Making a return to Hindi films after nine years with his action drama Pehlwaan, Kannada superstar Sudeep is re-energised like never before. Having seen long lull phases in his over two-decade-long career, the actor is today grateful for even the smallest opportunity coming his way, and it seems cinema is returning him love in abundance.
Besides the Suniel Shetty-starrer Pehlwaan, which will hit screens this weekend, the actor will be seen in the much-awaited Telugu epic Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy and later in Salman Khan-starrer Dabangg 3.
“I don’t want to be a statue before I die,” Sudeep tells indianexpress.com as he speaks about keeping the hunger alive. The actor also opens up on the most tiring time in his career and the upcoming exciting days.
Excerpts from a conversation:
For your role as a wrestler in Pehlwaan, you had to be in the mud for long. How tiring did it get?
I have gone through more tiring times when I was jobless. Sitting at home and not doing anything. You see the smallest cars overtaking you while you are this huge car parked outside but good for nothing. These are very bad moments of life. But the beautiful learning process is that you don’t find all the starry moments ‘starry’ anymore. You start kind of enjoying it because someone needs you, films start happening and you are the centre of focus and people are investing in you. These phases cannot be tiring compared to those moments of life.
You have said that what kills an actor is when he or she is not required. For someone, who has experienced lows in his career, how did you pick yourself up? What does an actor tell him or herself during difficult times?
You have to be competitive first of all, and when I say that I don’t mean competitive in the wrong way or places. There are two-three ways. Competitiveness is, when you get a role, you should go to the set and understand what’s the difference that you can create. Secondly, today, at every nook and corner, there are actors. What matters is that extra thing that you can do or deliver that can make people think of you as and when they are writing a role or casting.
I believe that an actor should be somebody who plays it in a way that your name should at least come in the cast. Whether you are finally cast or not, it doesn’t matter but at least you should be considered. Then you are alive. That’s competitiveness. That means you are trying from your end. If you have to do something else, do it. Make your presence felt. In a party, there are hundred to thousand people. How do you make your presence felt? If you are one of those people who are okay to be last in the crowd, that’s your personality. You can’t help it. Some people don’t need to do anything. Their presence itself attracts attention. So, it’s about you and what you are doing.
You have been acting for over two decades now. You have been a part of various film worlds. You have directed, sung and been on television as a host. After achieving so much in one’s career, how does an actor keep his hunger alive?
It’s simple. You had breakfast today, doesn’t mean you won’t have it tomorrow. I had an amazing lunch today, so how do I convince myself that tomorrow I shouldn’t have lunch. We don’t compromise on our food habits. You are talking about my life and career here. How can that change?
Right, complacency is something actors cannot afford to have.
You can’t generalise all actors. I have seen very satisfied people also. It’s about individuality and what you want. They are very happy with what they have and they look settled. It doesn’t mean I can compare them with myself and question them. That’s them and this is me. For me, hunger is not important but cinema is very important. I struggled a lot to see the first houseful board of my life. The day I saw that I was very happy. After that, cinema has been with me. I enjoy every part of it, whatever comes my way.
I don’t think that hunger has anything to do with what I have seen in day to day cinema. I keep challenging myself as to what is that extra that I can do to make myself look better and get tired by the end of the day and go to bed. Otherwise, it’s tiring. I don’t want to become a statue before I am dead. I want to be there as long as I can because one day cinema will tell me to get out. Every hero will become boring one day. Everybody has to retire one day. But I want to ask why does one want to die before they die.
Are stars that self aware? Are they aware that it’s going to end for them one day?
I cannot speak for somebody else. I don’t know anybody. I just know people, I have worked with. Otherwise, in my own industry, there are people I only know through film posters. We might have met at film functions and greeted each other but I don’t know their personalities or what their thoughts are. In our own families, we have 10 different minds. No one’s alike. How can we talk for somebody else?
You have spoken how on the set of Pehlwaan, the primary cast was so consumed by their own struggles – either getting the language right or bearing the physical pain – that they hardly interacted with each other. How different has it been on the Dabangg 3 set?
There’s a different kind of burning there! There’s Salman sir. He is so fit and fine. There were fights kept between me and him for 18-20 days and the day I landed up on the set, I started getting worried thinking what they were expecting out of me. Till then, everything was different. He is the biggest star. He is sitting over there. He is enough for everything and I have been placed against him. Once I reached the set, (I realised) there has to be equity in our personalities for me to look as big as him on screen. Otherwise, the film is going to fall short. Salman sir cannot hit a weaker man. He has to hit somebody stronger than him. That’s what heroes are all about. I was nowhere in that zone.
He is far bigger than me in every angle. Salman sir has put so much effort into writing. Prabhudheva sir has been great with me. So, first I needed to understand perspectives, intention and how they wanted to place me. Getting to that was difficult for me. So, initial few days, I told them not to keep any heavy scene for me. “Just let me understand what’s happening first,” I told them. But Salman sir is very selfless.
He has written such fabulous scenes. Today if I am looking huge on screen, it is because of the positioning he has given me. I have enjoyed a lot on set. They made me feel equally big, wanted, respected and loved. There are no two ways to it and there’s no agenda to it. There’s only one thing with them. You give your heart to them and they will give you their soul.
You also seem to have struck a personal equation with Salman Khan.
I believe we have similar thoughts on so many things. With such people, it’s better to be just present around them and enjoy their presence in our lives than to try taking liberties. He is a good guy. He is a very sweet person. I call him big brother. If he likes you, he likes you. Otherwise, you don’t exist.