Santosh Sobhan is finding an interesting space for himself in Telugu cinema. He is operating in the same zone Imran Khan once thrived in back in the late 2000s and early 2010s: simple, light, urban romantic comedies. From Paper Boy to Beauty and the Baker, his series debut, and his next, Kalyanam Kamaneeyam, to his upcoming titles like Anni Manchi Sakunamule, Prem Kumar and Sridevi Sobhan Babu, Santosh is carving a niche for himself in this space. Kalyanam Kamaneeyam is all set for a festive Sankranthi release on Januray 14. “I am filled with pure excitement! It is a special release on a special day and I just can’t wait,” he says as we sit down to chat a week before the film’s release.
Excerpts from the conversation:
You debuted as a lead in 2015 with Thanu Nenu. It has been seven years but you have done just five films.
Well, Thanu Nenu wasn’t a very successful film at the box office; it did not work and not a lot of people know about it either, but I am grateful for the opportunity. I have done a couple of web shows in between but yes, I have had five film releases. Three years later, in 2018, I did Paper Boy and there was another three-year break.
These breaks were not intentional. I was genuinely jobless and was searching for work every day but couldn’t find the right script. I had to turn down the offers that came to me because I knew I wouldn’t enjoy them. I always tried to choose what I love, but Ek Mini Katha was a game-changer for me. It was the first time I was happy as an actor and it was my first success. Since then, I have been working continuously and had two releases after that with Manchi Rojulu Vachayi and Like, Share & Subscribe.
Is there a sense of personal achievement now, as you have three films lined up already?
Definitely. I won’t take myself for granted because I have worked really hard to get here. The last eight years have not been easy. I have spent sleepless nights and went from office to office looking for work. It was a tough knock. I just wanted to work, man! And today, I am grateful to go to work every single morning. As long as I am working, I think I am successful. Everything that comes after it is a bonus.
How calculated and concerned are you about factors like box office and career graph?
I am still learning and growing as an actor or a storyteller if I can call myself that. I love to tell stories and yearn to be a part of good ones, regardless of their genre and treatment. Like, Share & Subscribe was a truly special film for me and we all worked pretty hard with the sole intention of making people happier. It didn’t go our way, I totally understand that and have no regrets. Numbers and markets are things I don’t quite understand. But I do know that they are of paramount importance just to even sustain and have the opportunity to do what I am doing. At the end of the day, it is a business and there is a need to redefine it each time.
Every time I pick a film, some obstacle hinders the film’s progress emerges. Despite all of that, we just have to make sure that we give our 100% to it. For instance, Kalyanam Kamaneeyam is an emotional and engaging drama. And we set out to make a film that valued silences. I have done louder films earlier but this was a story that needed to be told with heart and honesty. To do justice to what we set out to do is my goal.
You called Shiva from KK your most genuine and honest character yet.
I have been a part of comic capers and social comedies before and my characters in LSS and Manchi… are not genuine people; they want to put up a show and have the intention of deceiving others. Shiva, however, is honest. Not just in terms of my performance, but just as a person, he is pure and genuine.
At times when audiences are continuously exhibiting their preferences for spectacles, do you think relationship dramas still have a pull at the BO?
Absolutely. We don’t have a button to turn us emotional, we have films instead (smiles). Yes, there are films that give you an adrenaline rush and a tremendous high, but according to me, the most important films are those that make us feel something and touch our emotions. Kalyanam Kamaneeyam is one such film.
You can think of the greatest commercial films ever made and you will observe that they are all dependent on one core emotion. Without emotion, even spectacles won’t work.
Kalyanam Kamaneeyam is an interesting film in that sense because, for the longest time in Telugu cinema, we have seen love stories end with a marriage. Our film starts from there and follows the couple’s journey. As I said, these characters are honest. For instance, Shruti (played by Priya Bhavani Shankar) is a working woman and she is the breadwinner whereas Shiva is down on his luck, doing his best to find a job and fend for the house. It is a common thing in a relationship to support each other.
There are films that are aspirational and then there are films that are relatable. Ours is the latter kind. You will relate to these people, their pain and what they are going through. That’s what I related to in the script. And I, of all people, know very well how it feels not to find work. (laughs)
Are rom-coms your comfort zone?
Not really! My comfort zone is comedies. I really enjoy being in fun comedies. Having said that, I want to do more than just comedy. Kalyanam Kamaneeyam is one of my first films where I stay away from
comedy. I will switch to a new genre soon.