Almost two years after Venky Mama, Naga Chaitanya’s next Telugu film Sekhar Kammula’s Love Story (also starring Sai Pallavi) releases theatrically on 24 September. In this interview with Baradwaj Rangan, he talks about how he entered the character Revanth’s world in Love Story, why he cut himself off from social media, what he learnt working with Aamir Khan in Laal Singh Chaddha. Edited Excerpts…
As an actor, tons have been written about your personal life. You’re promoting this movie now and at other times you have to be on a set. You have to completely focus on a scene when you know shit is erupting somewhere else. How do you personally shut out the noise?
(laughs) I think from a very early time in my career I sort of kept my personal and professional lives separate. I’ve always had this habit. Maybe I got it from my parents because once they came home they never spoke about work. And when they went to work their personal lives never diluted it. It was a very nice balance they maintained. I don’t know if it’s fortunate or unfortunate but I’m not too into social media. All my information about films and the outside world comes from probably the newspaper or a well-wisher telling me to read an article. I don’t spend too much time on Twitter and Instagram. That sort of helps a bit.
A year or two back, I was very influenced by social media but after the pandemic something evolved in me and took me in this direction. I cut off from social media completely.
Do you know what it is?
During the first lockdown I spent a lot of time just looking at social media. By the end of the day I just think to myself: what did I do today? I’ve got a whole bunch of information but is it helping me in any way? I purposely got off it to question myself and started channeling my curiosity into more specific things by books on it or watching YouTube videos about it — be more clinical about it, rather than browsing social media and picking up stuff.
I come from the school where I think any actor should be able to play any role. That’s the definition of an actor. But certainly there are going to be people who comment that a privileged person is playing someone from the oppressed caste. Did that ever play in your head while you were reading the script? Were you wondering how to enter the world?
That fear was there in the beginning. I was shocked when Sekhar [Kammula] told me that he wanted to cast me in this role. I was so happy that he believed that I could pull this off. I’ve been fortunate that I’ve grown up all my life with all comforts. I am not too familiar with that world apart from what I’ve read. But I haven’t experienced their difficulties, issues or challenges.
With Sekhar, we almost sat on the script for 3-4 months before shooting. We did a lot of rehearsals and workshops. His team educated me a lot about the lives and issues of the character. Sekhar likes to shoot in that environment, so he took us to Armoor in Nizamabad. Being there and experiencing it also helped a lot. This character, Revanth, changed my perspective on a lot of things.
Can you give me an example?
The pandemic and this character, Revanth who is such a simple guy. He comes to the city to see his dream come alive — nothing else matters. I was with my family during the pandemic and eventually nothing else mattered.
Tell me one life lesson you learnt from Aamir Khan working in Laal Singh Chaddha?
Whatever I’ve learnt in the last twelve years, I learnt more in the last forty five days. He’s got this amazing magic that can rub off on people, and he doesn’t do it on purpose. His dedication to cinema — he’s in tune with every craft as much as he is with acting. He always talks about the content first, numbers and packaging come in the end. That’s something I learnt from him.