Ashok: ‘It was always about content, never about image’

Ashok in a still from the series

Ashok in a still from the series

Ashok was one of the reigning stars of the ‘70s and ‘80s. He serenaded some of the top heroines of his time and gave many hits with Arthi with films such as Puttanna Kanagal’s Ranganayaki, Ganeshana Mahime and Thayiya Madillalli. Ashok is back playing a grandfather in Kannada web-series, Olavinda Nildana, created by Shruti Naidu and Ramesh Indira.

“I used to act in many television serials in the past. I found it tiring to be on the sets with make-up at 8 am and work late hours,” says Ashok. “I decided to take a break and realised that a decade had passed when Shruti approached me for this role. She insisted that I act in this series and said the role was written with me in mind, and here I am.”

The actor believes television has grown by leaps and bounds. “It is a more intimate space as the story and characters are brought into our homes which the family watches together. For cinema, the viewer needs to make time, spend money and step out. On television, the characters become like family.”

Ashok earlier acted in series such as Ardhya Sathya and Gupta Gamini .

The BSc student, switched lanes when he was bitten by the acting bug. He headed off to study acting in the Madras Film Institute, where he and Rajnikanth were classmates as well as roommates and their shenanigans are remembered fondly by their peers.

Ashok made his debut in the Kannada film Hennu Samsarada Kannu opposite Sridevi. “That was in 1975. I was 24 and Sridevi was about 17 or 18. It was such a joy to see that young girl grow into a great actor and star. Her demise at such a young age was tragic. Hennu Samsarada Kannu, was made in the last days of the black-and-white era.”

Ashok says, his choice of role was driven by conviction. “Be it Sanadi Appanna, Bhagyavantaru or Thayiya Madidalli, I had to be convinced of the character’s motivation and behaviour.”

Each character he played was a challenge, says Ashok. “I would put myself in their shoes, study the time they lived in, the culture and the society in which the character was placed. That is how I approached every character. It was always about the content and never about image. In fact, when Ganeshana Mahime, was offered to me, I was not convinced about why the character was an an aethist and hated Lord Ganesh. We create an incident which led to the character hating the deity and how the character transforms through the film.”

Having worked for over four decades in the Kannada film industry, Ashok remarks on the changes he has seen. “Those days, we would get together to make cinema, but today it is just a ‘shoot’. There is no involvement. Those days we would be involved in a film right from the inception of the story, today, it is a vast business and hence, I feel sometimes it becomes impersonal.”

Ashok, who was the founding president of the Karnataka Film Artists, Workers and Technicians Union says he is pained by the way the film technicians are paid. “We had planned to give them PF and other benefits, but did not get proper support, and could not do much. During the pandemic, workers from the industry were among the worst hit. No one thinks of the people who work tirelessly behind the scenes in the film industry.”

Can the industry not try and adopt Rashit Shetty’s scheme where he has announced that a certain amount of the profit of his film 777 Charlie will go towards animal welfare and the crew? “The desire to share profits has to come voluntarily. Ironically, the world also sees only the top 10 % of life’s pyramid, the remaining 90% always lives in the shadows.”

Ashok, is looking forward to the release of his next film, Achar and Co. “ It is a PRK (Puneeth Rajkumar) film, which has an all woman team, right from the director and cinematographer to the composer. It has been a great experience to work with them.”

Olavinda Nildana is currently streaming on Voot Select

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Printable version | Sep 1, 2022 11:15:01 am |