Siddhu: I want to be a star of a 100-crore film in the next three years

As the wacky ‘DJ Tillu’ draws attention, actor-screenwriter Siddhu Jonnalagadda holds forth on the film and his aspirations

Updated - February 05, 2022 07:04 pm IST

Published - February 05, 2022 05:07 pm IST

Siddhu Jonnalagadda of ‘DJ Tillu’, styled by Prashanti Ramesh

Siddhu Jonnalagadda of ‘DJ Tillu’, styled by Prashanti Ramesh

Siddhu Jonnalagadda, who has been wearing multiple hats as an actor, screenwriter, co-editor and creative producer in his recent projects, was approached by well-known Telugu film producer Suryadevara Naga Vamsi post the lockdown digital hit Krishna and His Leela (2020). Vamsi wanted a youth-centric film and thus began the story of a quirky Hyderabadi character called DJ Tillu, which Siddhu co-wrote with Vimal Krishna, who debuts as director.

Siddhu is game for a freewheeling conversation, as DJ Tillu is scheduled to arrive in theatres on February 12.

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Edited excerpts:

What was the origin of the character Tillu?

At first, it was a simple story of a girl who has had a couple of questionable associations and a guy. After much brainstorming, we felt the need to have a crazy, vibrant and loud character from whose perspective the story can be narrated. We thought of a Telugu stand-up comedian; but stand-up comedy is restricted to a few urban pockets of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. Vimal and I then hit upon the idea of a wacky DJ. Tillu thinks he is the man, though he is far from a successful DJ. He is someone who masks his inferiority complex with a show of superiority complex.

The film was earlier titled Narudi Brathuku Natana; isn’t it?

Whenever I discussed the story with my friends, everyone referred to it as the Tillu story. Narudi Brathuku Natana sounded mature and sober. DJ Tillu is more catchy.

Siddhu Jonnalagadda and Neha Shetty

Siddhu Jonnalagadda and Neha Shetty

During the trailer launch, you stated that Tillu’s characterisation stemmed from the people you observed while growing up in Secunderabad. Can you explain?

I grew up in areas near Padmarao Nagar. Youngsters in Warasiguda and Chilkalguda talk like Tillu (the Hyderabadi Telangana dialect). We wanted Tillu to reflect on how these youngsters speak and how they handle things... Each one is his own boss and for no reason, there is the rivalry between gangs from each street. These boys are also more chilled out than those in, say, Banjara Hills.

Tillu’s gigs are not in nightclubs but at jataras (melas), saree ceremony, etc, but he brags about Allu Arjun praising his music. What are his aspirations?

He makes up a nonsensical story to impress the girl and she sees through his bluff. Tillu has no serious aspirations; he throws around his attitude and wants to be the centre of attention. The story has a bit of everything, including crime, but it is essentially a love story. We designed it as a mainstream film for theatrical viewing.

How was the working experience with Vimal Krishna?

Vimal worked in the direction department of Krishna and His Leela . He is a man of few words while I am a chatterbox. He is an introvert, comes across as aloof while I am more emotional. We complemented each other. We wrote the story and screenplay together and I wrote the dialogues. We also had guidance from writer-director Trivikram Srinivas.

Siddhu Jonnalagadda and Neha Shetty in ‘DJ Tillu’

Siddhu Jonnalagadda and Neha Shetty in ‘DJ Tillu’

Unlike Krishna and his Leela and Maa Vintha Gadha Vinuma , this film is a wacky comedy. How was the writing experience?

It was a tough film to write. Some films demand a lot out of you, this is one such project. It kept developing even after we thought we had locked the script; we kept adding things to it. I realised that some films demand us to keep our eyes and ears open and keep facilitating its development.

Your recent collaborators Ravikanth Perepu, Aditya Mandala and Vimal Krishna are all a close group of friends. How seamlessly does the work division happen between friends?

We work without ego clashes. The boundaries between different departments blur and we work with the notion that whatever we do is towards making a good project.

You are an engineer and an MBA diploma holder; during your years of struggle in cinema, did you consider taking up a steady corporate job?

Not at all; in fact, I turned down corporate jobs. Deep within, I knew I was in the right place. After learning the basics in four to five years, I was determined to swim ahead rather than go back.

Was there a decisive moment when you decided to enter cinema?

It was not like I aspired to be an actor since childhood. I did not train in acting, writing or editing. I began doing all these things out of desperation. I did not want my parents to take a huge loan to send me to the US and then me working in a corporate job to repay it. That path did not excite me. Acting happened when I spotted an audition call. Having been around for more than a decade, without being too modest I would say it is a god-given gift to be in a creative field.

What are your plans for the near future?

I want to be a next generation actor who can have a wide reach. I want to be a star of a ₹100-crore film in the next five years. No, let’s make that three years.

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