Multi-lingual actor Siddharth Narayan, best known for his role in “Rang De Basanti”, speaks to Madhur Tankha about his first solo Bollywood film, his plans for the future and his dream of winning an Oscar some day.
Growing up in the cultural hubs of Delhi and Chennai has done him a world of good as an artiste. Multi-lingual actor Siddharth Narayan says playing characters with the mannerism and speaking style of people of these two cities comes easy to him.
Best known for his role in critically acclaimed Rang De Basanti, Siddharth says even though his role was appreciated the credit for the film’s success goes to Aamir Khan. “Films like Rang De Basanti are not made every day. It was a brilliant film by Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra and I had a thoroughly enjoyable experience working with Aamir. I would have been too happy to be a part of Aamir’s latest blockbuster 3 Idiots. When people compare me with Aamir I feel good but the truth is that he is in a league of his own. It will take sometime for others to come anywhere close to him.”
Siddharth is busy promoting his first solo Bollywood film Striker these days. “It is the first film in the history of world cinema which was released on U-tube on the first day of its release in theatres. By a conservative estimate, we thought it would cross 35,000 but it has crossed over 4 lakh hits in just four days. Thankfully, it is doing houseful in Chennai and Hyderabad. In Mumbai collections are picking up but in Delhi business is not good. Set in a Mumbai ghetto, the film is a story about the triumph of human spirit over insurmountable odds.”
To play a lower middle class Maharashtrian with conviction, Siddharth interacted with slum and rickshaw drivers of Mumbai. “I picked up the local language and it took me two months to get fully trained for the role.”
While he and South Indian actror Padmapriya are in the lead roles, Anupam Kher and Aditya Pancholi are doing supporting roles.
Siddharth also had to change his looks and physique. “I had to sport a 1980s look like yesteryears actor Kumar Gaurav. So I changed my hair style. As I had to look from a khate pite ghar ka, I deliberately put on oodles of weight. I share some similarities with the character as far as thinking and behaviour goes. Like him I also have dreams but they are bigger than his. I am also a laidback sort of person like the screen character.”
To play like a professional carom player, Siddharth had to do plenty of practice in the indoor game. “I had to master some difficult moves in carom or else there would have been plenty of retakes and the film’s small budget would have gone haywire.”
Siddharth, who is fluent in his mother tongue Tamil, Telugu and Hindi, effortlessly fits into South Indian flicks as well as Bollywood movies. “Language is no barrier, the main criteria for picking any film is its script. I do light hearted Telugu films and would like to act in Hindi films of the same genre. I started off as assistant director to Mani Ratnam and later my acting talent was discovered. I picked up Hindi and a smattering of Punjabi when I studied for sometime at Sardar Patel Vidyalaya and later while graduating from Kirori Mal College. So I can easily essay a North Indian character.”
These days, the young actor is shooting for an action film in Telugu for which he will soon be learning fighting skills from a martial arts expert who worked in Oscar-winning Chinese film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. “It has not been named yet but it is film based on a warrior.”
He jocularly remarks that he is the Shah Rukh Khan of the South Indian cinema only to later dismiss it as mere flippant remark. “It will be unfair to compare a young kid like me with Shah Rukh. I have to cross many milestones and would one day like to win an Oscar.”
Music is therapeutic for the versatile actor, who after slogging it out on the sets for long hours listens to his favourite numbers. “My first preference is always acting. I have been singing since childhood but normally I am reluctant to sing. I start humming songs only if someone eggs me.”
Revealing that he will start a production company next year, Siddharth says: “Hopefully, my degree in business administration will come in handy while running the production house. When you are in the business of cinema you should understand nitty-gritties of distribution. While studying in college I had made up my mind that film industry would be my source of bread and butter. My handicap was that I was not from a film background.”
When Siddharth told his family that he wanted to be a part of films, his father was reluctant. “He agreed on the precondition that I would first do my MBA. I have realised that education makes you a well-rounded personality. If you falter in the film industry at least you can eke out your livelihood in some other profession.”