I am proud to be a self-made man, declares actor Srihari as he talks to Neeraja Murthy about his twin passions - cinema and charity
The one thing that can be said about Srihari is that he has withstood the test of time. Name any role fit for a performer – from small and character artiste roles to lead roles, he has been there and done that. If he pulled off the role of an arrogant Muslim invader Sher Khan in the first half of Magadheera with aplomb, in the second half, he won hearts as Solomon, the fisherman with a perfect accent. “The appreciation I got for movies like Dhee, Nuvvostanante Nenodantana and King where I played central characters are equal to the acclaim I got for Magadheera. I cannot believe that one movie earned me more fame than many movies put together,” he says.
In the yet-to-be released movie Broker, Srihari plays the role of a corrupt IAS officer and RP Patnaik plays the role of a broker or a mediator. The actor signed the movie to keep up a promise. “Once RP sang for a movie so it was my time to fulfil an obligation. When RP called and told me about the role, I told him that I will not be of any help. But he insisted that I hear the script and I liked it especially the climax ,” he says.
Srihari has never shied away from revealing his humble beginnings and has often spoken in interviews about his early life. “There were days when I also worked as a newspaper boy and supplied milk packets in the mornings. One needs courage to talk about one's past and I talk about my struggle as I respect my past. I want my life to be an inspiration for all those youngsters who do not live in fashionable addresses but dream of becoming a movie star. I am proud to say that I am a self-made man,” he declares. Srihari says his upbringing also played a major role in his thought process. “We were taught to treat difficulties as happiness and even when we worked continuously, didn't feel exhausted as we never knew what it is to be drained out,” he says. As the conversation continues, Srihari's elder son Shashank walks in with a big list of goodies to be bought. “Our family is going to Dubai on a holiday and he has checked with friends and relatives about the things they want. The list has at least 100 names,” he says laughingly.
The father is happy and proud at his son's initiative. “During my younger days, I would go home during lunch time with a group of friends. My mother would be never prepared but she never admonished me that I didn't inform her before. I feel blessed as I see the same quality in my wife, who loves to serve my friends even when I take them home uninformed and doesn't throw tantrums,” he says.
Srihari has been a cautious chooser and never selected roles because of their length.
“I have spent 23 years in the industry as an artiste and if I didn't like a script I will never do it. When Ram Gopal Varma's movie Shock was offered to me, I said I will not do it. Films can fail but as an artiste I can never fail. I have struggled hard to create a niche image and audiences love me for it. They have given me a crown made of their love and it is my responsibility that I keep it safe,” he says. Srihari is also known for his portrayals with a special emphasis on his get-ups and mannerisms.
“If in Hindi, it's actor Pran who stands out for his looks, in Telugu it is Kaikala Satyanarayana and Mohan Babu who attract attention by the way they talk and dress,” he says.
Srihari's strength has been his opening day collections and drawing audiences to the movie hall. “The frontbenchers are the real cinema lovers and it is unfortunate that they are not able to come to the theatres,” he says.
Srihari's another passion is the charity he does under Akshara Foundation. The Foundation supplied mineral water to three villages affected with fluoride. “It's God's grace that I am in this position. If I am able to make a difference even in a slight way, I will feel proud,” he says.
His to-be-released projects include Ahana Pellanta with Naresh and Mark. 2011will be a busy year as he starts shooting for another four films.
“I don't want to sit idle,” he concludes.