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An Interview Of Telugu Star-Actor Adivi Shesh With Subhash K Jha

Telugu star-actor Adivi Shesh who shot to  superstardom with the thriller Kshanam  had a favourable  year with Goodachari doing impressive boxoffice numbers. Adivi  looks back and looks ahead

It was your birthday on 16 December.How did you spend your big day?

It’s the first birthday I’ve gotten to spend with my parents in a long time. They’ve moved to India after living in the US for close to three decades. That’s my biggest accomplishment this year! More than Goodachari, convincing my parents to come live with me!

2018 was a watershed year for you how do you look at the progress you made this year?

The credibility that comes with the perception of success is something I cherish. I’ve lived with the idea of Goodachari for fourteen years and the film itself was in the making for a little under two years. Of course, its always nice when a movie succeeds at the box office so beautifully. Kshanam 2016, Ami Tumi 2017, Goodachari 2018…. each year, it’s been nice to be part a film that has done well. On a separate note, I don’t take success or failure too seriously.

As an outsider how do you react to the opinion that the Telugu and  Tamil industry is lorded by nepotism ?

Like most outsiders, I used to come with a lot of pre-conceived notions about how nepotism might ruin my chances in the movie business. Today, I feel differently. I will tell you why. The idea of nepotism is fundamental to Indian culture in a way that it is part of our psyche, much less a derogatory term. A doctor’s son in India tends to be come a doctor. A farmer’s son tends to become a farmer. So on and so forth. So, I don’t see what the big deal is, when an actress’ daughter becomes an actress. A lot of the anti -nepotism brigade doesn’t realize that this culture exists across the spectrum in all facets of Indian society. If you’re going to scream it, then talk about it all across, why just limit it to movies? Because they’re a soft target?

In the South, audiences  are very sentimental and protective towards children of veteran  stars?

 It’s all about branding. When travelling, a lot of Americans tend to look for a McDonalds to eat at, no matter what country they are in. It is a brand they’re familiar with, and it brings them comfort, knowing that they can eat from a place where the menu and taste is familiar. That is why people tend to produce movies with star kids. The public knows the brand of the star, they are more likely to go the movie of that star’s son or daughter, because the public associates the kid with the brand of the star. It’s more comforting to watch a newcomer associated with a brand than it is to see a newcomer with no recognition. It’s human. We take comfort in the familiar. In the movie biz, If you can position yourself as a brand that can earn a profit for an investor, the movie business will give you chances, because they have a higher chance of earning their money back. Its dollars and cents, nothing personal. No one has the time or energy to discriminate or take away the chances of success from an unknown but talented actor. So, if you’re an actor who isn’t getting too many opportunities in the biz, ask yourself, are you a brand that the public is excited to see? If not, what do you do to get there? You figure this out, the opportunity comes on its own.

Did you find it tough to break in and when you did was it tough to convince the industry about your language of expression?

It was tough to find the credibility to become a lead actor. That didn’t happen until late 2015. But as an actor, my big break came in 2011 with my second film, Panjaa. A lot of people in the trade told me that I became a leading man of sorts in 2015, and Kshanam cemented that. I never took all that too seriously anyway. I always thought that growing up in different countries would’ve been my asset. And it has been, when writing a story. As a person living here, I’ve always felt like a square peg in a round hole. I still do. 

Goodachari was a smash did you expect it to be such a success?

It’s become my career’s biggest hit and I’m very proud of the work we put in. I’d always hoped and dreamt that it would be a huge success. That’s exactly what happened. And now, a franchise is born. I couldn’t be  happier.

Arjun Reddy ,Bahubali , Goodachari… is Telugu cinema going through a process of radical genesis?

I feel that the new wave started sometime in 2014. People’s ideas started changing. The kinds of concepts being discussed in Hyderabad were a little different. Baahubali was being made. For people to write these movies, start putting them together and release them, the public started seeing the fruit of that around 2015 or 2016. I’m proud to have been in Telugu cinema’s new wave with two of my films. Kshanam and Goodachari. For a big star like Ram Charan to agree to his character in Rangasthalam is incredible, and speaks volumes about how creatively inclined the movie business has become, top to bottom. Commercially as well, the last few years have been phenomenal for the Telugu movie business and that is entirely because of Baahubali, it revived a culture of proud movie-going, for the Telugu people. What Bhangra is to Punjabis, cinema has become that – for the Telugu people. I’m Proud to be told that we are the most profitable movie business in India.

Your career changing film Kshanam was made into Hindi as Baaghi 2 . What did you think of the remake?

To this day, I haven’t seen Baaghi 2. I haven’t gotten around to it, maybe because it’s not really mine. But I’m told by a lot of Telugu folk who’ve seen Kshanam, that Baaghi 2 isn’t their cup of tea. But then, Telugu audiences will always pick Mahesh(Babu) Sir’s Pokhiri over Salman’s Wanted. They’ll always pick the original. Regardless, I respect that Baaghi 2 has become so successful. It’s not that I’m being diplomatic about Baaghi 2. I just don’t feel anything personal toward it.

What are your plans vis-a-vis Bollywood? Or do you believe better to be the lion in your own jungle ?

I’ll be working on my debut Bollywood film in 2019. I’m quite proud of that project and will announce it in due course. I am essentially the product of my experience and my exposure isn’t limited to the Telugu states. I’d love to tell stories that are pan -Indian or even international.

Tell me about your forthcoming projects ?

I’m reuniting with the producer of Kshanam for a pulpy thriller, it’s nice to just be an actor and do something exciting. Goodachari 2 is on the cards and so is an untitled war film. They’re ambitious films. G2 will be huge. We are working very hard to exceed the expectations of G1. We are currently working on the scripts of both G2 and the War film.

I’m not really looking toward direction as a career step. I intend on doing it sporadically whenever a story speaks to me in a way that I feel that I should be the only one that tells that story. Besides, I feel that I’m a better actor than director.

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