Dileep will soon be seen as Satya Sai Baba. The actor talks about his preparations for this role

Talking to Dileep is exactly like watching him in his films. His adorably wacky humour is intact and he speaks with refreshing originality. It is evident that he loves talking, taking time to answer every question in great detail. And while he does so, a good many laughs are guaranteed.

“Are you here to interview me?” he asks, clad in an off-white silk shirt and a matching dhoti, on the sets of Kamath and Kamath he is doing with Mammootty. “Are you sure it is me?” he asks again and the small crew of people around him bursts out laughing.

He then leads us into his swanky caravan and settles down on the chair placed in front of the mirror. The box office has received his My Boss well and he is still basking in the glory of his mega success Mayamohini, but the real game changer is yet to come, he feels. Dileep will be playing Satya Sai Baba in a multilingual project by Telugu director Kodi Ramakrishna.

Homework

The actor, who has experimented unabashedly with his on-screen persona, feels he is still coming to terms with the magnitude of the role he has taken on and the responsibility that comes with it. “The project is huge and for the first time, I am doing something this big that is not a comedy. And let me tell you, I am a bit tensed. The Baba is an international figure. He has millions of devotees all over the world. When I am playing someone like him, there is so much that I need to do… so much that I need to understand about the person,” he says.

Homework for the role is elaborate, Dileep explains, as it entails watching countless videos of Satya Sai Baba. “Getting his mannerisms right is a challenge. There is a peculiar way in which he walks. It is extremely important that I get it right.” He describes how he was overwhelmed by the Baba’s humanitarian activities. “He has done things that no man or Government has done in a country like ours. If you go to his hospital in Puttaparthi, you will know what I am talking about. Free medical service to so many people is not something an ordinary human being can do,” he says. Visits to the Baba’s ashram in Puttaparthi and the Satya Sai Trust Hospital reaffirmed his respect for Baba’s personality, Dileep says. “It is vital that I am convinced about the person I am portraying.”

Research did not end with watching videos. Dileep began gathering materials on Baba, books written on him, including prayer books. Though a devotee of Shirdi Sai Baba, there wasn’t much he knew about Satya Sai Baba until he signed the film, he says. So is he a devotee now? Dileep pauses a moment, smiles, and says, “I had a small experience, which makes me believe in him.” He is now a vegetarian and a teetotaller. “I may even continue to be so even after the film releases,” he says.

The mega-budget film will be simultaneously released in Telugu, Tamil and Kannada. Hindi, English and Malayalam, too are on the cards.

Critics have often attacked him for the choice of roles and his range. “It does not bother me. Ultimately, it is the people I want to please. If you know the pulse of your audience and as long as they enjoy your films that is all that matters,” he signs off.