The trailer gives away the plot, said many people time after time. But a good trailer tempts just enough to woo you into the full show. And that magic was created by the latest ZEE5 Original series, Gods Of Dharmapuri. Call it excellence, word of mouth, the right time or something else, G.O.D just as promised, has delivered to be the first-of-its-kind gangster drama. The strong technical team and an even stronger ensemble cast have put together a story that has changed the game for Telugu content in the digital space. One of its lead actors is Satyadev Kancharana.
You may have heard of him as the new-age actor who is too good to be boxed as the ‘quintessential Telugu hero’. His acting skills, his dialogue delivery and his honesty have brought a breath of fresh air to the Telugu cinema. He plays an integral role in this 10-episode series as Venu Reddy. Much before we could see the trailer, he claimed this to be something we hadn’t seen before. So, we decided to ask him about it, and other things, ourselves. Trying to finish his midday meal on the sets of his next film in Araku, the actor chatted with us over a phone call. Read the edited excerpts of his interview below.
Q. How was the shift from cinema to digital?
A. There was no transition as such. Ten episodes are equivalent to three films. So, I have shot for three films at one stretch that’s the only difference. Dubbing was a little difficult, a little tiresome. Because I usually take about two-three days to complete it. But here, I took more than a week to complete it. That was the only difference. As for acting at the end of the day, you act in front of the camera that’s it, nothing changes. Be it a short film, a web, series, a film or anything else. The work never changes.
Q. How was your experience of GOD?
A. The experience of working on G.O.D was within the entire world that we created. The 1970s Dharmapuri that we have created was entirely revolutionary. We have seen worlds similar to like this, in a few films in the ’70s and ’80s. But with G.O.D, it starts off in the 1960s and then pans through 1970s. I think we went way beyond the content. The costume, the hair, the make-up, the look itself. It’s something that I have never done before. It’s all shot at heritage locations, something we don’t get to do usually. The entire set up, the way Anish (Kuruvilla, the director) treated the story was new. This was something new for me. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Q. What was the one thing that made you say ‘yes’ to G.O.D?
A. Well, the world of it, the treatment of it. If you’re dealing with period content, nothing goes wrong. It’s not contemporary stuff. It goes back into the past and you’re dealing with something in the ’60s and ’70s. It’s Anish’s version of a gangster political drama. Unlike others, he has a different way of dealing with it. I liked that a lot. We’ve been watching gangster drama for so long. It’s easy to get carried away with references. Where Anish was successful was that he created it all out of his own vision. It’s what he believes is a gangster drama. Somewhere I had a feeling that this won’t go wrong.
Q. How did you prepare for the role?
A. The accent was a huge aspect. But Bhargav Karthik was our writer and he dealt with it very well. He helped us understand the language, monitored us and played a crucial role during the dubbing – for us to get the dialect right. Apart from the dialect and the dialogue, usually for any film, I go through the script two-three times and I try to get into the character. I create a skeleton out of it and, I always say this, my director puts the flesh on top of it. That’s how I deal and it helps me. I take a lot of inputs from my directors, I sit, talk and understand the character in and out. I try to see how Venu Reddy behaves in certain situations, what are his histrionics, how does he smoke, how does he walk. These are the things that help me to create the character.
Q. What were the challenges you faced while playing this character, especially since he has grey shades?
A. The challenges have to be emotional scenes. There’s a lot of trauma going on in Venu Reddy’s life. First of all, he wants to settle down in Delhi but is pulled back with all the gangster drama and the family. Everything falls apart for him. There’s a very thin line. He is a good man but at the same time, there’s the gangster blood rushing within him. Sometimes it comes out. He has to be the good man by shadowing his grey side. If you look at the whole series, you will understand what Venu Reddy goes through. In the midst of the crisis, he has to remain sane and also deal with his inner demons. That was challenging and I liked it.
Q. What did you add and take away to/from your on-screen character?
A. I usually don’t carry it ahead. I go in and come out of the character because otherwise, I cannot do other characters. For me, it’s like learning and unlearning at the same time. I do only one character or one film at a time. I don’t juggle. I want to stay in the character, be the character, feel the character, live the character. Even while playing Bluffmaster or Brochevaruevarura, I tend to become that character. My family and the people around me tell me that I act differently, strange or aggressive. My characters always reflect outside.
