The upcoming web series on ZEE5 Gods of Dharmapuri has already created a huge buzz on the internet, thanks to its gritty, powerful content. The political crime drama stars Satyadev Kancharana, Raj Deepak Shetty, Sruthi Jayan, Samyuktha, Karthik Rathnam and many others, making it a strong ensemble cast. This intense saga of revenge and power is directed by Tollywood actor-director Anish Kuruvilla. Ahead of its release, we reached out to Raj Deepak Shetty, who makes his digital debut with G.O.D. He plays Pratap Reddy, the patriarch of the Reddy family in the series. In this candid interview, the actor, who has already established himself as one of the most sought after performers in Tollywood, Kannada and Tamil cinema, shows his quirky sense of humour and answers our questions with self-deprecating humour. Over to the artiste, who celebrates his birthday today:
Q. How was your experience of working for Gods Of Dharmapuri?
A. It’s very difficult for me to explain it in words. Not because I have a poor vocabulary (laughs). But I don’t think even William Shakespeare would be able to do justice to this feeling. Since you insist, I would start off by saying it was ‘ECSTATIC’! With Gods Of Dharmapuri, I had started to live in a completely different world as a completely different person. In this process, I happened to discover a new side to me. I ended up finding a new ‘actor’ in me. And honestly, it was all possible because of my director, Anish Kuruvilla. The direction team, crew and co-artistes were so co-operative. I don’t speak Telugu well, yet I never felt out of place.
Q. How was the shift for you, moving from cinema to the digital space?
A. The transition was smooth. Probably, because I did not differentiate between cinema and the digital space. For me, it was all about acting, being in the skin of my character that I haven’t been before, and doing justice to the vision of my director.
Q. Is the digital medium liberating for an actor, especially with no censorship? It has a wider and global reach too.
A. I don’t think I can comment on this matter, for the time being. Our work is yet to come out and this is only my first web series. However, the digital medium surely has a wider reach than cinema and I feel it will take over the film industry over the next few years. I believe the liberty given to an actor is by the director and here I had the liberty to ‘perform’. It was a whole lot different than the movies that I have been doing.
Q. What was your favourite part about playing Pratap Reddy?
A. Well, it was close to ordering a thali meal. You may order it because of the few things that you like. Of course, there will some that you do not like as much the others. With Pratap Reddy, it was the younger self of this character that drew me closer, right when I first heard the narration of G.O.D. He felt closer to who I was in reality. Like him, even I am an Angry ‘Young’ Man. (laughs). And I felt it would be great to essay this character, without any boundaries.
Q. Where do you seek all the anger and feelings of revenge for your characters?
A. At one point, the character had seeped under my skin. I began to live like I was Pratap Reddy. I didn’t have to put much effort into channelling the anger and rage. Because I had become Pratap Reddy! I wasn’t Raj Deepak anymore. Once I was done with G.O.D, it had become difficult for me to perform for commercial movies. He kept haunting me.
Q. Do you have a fascination with playing villains?
A. I am extremely selfish when it comes to acting. I want to play every possible character, especially the intense ones. This is probably one of the reasons that I do not watch movies. If I end up liking a character, it starts to bother me. So far, I have played a multi-millionaire and even a drug peddler. But Pratap Reddy is the closest to my heart.
Q. Despite the negative roles, you have a fan-following, for more reasons than just acting. What is the kind of reaction you receive from audiences, especially female audiences?
A. Oh! Do I? Erm, well… That’s news to me!
Q. What would you prefer more, films or web shows?
A. At this point in time, there isn’t a stark difference between the two, for me. Both mediums have their own pros and cons. It is my first digital experience and it was amazing. But I cannot be sure if all the web series will turn out to be the same experience. So I would like to hold any statements about the digital space. I need to work and learn more about this new platform. With G.O.D, it was mainly the story and the character that attracted me to this web series. All thanks to Anish, who is a master story-teller.
Q. What’s coming up next for you?
A. Currently, I am busy with a Tamil film in which I play a cop. After this, I am taking a break to prepare for another movie under the direction of Puri Jagannadh. This will be my second project with Puri Sir, after iSmart Shankar, and I can’t wait for it to go on floors. Later, I have a Kannada film, directed by Chethan Kumar.
Let’s see what more this actor has in store for us on the 70mm screen and the OTT space. Wishing the actor a happy birthday and great success for his digital debut. Stay tuned to watch Gods of Dharmapuri on ZEE5 on 23 October 2019. You can also check out Amala Akkineni-starrer High Priestess here.