‘The actor in me will never be satisfied’

...says Nani in this post-release interview, where he opens up about the success of Dasara and what it means for his decade-and-a-half-long career
Actor Nani
Actor Nani

From Mohan Krishna Indraganti’s Ashta Chamma to Srikanth Odela’s Dasara, Nani has established a strong foothold in the Telugu film industry by featuring in a series of author-backed roles that give precedence to the quality of the film’s story over stardom and vanity.

Post the release weekend of Dasara, his biggest film so far, which is steadily entering the 100-crore club, the 39-year-old actor is happy with the film’s performance at the box office. Reflecting on the widespread reception he received for Dasara, which is also his first film to receive a nationwide release in five different languages, Nani says, “I never see it as a pan-India success. Beyond all numbers, I remember only the love I receive from people. Friends who I have not met in forever are reconnecting with me now, and they are all raving about Dasara. Everybody thought I gave too many hyperbolic statements before the release, they thought I was being overconfident. But now it feels great to listen to people appreciate the film. It feels great to have been proven right.”

Talking about the rigorous process behind shooting Dasara, Nani says, “I barely enjoyed shooting any scene. Playing Dharani, shooting in such rough conditions, basically everything was challenging and hard. But through it all, I was intuitively aware that our scenes were coming out well. The scene I felt most excited about was the climax, I really could not wait to experience it with the entire audience.” Speaking about the much talked about, chilling pre-interval scene, Nani continues, “We had online editors on sets, who would patch together footage in real-time for all of us to get a better understanding of how to move ahead. We were so shocked even while viewing the raw output back then, we instantly knew the impact this scene would create would be tenfold, with dubbing and re-recording.”

Speaking about the film’s reception outside the Telugu regions, particularly amongst the Hindi-speaking audiences, Nani notes, “The response for Dasara is great in north India. We have gotten some great reviews, and a few people have gone so far as to declare Dasara as one of this year’s best films. Collections-wise, we have earned two crores so far. I am no Amitabh Bachchan to garner massive collections in the Hindi markets in the first weekend. We are waiting for word of mouth to bring more and more people to the theatres, and we are confident that it will happen.”

About balancing universality and nativity in a pan-Indian film, Nani says, “Dasara is held together by emotions like love, friendship and rage, which are felt by people everywhere. 

We were confident that it will strike a chord with everyone, and in such a situation, the onus of giving such a film the widest possible platform rests on our shoulders.” Taking the example of the Kannada blockbuster Kantara, Nani says, “Not many knew about the Bhootha Kola tradition followed in the Mangaluru region before Kantara came out. Now everybody does. By merely looking at the title, audiences in the north are able to get that we call the festival Dasara, not Dusshera. The cultural immersion starts from there.”

Critics and audiences have called Dharani as Nani’s most significant role so far. Many have even stated that his career will now be differentiated based on ‘Before Dasara’ and ‘After Dasara’. “It’s not the first time,” says a chuckling Nani, “In various phases of my career, I have heard people say this. Nani before Bhale Bhale Magadivoy and Nani after Bhale Bhale Magadivoy, Nani before Ninnu Kori and Nani after Ninnu Kori, Nani before Jersey and Nani after Jersey.

I want to continue hearing this phrase in different iterations for the rest of my career.” Nani goes on to spell out his acting philosophy as a parting statement, “The actor in me is happy, but not satisfied. I don’t think he will ever be. I want to continue playing all kinds of roles, mass and class barriers notwithstanding, for I am totally comfortable with not repeating myself. I am grateful and overwhelmed at the moment, and I have a long way to go.”

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The New Indian Express