'm saying this to my fans, too — don't humiliate people. Try to find positives and highlight them. Not just star films, but also new/offbeat films. Don't hurt their feelings.
The Puttaswamy, who studied BSc Chemistry, just while he began working on the film Anand, how did he see his acting career? How did that change after Om? After Jogi? After the pandemic? And after 2022?
Haha! When I was studying, I had no interest in films. Someone somewhere came and asked me if I wanted to do films. My friends started teasing me. So, I politely told them, "Listen, I'm Rajkumar's son. I'm not interested." And then they came home!
My father was surprised. He asked me if I was interested. I said no then too. This was a Malayalam film. A little later, Appu (his brother, Puneeth Rajkumar) had also begun acting. He was my inspiration.
Then, I went and saw in the mirror if I looked like a hero. I was a big fan of Kamal Hassan and Amitabh Bachchan. I thought a hero should look that way! My father himself was a very big actor. So, I thought to myself if I could hold my own alongside such stalwarts. Do I have the face for it? Then, I completed my graduation. I did a course at the Adyar film institute and came to work.
I began working on Anand. New team. Great energy. Singeetam Srinivasa Rao was a very cool director. Even before the film was released, I got married. In a month, the film was released and was a hit. I soon was called a disco king. Reviews said that "a star has arrived." Then, I had a hattrick of hits. Om gave me another dimension. Jogi's mother-son emotion gave it another sentiment.
The pandemic has been substantial as well. In my life, I've never been this free. I just kept working out. I helped people as much as I could. We've fed a couple of thousand people for a few months during the lockdown. Our community has helped provide for a thousand people through ISKCON. We've slowly overcome the pandemic and we've started work.
How would your career be after 2022? Is it going to be planned differently?
I'm going with the flow because I'm committed to a bunch of films. Next is Bhairagee, a very impactful film. Then, there is a lovely love story. There is Vedha, directed by Harsha. It's a home production. My wife is producing it. I have a film with Rishabh Shetty. After that, I have a film with Prabhu Deva. And then one with the director of Rathnan Prapancha, Rohit Padaki. Until 23-24, I'm busy.
Here's one mind-boggling statistic that is on Wikipedia. In a career spanning over 35 years, you had at least two movies in each year except on five occasions: 1987, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2020. From 1992-2010, you had a minimum of three releases in all years. Do numbers mean anything to you?
Absolutely not. And I don't want to keep numbers in mind also!