Actors who multitask: Siddhu Jonnalagadda, Adivi Sesh, Naveen Polishetty and Vishwak Sen

How actors Siddhu Jonnalagadda, Adivi Sesh, Naveen Polishetty and Vishwak Sen, who also don the hats of screenwriters, have carved their niche in Telugu cinema

Updated - April 06, 2024 05:08 pm IST

Published - April 06, 2024 05:02 pm IST

Naveen Polishetty, Vishwak Sen, Adivi Sesh and Siddhu Jonnalagadda

Naveen Polishetty, Vishwak Sen, Adivi Sesh and Siddhu Jonnalagadda

Siddhu Jonnalagadda, Adivi Sesh, Naveen Polishetty and Vishwak Sen. The common factor between these actors is their multi-dimensional involvement in cinema. As actors, they are the face of the films they star in, but they do much more. The four are also screenwriters. Some of them have also been credited as editors and creative producers. Vishwak Sen is also a director. Their tenacity to put in the extra work, which initially came from a necessity to get a foothold in the Telugu film industry rather than lament the lack of opportunities, holds them in good stead. 

Siddhu as Tillu and beyond

Siddhu Jonnalagadda in one of his next Telugu films titled ‘Telugu Kada’, directed by Neeraja Kona

Siddhu Jonnalagadda in one of his next Telugu films titled ‘Telugu Kada’, directed by Neeraja Kona | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

At the time of writing this feature, Tillu Square, the Telugu crime comedy released in theatres on March 29, was inching towards the ₹100 crore mark at the box office. The runaway success affirms how big the Tillu phenomenon has grown since the 2022 madcap comedy DJ Tillu, co-written by Siddhu, drawing from hyperlocal Hyderabad and Secunderabad references. It helped that Siddhu, who had co-written the first film with its director Vimal Krishna, went back to the drawing board, this time with director Mallik Ram, and managed to retain the essence of what made Tillu click while developing the story further in a zone that is familiar to the audience.

The success bolsters Siddhu as one of the multi-talented actors to watch out for. It took Krishna and his Leela, which Siddhu had co-written with director Ravikanth Perepu, to make the audience and the industry take the actor seriously. The film had a direct digital release during the lockdown of 2020. Siddhu has been a part of Telugu cinema since 2009, when he locked horns with Naga Chaitanya in the latter’s debut film, Josh. Director Praveen Sattaru cast him as one of the leads in LBW (Life Before Wedding) and later collaborated with him to write Guntur Talkies (2016). 

The recognition that came with Krishna and his Leela paved the way for DJ Tillu. Packed with wacky one-liners, the character of Tillu, with all its vulnerability, street smartness and philosophical musings reflected the banter on the streets of Secunderabad. Siddhu had arrived but couldn’t take his success for granted, lest Tillu fade away as a one-time wonder. DJ Tillu and its sequel Tillu Square went through changes during the making, with several rewrites and edits leading to all that fun. 

For Siddhu, an engineer and an MBA diploma holder who chose cinema over a corporate job, realising his dream of being a star of ₹100 crore film has not been an easy journey. As Tillu Cube is on the cards, all eyes will also be on his other films coming up are films with director Nandini Reddy, Neeraja Kona and Bommarillu Bhaskar. 

The ‘Kshanam’ that changed Adivi Sesh

Actor and screenwriter Adivi Sesh

Actor and screenwriter Adivi Sesh | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The making of Adivi Sesh starrers Kshanam and Goodachari, which the actor co-wrote with the respective directors Ravikanth Perepu and Sashi Kiran Tikka, holds lessons in how to make every rupee go the extra mile. Within the Telugu film circles and among avid film buffs, it is well known that Kshanam, the tautly written and edited thriller looked richer and sleeker than what its modest budget of around a crore would allow. 

Similarly, Goodachari, made within a budget of about five crore, was a film that required much more. Sesh and his collaborators, in both films, understood the need to cut corners but not let it show on screen. The success of Kshanam made way for Goodachari with a better budget but rather than seeking a star status, Sesh would take on other tasks to ensure the smooth making of the film. A string of successes —Evaru, Major and HIT: The Second Case — followed, among which he co-wrote Major and chipped in with the post-production work of Evaru

Currently working on G2, the sequel of Goodachari that aims to capture a larger market, Adivi Sesh dons the writers’ hat again and promises a sleeker thriller than the first film. In the works is also Dacoit: A Love Story, a multilingual film co-starring Shruti Haasan.

The Agent to Mr Shetty

Naveen Polishetty

Naveen Polishetty | Photo Credit: Instagram

After quitting his IT job, it took nearly a decade for Naveen Polishetty to become an actor. In the initial years, he gave more than 1500 auditions. Before he co-wrote Agent Sai Srinivasa Athreya (ASSA) with its director RSJ Swaroop and starred as a secret agent from Nellore, Polishetty had become a familiar name thanks to the AIB: Honest Engineering Campus Placement videos and the TV series 24 that starred Anil Kapoor. He debuted in Hindi cinema with director Nitesh Tiwari’s Chhichhore

Post ASSA, one expected Naveen to be a signing spree but he stepped back from the media and public glare, only to resurface two years later with the runaway laugh riot Jathi Ratnalu and another two years later, the rom-com Miss Shetty Mr Polishetty. The success of Jathi Ratnalu was the result of a hyperlocal, relatable, madcap comedy written by director KV Anudeep, translated on screen by the impeccable timing and rapport shared by the trio of Naveen, Priyadarshi and Rahul Ramakrishna. The charm of Miss Shetty Mr Polishetty stemmed from the sensitivity of director P Mahesh Babu’s writing and Naveen’s inherent flair for both comedy and emotional beats.

The occasional writer and director

Vishwak Sen in ‘Mechanic Raju’, a forthcoming Telugu film

Vishwak Sen in ‘Mechanic Raju’, a forthcoming Telugu film | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

In 2019, when Vishwak Sen adapted the Malayalam film Angalamaly Diaries in Telugu as Falaknuma Das, writing its Telugu screenplay, directing and starring in it, he was only two films old as a lead actor. He had debuted with Vellipomakey and was one of the leads in Tharun Bhascker’s buddy comedy Ee Nagaraniki Emaindi. Directing wasn’t a new arena because he had made short films earlier. Acting was a childhood dream and once Vishwak became a recognisable actor and had a steady stream of films that included standout ones such as HIT: The First Case, Ashoka Vanamlo Arjuna Kalyanam and Gaami, writing and direction have been occasional pursuits. The 2023 film Das ka Dhamki was written and directed by the actor.

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