If you’ve seen director Kishore Tirumala’s Vunnadhi Okkate Zindagi , you’ll recognise this actor who plays the quintessential good guy in the gang of friends, despite which his impending wedding hits a roadblock all thanks to a pet dog!
Kireeti Damaraju has been around in the industry, taking up the occasional supporting character. “ Vunnadhi … is my 12th or 13th project,” says the software engineer turned actor.
His chequered filmography began with short films, of which Ontiganta (by Hussain Sha Kiran) and Anukokunda (by Tharun Bhascker) stood out. Soon, Kireeti made viewers sit up and notice him in Kishore Tirumala’s Second Hand , followed by Virinchi Varma’s Uyyala Jampala . “ Second Hand earned me good reviews but I was disappointed that the film didn’t do well. Luckily, within a fortnight Uyyala Jampala released and went on to become a huge success,” he recounts.
Then, there were brief roles in films such as Yevade Subramaniam till the recent Yuddham Sharanam , apart from Gunnam Gangaraju’s television series Many Happy Returns . “Over time, I’ve learnt that a rising actor can make an impact only when a film is successful,” he avers.
Kireeti studied electrical engineering and worked in the IT sector in Hyderabad and later Bengaluru before turning a full-time actor. “In Bengaluru, I used to work Monday to Friday and spent my weekends attending theatre workshops,” he says. A stint in theatre with the Pondicherry-based Adishakti group followed. All this learning came in handy when as he began to work in short films.
Until 2016, Kireeti continued to work in Bengaluru, taking a few days off periodically to fit in his shooting schedules. “When I wasn’t required for a shot, I would work on my projects from my laptop, on the sets, ” he recalls.
The balancing act took a lot of effort. “I felt it could be done, but began questioning my priorities after a while. Colleagues begin to think I may not be serious about my projects because I dabble with cinema. And, the film industry folks may feel since I have another job, I may not be committed here. So I decided to quit my job.” That decision made his family members anxious. They weren’t sure if he was doing the right thing by trading a job that guaranteed a fixed monthly income to the vagaries of the entertainment industry.
But Kireeti is hopeful of good days ahead. He is happy with the response to Vunnadhi … and explains how Kishore Tirumala delineated each character. The director worked on the looks for each of the friends, not just the principal protagonists Ram and Sree Vishnu. “I sported a bearded look in the college segment and went clean shaven for the later portions. There were more scenes to establish the character but a few had to be edited for length,” says Kireeti
In the pipeline are a clutch of projects — supporting parts in the soon-to-release Mental Madhilo , Rahul Sankirtiyan’s next starring Vijay Deverakonda, Ravi Teja starrer Touch Chesi Choodu, debut director Sudhir’s film and the web series Social .
“Since Vunnadhi’s release, a few more offers have come up but they want me to play the brief, pelli koduku character just like in this film. I think it will be better to wait for varied roles than do similar ones,” he concludes.