Finding comfort outside the comfort zone: Actor Nani about 'Hi Nanna'

The actor expresses his confidence about his film 'Hi Nanna' and its prospects at the box office, even in the face of cyclone Michaung.
Actor Nani.
Actor Nani.

Nani is meeting journalists seven months after the release of Dasara, a rustic action entertainer that saw him depart from his repertoire of urban, boy-next-door roles. Dasara also had him dip his toes in the pan-India game. When enquired about joining the 100-crore club with Dasara, “It is not the numbers that drive me, though that number does indicate the patronage of a wide audience, which is what I am extremely grateful for,” he says.

Nani is also quick to dismiss a narrative that posits that Hi Nanna marks a return to his comfort zone. “I do not have a comfort zone. When I did comedies, people branded comedies as my ‘comfort zone’. Then came films like Jersey and Ante…, which were also labeled as a Nani thing. Maybe my thing is not sticking to a comfort zone,” quips Nani.

Unlike the rural entertainer Dasara, where the makers and marketers don’t necessarily sweat about the film appealing to urban audiences, apprehensions of this kind invariably pop up when the tables turn.

With Hi Nanna coming off as a story so comfortable in its privileged, first-world milieu, have any concerns of inaccessibility come to the fore? “It is high time we agree that not every film is for everyone. In the Telugu industry, more often than not, we prioritize making films that appeal to everyone. Except a Rajamouli, no filmmaker can make something that will cater to everyone. Films that seek to please everybody often tread the path of compromise” asserts Nani

The actor continues, “Make no mistake, Hi Nanna will appeal to everyone at some level but for one specific set of audiences, Hi Nanna will be their favorite film of the year.” It is this confidence that also radiates when Nani talks about Hi Nanna releasing a week after Animal. “I loved Animal, period. Hi Nanna will do well, Animal’s success notwithstanding. It is a sweet, lighthearted film. I won’t say it is as emotional as Jersey but it will leave a lump in the audience’s throats here and there. After a year of films serving all kinds of entertainment, Hi Nanna is the sweet plate of dessert to end it all,” he says.

While Hi Nanna marks Nani’s first collaboration with actor Mrunal Thakur, director Shoryuv, and music composer Hesham Abdul Wahab, it is, remarkably, his third film with cinematographer Sanu John Varghese.

Talking about his penchant for working with debutant directors, Nani says, “I am really not apprehensive about working with someone because they are new. A first-timer (Srikanth Odela; Dasara) got me a blockbuster.

Even Nag Ashwin was a newcomer when he pitched Yevade Subramanyam (2015) to me. ‘Let’s go to the Himalayas’, he said. At that time, I was coming off a slate of box office duds (Aaha Kalyanam (2014); Janda Pai Kapiraju (2015)). In retrospect, I signed up for these films with the express intention of landing a hit. Nagi’s freshness and courage guided me back to honest storytelling and paved the path for success.”

The actor expresses his confidence about Hi Nanna’s prospects in the box office, even in the face of cyclone Michaung. Nani, who enjoys a niche but enduring fan following in Tamil Nadu remarks, “It is unfortunate but not unprecedented. Floods did not stop Jagadeeka Veerudu Athiloka Sundari (1990) from becoming a superhit. Let us see what is in store for Hi Nanna. All good things, I hope.” 

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