Nagarjuna in 'Officer'.
HYDERABAD: Before we settle down for a conversation at his Annapurna Studios, actor Nagarjuna Akkineni makes it quite clear that he doesn’t want to be asked any ‘controversial questions’. “Even if you persist, I will dodge them,” he warns me suitably. He’s likely referring to potential questions over his decision to associate with controversy’s child, Ram Gopal Varma, for an action film, Officer. I do ask him about it, but interestingly enough, Nagarjuna doesn’t think it to be a risky proposition. “It wasn’t really a difficult decision. I accepted the film with a lot of excitement. In a way, every film is a risky proposition,” he says.
The whole process of giving the go-ahead for the RGV film took as long as eight months though. “I didn’t expect him to arrive with a script. He first came to me in 2016, and after the narration, I asked for another meeting in about three-four months to see if he will be able to translate the same passion into a film. When he came back again last September, I got convinced and we began the shoot in November.”
The 58-year-old actor plays a dare-devil cop named Shivaji Rao in the film, with the character said to be inspired by an IPS officer from Karnataka called KM Prasanna. Nag didn’t find it necessary to meet the real cop because he wanted to come up with his own interpretation of the character. “There is a scene in which I arrest a corrupt cop and we shot it just like it happened in that cop’s life. When we saw the rushes though, we felt it was a bit boring, and so reshot more than half of it. It was also then that I suggested that we envision the character differently.”
He credits RGV for making an honest attempt and says he imposed no conditions before the shoot commenced. “I’m at a stage where I wanted to concentrate on films and do meaningful cinema. I told him clearly that he has lost his mojo somewhere and that nobody would be expecting our combination,” he says. “I told him that if he couldn’t be focussed, it was best to drop the idea and just remain friends. He wrote a letter to me saying that if I felt that he wasn’t doing justice at any point, I could kick him out. For Officer, RGV worked sincerely and the output is satisfactory.”
Of late, RGV has become a controversial figure, especially on account of his social media posts. But Nag remains unfazed and firmly says, “ I don’t want to comment on his social media activity. He doesn’t comment on my personal life. On a personal level, I don’t like to judge others. Be it RGV or my sons, I give them their space.”
There were rumours that Officer is based on a story penned by scriptwriter P Jaya Kumar. “Ramu revealed the story quite some time back on his Twitter, and I can assure you it bears no similarities with any other person’s story,” he says.
Nag believes that the Telugu audience wants realistic cinema today, and not over-the-top action-entertainers. “The people want something realistic, some thrills, and yet, not films that take heroism out of the equation.”
With biopics being all the rage, I ask Nag what he thinks about a film on the life and times of his father, Akkineni Nageswara Rao. “My father (ANR) led a beautiful and happy life. His journey is inspiring, but his career doesn’t have too much drama, like, say downfall, betrayal, etc (laughs). I think his story will make for a better book than a film.”
Nag is also currently shooting for director Sriram Adittya’s multi-starrer co-starring Nani. “The film has an interesting story that revolves around a mafia don and a doctor. The storytelling is a bit like in Raju Hirani films. We are planning to complete the shoot by July and release the film sometime in September.”
What’s next? “Dhanush has narrated a script that he originally wrote for Rajinikanth. Also, director Priyadarshan has offered me one of the lead roles alongside Mohanlal in Marakkar Arabikadalinte Simham. The discussions are on.”
— Murali Krishna CH