Q. What are the new things that you discovered about yourself as an actor while working on this series?
A. Emotional scenes are the most draining aspect for any actor, I feel. Because you don’t get emotional for no reason. For me, it’s a process. Make sure you are there in the moment, why is the emotion occurring. It’s not only the eyes, but your nose, your lips, your cheeks, even your eyebrows also have to act. For something like that to come out on the screen, you have to be that. It’s a draining process. It’s like I go from 70% to 4-5% after doing an emotional scene. I feel like just go crash and sleep. Venu Reddy is an emotional guy.
Q. How was it going back to the ‘60s and ‘70s?
A. I loved my look and I was totally enjoying it. I definitely have to give credit to Srikanth Ramasetty, the Production Designer, Naveen, and Anish. Oh my god! The details are so good. Even the minutest of things, they made sure it was appropriate to the period of the show. The things in the background, the ones out of focus, even for those things they took utmost care and made sure it was proper. And the three men worked in tandem. What I observed is, Anish, apart from being a director, has skills in the art and cinematography department. Srikanth, of course, handles the art department but he would make observations and sometimes tell us “boss, maybe you should this” or “it looks too modern” or “the character wouldn’t do this”. Even Naveen does it. And the reason why it worked so well technically, is because of them. I should definitely give the credit to them, they were brilliant.
Q. What makes you say there is nothing like this one in the Telugu OTT space?
A. Usually, I don’t say things just because I have. I am a shy guy and more importantly if I don’t like something it doesn’t come out of me. Even if it’s one of my films and I don’t enjoy it, I wouldn’t praise it for marketing it. I can’t fake it. The only place I don’t act is in front of the camera. Because there, you just have to be the character. There is no acting. When you come outside, you play different characters. You act in front of your parents, in front of your friends, your manager.
I felt this first when I was dubbing for the six episodes. I hadn’t seen it with background music. There was not a single boring moment for me. There was no lag, it was just flowing and that’s what I told the team as well. And that’s exactly why it will click. And of course, the world of it, that’s something I have been speaking since time, it’s going be a benchmark. Now, whatever I had said is proven. People are saying the same thing.
Q. Was it liberating as an actor be in the digital space since there is no censorship and has a wider reach?
A. Ah! I’m not really a big fan of cuss words and explicit scenes, to be honest. If it’s required, I’ll do it. But if you ask if it helps in being a better actor, then… only the character speaks. Satya doesn’t like it, Venu does – but only when he is really agitated.
Q. What’s the biggest lesson from your digital debut?
A. There’s not any difference between digital and film, for me. I see them as the same. Actually, I mould right from and with the production. That’s when I started becoming my character. My heart lies in acting and I don’t usually care about the rest of it. Otherwise, films need entertainment and engagement. Digital needs engagement and then comes entertainment.
Q. Tell us about your future projects, digital and others.
A. I am doing one project with an OTT platform. I might do one with another platform as well, but I am not sure because of the dates. I am yet to sign it. Right now, I have four films happening. For me, as long as I get excited with the project, the storytelling, I will do it. No matter what it is, even if it’s a short film. But again, the priorities are cinema, digital and then short films.
Q. Any parting thoughts?
A. I want to specially mention Radhika (Lavu, the producer) for backing such a wonderful project. Anish, Naveen, Srikanth, all the actors, they did their best and were motivated to do better looking at each other. The direction team – Hamza, Nilgiri, Kononika, Balakrishna – they are all wonderful. One reason why G.O.D clicked is because of the teamwork. I haven’t seen a team which is so good and where every department clicked and everyone was right there contributing to the success of the show. The actors, the technicians, everyone was in tandem and I think that’s the most important and best thing for any project to work.
It’s been time since we learned that he is an ace actor and a great person. But finally, we have witnessed it for ourselves. And honestly, there’s nothing more one could ask for. Wishing this gem all the successes ahead, we sign out. You, my friend, be sure to catch up on all the 10 episodes of Gods on Dharmapuri on ZEE5.