How did you land a role in ‘RRR’ and how was the experience of working with SS Rajamouli?
One day, I got a phone call from Rajamouli’s office. They said that Rajamouli Sir wants to meet you for his new project. They sent me a ticket and I flew down to meet him. I had cut my hair so he was a little surprised. But he was so nice. He wanted me, not just my hairstyle. He said, “We will fix it”. Luckily, I had taken one wig with me. And they had a makeup artist there. So we tried a look.
The best part was that Ram Charan was there. Having met me, Ram Charan said, “I have come to meet you, because I have seen your Bollywood work and I have really liked it. I wanted to meet you since you were coming here.” I felt so good that a South star wanted to meet an actor from Bollywood, with such a warm welcome. Then Rajamouli sir narrated the ‘RRR’ story. It was great to hear everything from him. He told me, “You know, after ‘Baahubali’, I wanted to make a small love story. But my wife told me you make what you’re cut out for, not what you can make.” He said that he had seen me in ‘Satya’, ‘Swades’ and wanted to cast me for the role of a senior tribal man. “They are simple people, not warriors,” he said. Rajamouli was looking for innocence.
There were scenes in the film featuring me, when the character played by NTR Jr. is born, my character gives him his name. But those were cut from the final edit.
Did you feel bad when you found out that your scenes were cut?
No, no, no. See, I had gone there to be a part of that film even if it was a one shot role. I knew that Rajamouli sir was making another mammoth film after ‘Baahubali’ and I just wanted to be a part of the film. After ‘Sholay’ actors must have requested Ramesh Sippy or after ‘Lagaan’ they would have requested Ashutosh Gowariker to consider them for a part in their next film. It was like that. And since he had called me, I didn’t have any doubt. He is bound to do whatever is good for his film. I don’t think he is there to do anything wrong to anyone.
Having worked in South and Bollywood, what sort of differences have you notice in the working style and environment?
South actors have minimal questions for their director. They surrender to the director’s vision completely. Their commitment to time and energy is amazing. So, they have less doubts and questions. That’s why the director can do more with them. The shooting never stopped because an actor was not convinced about something. And if the director wants to reshoot, he will reshoot.
My personal experience with Rajamouli sir was that on set he would tell you exactly what he wants. And if you don’t get it right he will enact it and show it to you if need be. He’s a terrific actor himself. Some directors are very good at that. I remember Mahesh Bhatt is a terrific actor.
How’s your first love, your theatre career coming along?
I continue to stage my plays. I have done two plays of late; Ram and Sir Sir Sarla.