Actor-director Ravi Babu is a household name. With a slew of movies to his credit since his debut in the 90s, he is now all set to add to his list his 10th directorial venture. He refuses to call it a horror film but in the same breath, reveals it will spook you as it is going to be his first scary film.
“'Avunu' is based on an experience that actress Yami had been through. The concept here isn’t as much about supernatural as it is about the existence of fear itself. When you are alone at home, say cooking in the kitchen, don’t you feel like there’s someone behind you, watching you? I believe in spirits, if not necessarily ghosts, and this movie does have a bit of the supernatural. But, I wouldn’t call this a horror film. When you feel like there’s someone watching you, what do you do, how do you react, that’s what 'Avunu' is about,” he explains.
Starring upcoming actors Harshavardhan Rane and Poorna from the Tamil/Malayalam film industries, 'Avunu' is simple enough in its concept. Ask Babu what motivated him to make the film in the first place, he replies, “I don’t know. Yami was telling me about her experience and I was thinking about how it would be. I’d been staying at a hotel one day and got the same feeling, like someone was there. That’s when I actually thought of making a film based on this.”
The first trailer of 'Avunu' has been released and Babu’s voice over accompanies a series of black and white footage of an empty house. Interesting as it may be, horror/scary films are usually shot in a typical format of old houses with a rustic grey tint to the film. Does 'Avunu' follow the same stereotype?
“No, I think I’ve successfully broken away from that. You’ll have to watch the film, of course, to agree. Nevertheless, fear is a mindset and it doesn’t have to always be dark to get scared. There is no dark light or loud sounds in the film. It’s been shot in daylight in a normal format.”
Ravi Babu is no novice when it comes to dark themes. As an actor, he has played characters, be it the anti-hero vying for the heroine or the serial killer collecting body parts of his loved one. But he has also played an equal number of comic roles. Is being the bad guy with a comic touch his USP? “It’s a God-given gift to have a face like mine and be able to make people laugh. I have sometimes wondered what a director was thinking when he gave me a certain role, but I guess in his mind he knows what he wants. For instance for Prathiroju, I was approached to play a special task force police officer. I told him, ‘How? I barely look the tough guy part’ But the director was certain I would fit the bill,” he says.
While Prathiroju turned out to be a hit-and-miss, looking at his career, the actor-director has no regrets. “Perfection is something we’re always after and yes I look at a movie and think, ‘I could’ve done this better’; in fact I hate looking at myself on screen. But you learn from those mistakes and try not to at least repeat them. If I could, there’s nothing I would do differently. Everyday’s a new day and you keep learning,” he opines.
In this learning curve of almost two decades, has he ever faced any comparisons with his father Chalapathi Rao, an established actor himself? “Never. Both of us started our careers very differently. He came in the 60s as an actor. I came in the 90s trying to be a director. Acting was just something that happened. Everybody kept saying you should act and I just ended up doing it,” he recalls.
Having been initiated serendipitously into acting, what prompts Babu to choose a role? “There are a lot factors – the role firstly, perks, the banner and the director. And obviously, above all of this, my availability.”
And if the roles are similar to something that he’s already done? “Well, the director obviously knows he can present me better than the previous time. Otherwise, it depends on the director and the remuneration. This is, at the end of a day, a business and my survival,” he points out.
Albeit citing Amitabh Bachchan and Sylvester Stallone as favourites (he watched Expendables, first day first show), he refrains from saying that they or anybody else for that matter, are his role models. “I believe 50 years before and 50 years later, there will not be an actor like Amitabh Bachchan. But he is not my role model. I don’t have any notion as such. I don’t aim at being like anyone. I’m just self-motivated and do the best I can, and keep improving on it.”
'Avunu' is set to hit the screens on September 21.