Interview Movies

Venkatesh: ‘Venky Mama’ is a fun film that’s also high on emotions

Venkatesh in a still from Venky Mama

Venkatesh in a still from Venky Mama   | Photo Credit: By arrangement

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Actor Venkatesh reveals how comedy comes easily to him and what it means to share the screen with his nephew Naga Chaitanya in ‘Venky Mama’

Venkatesh Daggubati started off 2019 with the light-hearted comedy F2 - Fun and Frustration. His ‘Venky asana’ is still being recalled by the audience. He’s looking to wrap up the year with Venky Mama, co-starring his nephew-actor Naga Chaitanya. The initial promos suggested that the film is a fun entertainer, but Venkatesh insists there’s a deeper emotional story.

We meet before the launch of the theatrical trailer, at his office in Ramanaidu studios, and Venkatesh says with a smile, “There will be a lot of fun. But Venky Mama is also high on emotion and I got to do action sequences after a long time. It’s different these days with all the harnesses and safety precautions, which is good. But I’ve done riskier action scenes in my prime. The body has become stiffer and I need to do the movements with care. But the memory of having done action is there, and it comes back when the need arises.”

Naga Chaitanya and Venkatesh in a still from the film

Naga Chaitanya and Venkatesh in a still from the film   | Photo Credit: By arrangement

He had been wanting to star alongside either of his nephews Rana Daggubati and Naga Chaitanya. He and Rana had even considered a Lethal Weapon sort of actioner and a black comedy, but nothing worked. It took a decade to find a script that could bring together Venkatesh and one of his nephews.

  • The collaborations: Venkatesh is probably the only contemporary Telugu actor who has featured in many multi-starrers. He cherishes those experiences and says, “I like the energy on sets while working with those younger to me, like Pawan (Kalyan), Chaitanya, Mahesh (Babu), and Ram. I observe and learn from them. I hope I get an interesting subject to work with NTR.
  • Stage jitters: At a promotional event recently, Venkatesh stated that the stage makes him nervous even after 30 years of being an actor. He says, “I’ve always been like that and have a mind block about being put on a high pedestal. If I am on a level platform, I can engage people in a conversation.”
  • Social responsibility: He featured in a video highlighting safety of women, in the aftermath of the Hyderabad veterinary doctor’s incident. Ask him if cinema needs to be socially responsible, and he says, “We can endlessly debate on whether cinema reflects reality or if it shapes the thought process of the audience. Many a time, I’ve turned down dialogues and scenes that I felt were derogatory to women. It’s a fine line between showing what’s happening in society and glorifying something that isn’t right.”

Discussing Venky Mama directed by K S Ravindra (aka Bobby), Venkatesh says, “The story is about the mama-alludu bond and what makes the alludu join the military. The story also explores the angle of destiny, astrological predictions, and how love overcomes everything.”

The film was shot in Rajahmundry, Hyderabad and Kashmir. Venkatesh terms the Kashmir shooting schedule as one of the toughest in his career, and recalls how the crew shot an action sequence in the glaciers of Sonmarg. “Srinagar and Gulmarg were beautiful, but Sonmarg was challenging. Every day for two weeks, all of us walked, then rode on horse backs to reach the shooting spot. I didn’t think we would pull it off. But there was a collective energy that made all of us deliver to the best of our abilities.”

Venkatesh pauses and says that he feels grateful for each moment and believes in the guiding force of the universe, “All three of us (he, Rana and Chaitanya) didn’t plan to become actors. But we are all here. People have accepted us and it’s our responsibility to do our work with commitment.”

He applauds Rana for emerging as an all-rounder with a keen eye on the developments in every department of filmmaking. He’s also in praise of how Chaitanya has evolved as an actor. Off screen, he burns the dance floor with them occasionally. Is translating that equation on screen a different thing altogether? “It is,” says Venkatesh, explaining, “On camera, the way I address an actor as annayya or nana will be different from how I address my kith and kin. When I act with someone from my family, I am conscious that it shouldn’t look artificial.” He notes that on the sets of Venky Mama, Chaitanya initially appeared tense and gradually grew at ease.

Venkatesh says his bond with Rana and Chaitanya took on a new dimension when they turned actors, “They started observing how I do things… how I enact comic scenes, for instance.”

Most actors talk about comedy being a tough genre to crack. Venkatesh says he always thought he was cut out to be a comic actor. “As a child, I liked comedians more than the heroes. I grew up admiring Relangi, Raja Babu, Padmanabham and later Kota Srinivasa Rao and Brahmanandam. In my childhood days, I would look into the mirror and think I could be a comedian.” Venkatesh might come across as a reserved person, but in his private space, “I am that loud guy who makes funny faces.”

He doesn’t believe in extensive rehearsals: “I silently observe people while travelling, at a mall or a restaurant and all that information is stored in my memory; something from that helps while playing a character. Whether it was Venky asana or those expressions of before and after marriage in F2, I did them intuitively.”

Venkatesh will turn 59 on December 13, when Venky Mama hits theatres. He concedes that it’s becoming tougher for him to find suitable roles. He often chooses remakes — like Drishyam (Malayalam) and Guru (Tamil film Irudhi Suttru) in the recent past. His next film will be a remake of Asuran (Tamil). “I loved that story. In fact, though I am talking about Venky Mama, I am already in the zone of that film,” he says.

Director Srikanth Addala, who directed Venkatesh in Seethamma Vaakitlo Sirimalle Chettu, will be helming the adaptation. Social media is filled with memes of how Srikanth, who has done family films so far, will handle a hard-hitting subject like Asuran. Venkatesh is aware of the memes and laughs it off, stating that Srikant will prove himself.

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Printable version | Jan 23, 2020 10:07:12 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/venkatesh-on-what-it-means-to-share-the-screen-with-nephew-naga-chaitanya-in-venky-mama/article30230338.ece

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