For theatre artist and film actor Shekhar Reddy, acting was not something he always wanted to do. Despite working on his parents’ agricultural farm for a while and then doing a lot of other jobs during his college days, it was only when he landed a 9 to 6 job after completing his MBA, that he decided he wanted to do something else. “The job required me to dedicate most of my time towards it and that was when I realised that it wasn’t something I wished to do for the rest of my life,” he says.
Jumping courses of study, from MBA to MA to do a diploma in acting in New York, there were important lessons he took away from each of these places. “My graduation time taught me that there are more important things in life than just academics especially as I was an active NCC cadet. MBA got me into reading books in a big way,” he says. An MA in Theatre from the University of Hyderabad taught him that being proactive is the way of life.
After completing his Master’s, his pursuit of a career in acting just began. “I finished the course, but I was only academically equipped. I didn’t have enough practical exposure,” he says, after which he enrolled at The Lee Strasbourg Theatre and Film Institute in New York city in the US. “I was exposed to a lot of American broadway and theatre which further helped me develop my theatre skills,” he says, adding that his biggest learning was that nothing or no experience goes to waste. Now, besides being the Co-Founder of Samahaara, a Hyderabad-based theatre group, formed in 2004, he has taken up coaching people, and has also tried his hand at films.
While his journey may seem like a cake-walk, he has had his share of ups and downs in college. A theatre personality of renown now, Rathna had his share of first-time nerves too. And surprisingly, it was “the first time I was called on to the stage to speak on a topic as part of my course work. I stood there speechless with total stage fright,” he recalls.
He remembers that moment, when he conquered that fear and gave a talk that was much complimented, as one to cherish. “The presentation I made a few months later was met with a lot of applause and cheer. The next day, the professor said it was one of the best presentations she ever got from a student,” he says, sounding happy.
Surely, with his pleasing demeanour and good looks, it is only natural to assume that he scored brownie points with the girls. Ask him about that and he shyly contemplates aloud, “Did I?” and goes on to say, “All the attention and affection I got was by treating everyone with respect.”
With hard work and commitment to live his passion, Rathna has made a mark in the theatre scene in the city, taking it to the mainstream and bringing a lot of attention that it didn’t get earlier. Moving on from theatre, he went on to act in nine Tollywood films (five released) where one, Naa Bangaru Talli, bagged the national award for best Telugu film and also for its background score.
Aspiring to become a good actor, in either theatre or cinema, he says, “I am trying to explore all kinds of roles, because that is what a person who is aspiring to become a good actor does.” He has played the lead in one film and a negative role in another. “I want to challenge myself and see how far I can go,” he says.
Though he is concentrating on films right now, he confesses that his heart lies in theatre. As for the oft-raised question of which is more challenging, he says, “Both have their own set of challenges. But, for me films are much more demanding than theatre,” referring to his experience in theatre. His struggle is continuous, to strive to become better.
For all those aspiring to make a career in acting he says, “It is important that they equip themselves with the right set of skills and knowledge so that the one opportunity they get, can be put to best use.”