Excerpts from Satyadev Kancharana’s interview with Baradwaj Rangan
Congratulations Satyadev on Uma Maheswara Ugra Roopasya. You started off in 2011 with Mr. Perfect. What has the journey been like?
I started off by playing Prabhas’ friend in Mr. Perfect, and in my second film I played Mahesh Babu’s friend. I was a part of Attarintiki Daredi. I started off playing these tiny roles and they were equally important to me because that is how I started off. Money didn’t come easily at that time and being a Computer graduate, I would work night shifts at IBM and shoot during the day. That was how I planned my career. I played negative roles and sidekicks of villains, and amidst that I cracked the audition of Jyothi Lakshmi. Post that, I started getting meaty roles. I’d always wanted to be the bridge between lead actors and the antagonists, and after Jyothi Lakshmi, that is how it all worked out. I’d say the growth has been exponential with films such as The Ghazi Attack, Antariksham 9000 KMPH, Bluff Master, Brochevarevarura and now Uma Maheswara Ugra Roopasya…
When you got the script of Uma Maheswara Ugra Roopasya, had you already watched Maheshinte Prathikaram?
In 2016, when it released, a friend of mine called and asked me to watch Maheshinte Prathikaram. I loved it and I felt it was one of the best films I had watched until then. But I didn’t have an idea of a remake when I saw it.
What was your approach towards a role made famous by Fahadh Faasil, who is acclaimed as one of the best actors ever?
I am a fan of Fahadh’s art and love his work. But a very good thing that happened to me was Maha (Venkatesh Maha). He had a different take on Uma Maheswara Ugra Roopasya. Initially, I had moments where I realised that the comparison is inevitable, but I had to put all that aside. The credit goes to Maha because he prepared me very well. From two months before the shoot, he wanted me to behave like Uma Maheswara Rao. He wanted me to be subtle and not react to situations. I tried that and it kind of worked. Maha also gave me a good reference, his brother. He gave me instances of how his brother would react in situations and that was exactly like how Uma Maheswara Rao would. He was constantly making me think like Uma. I simply had to leave my brains at home and directly go to the sets. Maha wouldn’t even give me dialogues in advance, and all I had to do was react like how Uma would.
Did it create an extra pressure because you were given the dialogues only on the set?
With this kind of approach, it actually paid off for us. As an actor, yes, one would want the dialogues beforehand and would know exactly what one is going to do. But this was a fresh approach. I’d probably get an hour to prepare, and Maha would guide me on how to deliver.
After Sushant Singh Rajput’s death, there is a huge Insider Vs Outsider debate that is going on. I am amazed that it hasn’t come to the South of India, yet. What has your experience as an outsider been?
I’ve never faced nepotism in the Telugu film industry. Yes, there are actors who have an edge over me. But also they have more pressure to perform than I do. If I don’t perform, people are not going to really care, but for those under the radar, they have the pressure to deliver.
The main point is that even if they fail, they get repeated chances to prove themselves again. You mentioned taking part in auditions, which they probably wouldn’t have to do. The Telugu film industry is one of the most dynastic of film industries. Do you now feel like you’ve crossed those barriers and made a place for yourself?
I feel that I am there. It took me some time. This film has given me an edge. It is little too early to say that I’ve finally arrived, but I think Uma Maheswara Ugra Roopasya will open more doors for me.
You’ve done several lesser important roles which have made an impact. As somebody coming from the outside, would you say that it is better to take up smaller roles in bigger films and get noticed or wait for a film like Uma Maheswara Ugra Roopasya or Jyothi Lakshmi?
I guess one needs to take up whatever role comes one’s way. It starts with the auditions itself. When you perform in front of ADs, they take notice and call you for the next audition as well. Until Jyothi Lakshmi, I did every role where I could emote or make a slight impact. Seethamma Vakitlo Sirimalle Chettu was one such film. There was more visibility that came with such films.
Is Telugu cinema really changing or are we just watching one or two of those rare films that release every year?
I genuinely feel that there is a change. The scripts that I’ve been hearing are very good. I feel the movement has begun. A big production house like Arka, which produced Baahubali, making Uma Maheswara Ugra Roopasya… that by itself proves that people are interested in content-oriented films.