The villain continues to flourish in Kannada cinema thanks to R Ravi Shankar. This multi-talented personality who is an hero, dubbing artist, writer, director and singer is equally enjoying his turn as the antagonist. While he is currently shooting for Plus (+) directed by Gadda Viji, this evergreen baddie has a series of releases lined up including Abhinetri, Raja Rajendra, Rudratandava and RX Suri among others. As the stories in each film change so do the nature of the villains and Ravi Shankar manages to adapt himself with every new role. As of now, he is the most in-demand bad guy in the industry and has a strong presence in mass entertainers.
“I am not getting stereotypical roles where you see the villains getting beaten up all the time, or going over the top with their dialogues or emotions. I played the criminal Armugam in Kempegowda in 2011 and that is what first brought me popularity. However, it was Victory directed by Nanda Kishore that redefined the nature of villains in the industry. I stepped into the new role with ease and donned a comic hat, thus playing a villain who also had a sense of humour. This clicked well with the audience and they wanted more of the same thing. Victory was followed by Adyasksha, which was like icing on the cake for my career. Now the roles that I am working on may be villainous but they also have a lot of character added to them. I feel like the long wait was worth it,” says Ravi Shankar. “At one point people, especially the ladies would fear to even take pictures with me as they were afraid of my onscreen avatars. Thankfully, things have changed for the better, both for me and the perception of my characters,” he explains.
Among the recent roles that he has done, he quite enjoyed being an antagonist in Abhinetri, a film that is set in the 70s and 80s.
“This was the golden era of the South film industry and I have grown up watching the classic villains of the period. Thus, to enact a character who represented that era was quite thrilling for me. The gestures and the dialogues are in a North Karnataka dialect. Kotte was my first Kannada film where I had to deliver dialogues in the same dialect. But since the film came at the beginning of my career, I couldn’t prepare much for it. This movie gave me more scope to deliver the dialogues with perfection. I am thankful to Pooja Gandhi and director Satish Pradhan, who chose me to play this particular role in the film,” says Ravi Shankar.
Ask the actor to define the term ‘villain’ in today’s cinema and he explains, “In our kind of movies, where there is a clear distinction between good and bad, villains occupy an equally important place and in fact, bring out the qualities of the heroes. I would define my negative avatar by saying that I am equally good at being bad. Though our roles are meant to be evil on screen, the advantage is there are different shades for villains, which can’t be created for heroes. ”
While the older archetypal roles haven’t been abandoned from his films altogether, he has finally found some room to explore different shades of grey. “Today’s filmmakers don’t make a stock villain and they intelligently blend the character with humour. I would want to experiment with roles like those played by Shayaji Shinde and Kota Srinivasa Rao, which were peculiar and entertaining at the same time. However, it also depends on the scripts. I couldn’t have played a comic villain in films like Kempegowda and
Manikya. Luckily, we have directors who are also working on the characters of the villains. Since I am doing so many films, I also make sure I don’t repeat my roles. When directors approach me with a role similar to one that I have done before, I humbly tell that I cannot repeat myself.”
The interesting thing is that whatever character Ravi does for each film, the same role will be enacted in front of his family again. “My family
is like my mirror and I quite like to do the roles in front of them again to see their reactions. Even if I have lifted a pen on the sets for the role, I will do it again at home. It does help me to perform better,” he says.