Wrapping up the climax scene of his latest movie, Chilkur Balaji, actor Sai Kumar is more than delighted to hear “pack up” from his director Allani Sreedhar. Visibly relaxed, he settles down in his chair under a tree to assess his four-decade long career in a free-wheeling chat with City Express. “I have acted in 100 plus films as a hero, in 200 plus films as a child artiste and dubbed for 1,000 plus films. I have dubbed for every actor in India, including Amitabh Bachchan, Naseeruddin Shah and more. I have even dubbed for Sylvester Stallone for the Telugu version of First Blood! The only actor I have not dubbed for is Kamal Haasan,” he chuckles.
Popularly called the “dialogue king”, Sai Kumar says in a matter-of-fact way that the ability to deliver any dialogue with the right diction runs in his blood. Born to actor parents, P J Sharma and Krishna Jyoti, Sai Kumar points out, “My voice made me a hero. If I am able to learn a 10-page dialogue and deliver it in just the right way, the credit for it goes to my mother. I feel Vachakam is very important. Dubbing is just not lip syncing. You are the voice of the actor. You need to help the audience connect to the movie.” His 2010 film Prasthanam brought him the State Award and also the Filmfare. His recent Kannada flick Anguli Mala has been nominated for a National award. Directed by Baruguru Ramachandrappa, the movie is about Buddha and Sai Kumar plays a dacoit in the movie. “People have loved the movie and we have got great response. We have worked very hard to get a national award for this film. I just hope we get it,” he says.
Though famous for his emotional characers, Sai Kumar also has his own list of mythological characters that he loves playing. Like, the character of Vemana in a Kannada film, the role of Jamadagni along with Soundarya and more. In Chilkur Balaji, he plays Madhav Reddy, an atheist who finally accepts the existence of God. Directed by Allani Sreedhar, the movie wrapped up shooting and is now in post-production stage. “I connect to such characters, because I am devotional and a sentimental fellow myself,” laughs Sai Kumar. “When Allani Sreedhar came to me with the script, I thought I should give this a try. It’s a period film and appeals to every section of the society. Though being a mythology subject, the story has a contemporary feel. It talks about the latest political crisis, farmers' issues and more,” he explains. Actor Banushree Mehra of Varudu fame, singer-cum-actor Bala Subramaniam and Sameer are also a part of the project.
For Sai Kumar, this is one among several projects on hand. This is perhaps his best time in his 40-year career. Apart from Chilkur Balaji, he is also sharing screen space in Autonagar Soorya, starring Naga Chaitanya and Samantha, where he plays the heroine’s father, then in Adi Shankaracharya with Sri Hari and Nagarjuna; As the main villain in Yevadu, a multi-starrer with Ram Charan Tej and Allu Arjun; An aspiring politician in Pavitra with Shriya Saran ) and finally as a journalist in Dalam, starring Naveen of Andala Rakshasi fame. “I am as busy as ever. Though I am getting many opportunities my way, I still feel I am underrated in the industry. I feel I should get more and more better opportunities. Yevadu will be my biggest commercial project this year,” confesses Sai Kumar. He could not have said it better. With his voice, he could have gone places. His son Adi, who is two films old in Tollywood, gives Sai Kumar hope. “He is doing good. The shooting for his upcoming film Sukumarudu started on his birthday in December and is slated for April release,” he says. So, any plans of them working together? “We want to come with a bang, all that we are waiting for, is a good script. There are many expectations. We might do a bilingual Kannada-Telugu or a full Telugu film,” he reveals. With a National Award tantilisingly close, the actor has now set his sights on Hollywood. “When you see Rahman getting the Oscar, you also wish that you get on that stage one day and take that award. Now that the whole world is looking at Indian cinema and many Hollywood studios are ready to tie up with us and invest, cinema has become really big. I am happy to be a part of this.” This, from a man who who had never wanted to be an actor. “I had no idea, I’d be an actor one day. With degrees in BA, MA, M.Phil, all in Public Adminstration, my dream was to become an IAS or IPS,” he recalls. Life’s like that.