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Bollywood calling


After three successful decades in south Indian films, Sarath Babu makes his foray into Bollywood with a Hollywood debut on the anvil as well.

VERSATILE ARTISTE `I am one of the happiest actors as I worked with great directors.'

Sarath Babu is in an upbeat mood these days. The veteran of over 220 films in a career spanning little over three decades is now making his debut in Hindi. He probably is the only actor who is still busy with assignments in all the Southern language films, and yet finds time to dabble in mega serials on small screen and to learn the art of magic. The actor who is busy shuttling between Hyderabad, Chennai, Bangalore, and now Mumbai and London for film shoots, has shifted to his newly acquired independent flat at Road No.10 Banjara Hills. Mere mention of his Hindi debut, and one finds the ever-smiling actor's face radiate with the kind of exuberance seen in a debutant.

"The entire process of selecting the stars for the movie happened accidentally. To my knowledge the producers Siddhi Vinayaka Films planned the films with Amitabh Bachchan and Salman Khan playing father and son. May be budget constraints or date hassle made the producers to look for other actors who can do justice to the story. It is about two generations. Suresh Krishna, the director, thought I could fit into the father's character. Sanjay Khan's son Zayed Khan plays the title role, `Rocky'. Smitha Jayakar and I play his parents. The theme is very interesting. It is not one of those NRI love stories. The theme oscillates between Mumbai and London," reveals Sarath.

He had acted earlier in a Telugu-Hindi bilingual, Criminal directed by Mahesh Bhatt. He calls it a rewarding and learning experience working with Mahesh Bhatt but points out that Rocky is his first film in Hindi. "I would like to dub my dialogue in Hindi myself if the producers are willing. Be it in Telugu, Tamil, Kannada or Malayalam I dub myself. I strongly feel that cent per cent justification to the character can be achieved only when an actor dubs his dialogue himself," opines the actor. "I am one of the happiest actors in India as I worked with some of the great directors - K. Balachander, K. Viswanath, Bharathiraja, Balu Mahendra, Bapu and Mahendran at an early stage in my career. I felt I am on the right track. Thanks to these veterans I could portray offbeat roles too. Fortunately the Tamil and Kannada audience too loved me. When I look back I have the satisfaction of at least 40 good films to my credit ," says the actor with his characteristic smile. He has also played hero to the present Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalitha. "In fact her last movie, Nadiye Thedia Kadal was with me. It was a commercial success."

The actor shuns melodrama in his performance. "I still believe that behaviour is better than over emoting. If I say `look I am acting,' then I am not justifying the role. Initially I had to face some problem as some directors asked me to pump in a little bit of `over' acting. Once the audience started accepting my style, then the directors too adjusted to it and supported me."

In Telugu he has completed work on the offbeat Vuri with the Malayalam actor Thilakan and as Bhadrudu in K. Raghavendra Rao's Sri Ramadasu. After completing work in the US for the Kannada film Ms. California he went to Bangalore to work for O Priyathama. He has three Tamil films lined up for release besides the recent release Lohita Das's Kasturimann, Vijayakanth's Perarasu, S.J. Surya's Kalvanin Kadhali, Parthiban's Kartha and Bhagyaraja's comeback film with his daughter Saranya as the heroine.

"This year I may be making my Hollywood debut too," Sarath Babu throws a surprise. "If everything materialises as per plans, I will be flying from London (after completing work for Rocky) to Texas for an English film to be co-produced by D. Ramanaidu. I am the only Indian actor in it."

The highflying actor manages to find time to pursue an interest in magic lessons. "Impressed by a magic show, I learned a few tricks. I want to master it when I can spare more time."

Once in every two years or so he says he is accepting one television serial. "I have done only a few of them but their popularity give a feeling that I have many serials," he laughs.

He had even produced and directed a serial, Gandharva Malatheeyam that won him the Nandi award for the best director.

"I am working on a script based on a real incident. Call it a cross over film. It will be my celluloid debut as a director. Once I complete my present assignments, I will launch the movie," he concludes.

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