‘Auto Shankar’ is a big step up for me, says Appani Sarath

Appani Sarath   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

‘Appani’ Sarath is not your typical six-feet-tall, baritone-voiced villain. But his cold, menacing stare in his début Angamaly Diaries was enough to give you the heebie-jeebies. In the Zee5 original Auto Shankar, which premièred on Tuesday, Sarath plays the eponymous serial killer Gowri Shankar, better known by the sobriquet Auto Shankar, whose dreaded gang spread terror in Chennai in the late 80’s.

Having essayed a broad range of roles, Sarath says Auto Shankar was right up his alley as it provided him ample latitude for creative expression. “Auto Shankar is as a big step up for me as I have progressed from theatre to cinema and now to web series. Though I have done some good roles, this is the kind of character I had been looking forward to since Appani Ravi (in Angamaly...). The character of Auto Shankar perfectly fits my acting style and body language,” says Sarath over phone.

It was the series’ producer and cinematographer Manoj Paramahamsa with whom Sarath had previously worked who recommended him to director Ranga.

The Tamil series pulls no punches while depicting the infamous Shankar who was involved in hooch running and flesh trade, while also zooming in on the softer sides of the man. Shankar was hanged in 1995, four years after he was sentenced to death for six murders. With a non-linear narrative, the series unfolds in 10 episodes released together “to retain continuity for viewers.”

Sarath says the makers had to toe a careful line with the script. “We obtained a no-objection certificate from his family in Chennai. The series had to portray the truth and still strike a delicate balance as it’s also a dramatic medium,” says the Aruvikkara native. It was shot mainly in the outskirts of Chennai, Mumbai and Puducherry.

Much preparation went into getting into the skin of the character. “Before I signed on for the project, I didn’t really know much about Shankar. But we had some six months before the shoot began and I delved into the life and times of the man,” says the actor, who will be next seen on the big screen in Ikkayude Shakadam slated to release next week.

To play Shankar, Sarath put on some weight and learnt about the former’s mannerisms from his kith and kin. “He had a small paunch. But more than the physical transformation, it was the mental preparation that was challenging. I visited his house in Thiruvanmiyur (in Chennai) and read his case history and about his jail life.”

Another challenge was getting the accent spot on. Though a major portion of the dubbing in Tamil was done by Sarath himself, a “voice dupe” was employed to record certain sequences.

Sarath admits that he initially harboured some apprehensions about a web platform, but the way the project shaped up nullified any doubts. “When I first read the script, I felt it should have been reaching the theatres as it felt so hard-hitting. I wondered if it would go unnoticed as a lot of web series are coming out now. But as the shoot progressed, I felt more and more assured and knew that we chose the right platform,” he says. Auto Shankar was simultaneously released in Tamil, Hindu, Telugu and Kannada.

Sarath says he is enthused with his stint in Kollywood, having featured in Mani Ratnam’s Chekka Chivantha Vaanam and Sandakozhi 2 so far, while a couple of other projects in the language are in the pipeline. His upcoming works in Malayalam include Sachin (with Dhyan Sreenivasan in the lead), Tovino Thomas-starrer And the Oscar Goes To and Amala.

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Printable version | Jan 12, 2022 8:38:49 AM |

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