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Suhas: An unlikely hero who is breaking stereotypes in Telugu cinema

Actor Suhas opens up on life after the national recognition for ‘Colour Photo’, as his new Telugu film ‘Writer Padmabhushan’ is gearing up for release

January 24, 2023 02:02 pm | Updated January 26, 2023 10:19 am IST

Tina Shilparaj and Suhas in the Telugu movie ‘Writer Padmabhushan’

Tina Shilparaj and Suhas in the Telugu movie ‘Writer Padmabhushan’ | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The premise of the Telugu film Writer Padmabhushan, directed by Shanmukha Prashanth, is anything but larger than life. In this family dramedy headlined by Suhas, the protagonist is a 25-year-old aspiring writer. His book gets published but there are not enough takers. The film scheduled to release on February 3 will be Suhas’ first as a hero to court theatres. His earlier film as a solo lead, Colour Photo, which won the National Award for best Telugu feature film, was a direct digital release on Aha during the pandemic.

Suhas says that Writer Padmabhushan was also completed during the pandemic but the producers, his friends Anurag Reddy and Sharath Chandra of Chai Bisket Films, waited for the right time to release the film in theatres. “Shanmukha Prashanth was an assistant director for Colour Photo, and I have known him since our short-film days. He narrated Writer Padmabhushan on the sets of Family Drama (a neo-noir drama on SonyLIV for which Prashanth was a co-writer). I loved the story and we pitched it to Anurag and Sharath anna. The project went on the floor but soon there was a second lockdown.” 

Suhas was anxious that this film too should not end up as a digital release. In Telugu film circles, actors and directors who have consecutive digital releases often got slotted into the OTT space and considered not viable for the box office. 

Recently when Suhas visited the Hyderabad book fair to spread the word about Writer Padmabhushan, a few writers gifted him their new books. Suhas believes that the reading culture is still prevalent. “The film takes place in Vijayawada and my character likes to be surrounded by books and works in a library. The story deals with his ambition and his family situation.” Ashish Vidyarthi and Rohini essay the roles of his parents. 

Suhas in ‘Writer Padmabhushan’

Suhas in ‘Writer Padmabhushan’ | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Although the promos are filled with witty lines, Suhas says there will be a surprise element in the last 20 minutes that will make viewers think about the film. “I would recommend that youngsters take their parents along to watch the movie. There will be a few twists and turns. The director ensured that there is enough entertainment to make everyone laugh.”

Devious and menacing

A recent film that got viewers talking about Suhas’ performance but did not let the actor leverage it for publicity was the Telugu thriller, HIT 2; viewers were aware that discussing his role would have been a spoiler. Suhas says with a laugh, “For HIT 2, I had to wait patiently till the film finished its successful run in the theatres and arrived on OTT platforms so that I could discuss it after more people watched it.” 

When writer and director Sailesh Kolanu wanted him to play the antagonist, Suhas had asked him again to be doubly sure. “Sailesh was aware of my work in short films and was confident that I could do it.” 

HIT 2 came at a stage when Suhas had moved away from doing smaller parts post Colour Photo. To divert the curiosity of viewers who might be able to guess Suhas’s role in the cop thriller, in the pre-release event, Sailesh had planned to state that Suhas had committed to the film even before Colour Photo and hence will be seen in a brief part. “But he somehow forgot to mention it on stage,” adds Suhas.

Prior to HIT 2, Suhas had played a menacing character in Family Drama. “Ideally I would like to take up varied roles to showcase my talent.”

Life after ‘Colour Photo’

Suhas and Chandini Chowdary in ‘Colour Photo’

Suhas and Chandini Chowdary in ‘Colour Photo’ | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

At the moment, Suhas has seven films in the pipeline and plays the lead in all of them. This, he says, is possible only because of the appreciation he and the team of Colour Photo received. He recalls that it was a risk. “When Sandeep (writer and director Sandeep Raj) asked me to play the main lead, I was scared… vanukochesindi (I was shivering). In a flash, I recalled my tough days as a struggling actor. Until that point, I was doing well in supporting parts, in comic roles as the hero’s friend in many films. I had recently got married and I wasn’t sure if this is a risk worth taking. My friends advised me against it.” 

The director explained to him that the story is woven around a dark-skinned protagonist who does not look like a conventional hero and that he should do it. After Suhas made a trip to Tirumala, he garnered the confidence to take up the role. “I called Sandeep and said I will do it. I was still scared but I was confident that things would work out.”

Suhas reckons that life has changed after Colour Photo. “Producers and directors are willing to cast me as a lead actor.” He believes that some of his forthcoming films including Writer Padmabhushan, Ambajipet Marriage Band and Anandrao Adventures will help strengthen his credibility in Telugu cinema. All these films are written and directed by colleagues he knew from his short-film days at Chai Bisket Films. “It has been an eight-year journey with some of the Chai Bisket team members and we are all making feature films,” Suhas says with pride.

All that drama

His interest in acting began during his college days in Vijayawada while pursuing B.Sc in Computer Science. Suhas considers actor Teja Kakumanu his guru. “I was content doing dance performances but he encouraged me to do a one-act play in college. The claps I got for it motivated me to act more.” If not for the dramatics club and Teja’s encouragement, Suhas doubts if he would have become an actor. 

When Suhas nurtured the idea of trying his luck in cinema, again it was Teja who encouraged him. It was not easy when he arrived in Hyderabad. Suhas appeared for auditions but there was no breakthrough. He began doing YouTube videos and caught the attention of Chai Bisket Films, which was starting on YouTube. “Sandeep asked me to join their team. We collaborated on a number of short films and I started to make some money.”

In his initial days in Hyderabad, Suhas received some financial support from those who knew him. “Phani and Balaji anna who knew my aspirations would send me a sum each month and asked me not to give up.”

The earliest movie memory for Suhas is watching Shankar’s Kadhalan (Premikudu in Telugu). He was barely four, loved Prabhudeva’s dance moves and would try dancing. If his dance moves in the ‘Kannullo nee roopame’ song from Writer Padmabhushan is being appreciated, he credits it to his childhood interest in dancing. “I used to dance; I would also imitate veteran actors Dharmavarapu Subramanyam, Kota Srinivasa Rao and Brahmanandam. I never dreamt I would become an actor. After becoming an actor, I never thought I could be a hero. With opportunities coming my way, I am determined to deliver.”

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