Until last year, the biggest hit of actor Nani’s career was S.S Rajamouli’s 2012 film Eega. Of course, there were other successful ventures such as Ala Modalaindi and Ashta Chamma, and films such as Bheemli Kabbadi Jattu, Pilla Zamindar, Yeto Vellipoyindhi Manasu and Janda Pai Kappiraju, which gave him space to prove his acting prowess. But the phenomenal success of Eega, in which he had a brief screen-time, stood out. He played a happy-go-lucky boy in the fantasy film.
However, it all changed in 2015, with the release of Bhale Bhale Magadivoy. The romantic-comedy emerged as one of the biggest Tollywood hits of the year, giving him the elusive blockbuster tag. The year also saw the release of the sleeper hit, Yevade Subramanyam. His portrayal of the titular character, Subramanyam, was well received by critics and audience alike. Now, Nani is looking forward to the release of Krishna Gaadi Veera Prema Katha, yet another entertainer. In this candid tete-a-tete, the 31-year-old actor opens up on the pressure that comes along with commercial success,why light-hearted entertainers are his favourites, and his passion for cinema.
How has the success of Yevade Subramanyam and Bhale Bhale Magadivoy changed your career?
Thanks to the success of these films, people’s faith in me has increased. Over the last few weeks, I have been asked often if this success has come with a lot of pressure. Honestly, the pressure is more when you aren’t successful because the scenario in the industry is such that people are waiting to write off actors. So there’s pressure with each release, and with so much of competition around, every Friday is crucial.
Two back-to-back hits have definitely increased your market value.
This is the kind of pressure I don’t bother much about. These numbers have never been my priority. I know some actors are interested to know about how much their film is sold for, or how much it raked in at the box-office. But I have never paid any heed to such things.
I have never been interested in the trade.
If my market value has increased, it only means more people will come to watch my films, which is a good thing. I should only feel happy about it.
Is there something that you learnt from this success?
I have realized I am not cut out for the regular pot-boilers. I know I don’t have it in me to do such films. Entertainment is what audience expect from me. Take Bhale Bhale… for instance. It made more money than a few big films last year. On the other hand, I spent over a year and a half on Janda Pai Kappiraju, and even shaved my head for one of roles. But the outcome was not encouraging. I am not trying to draw comparisons, but the results of these films made me understand what truly my USP is. Some of the emotional scenes in my films, which I had hoped will click with the audience, backfired quite a few times. The scenes that I knew will evoke laughter, have always been very well received. If I do another Janda Pai… today, I will ensure it is more entertaining.
Finally, I will only do a film if I like it from within.
Was 2015 the best year of your career so far?
I have had better years. Like the success of Eega in 2012, Pilla Zamindar and Ala Modalaindi in 2011 and Ashta Chamma in 2008. However, 2015 is special because it came after two bad years which were 2013 and 2014. This success came at a time when I needed it the most, and hence, it is a very, very special year.
What can the audience expect from your new film ‘Krishna Gaadi Veera Prema Gaadha’?
In the film, you will find everything the trailer and the promos promised. When director Hanu Raghavapudi pitched the idea, I found it to be very unique. It is not a routine flick, though it has all the quintessential elements of a crowd-pleaser. That’s what got me excited in the first place. With each passing day on the sets, my faith in the film grew by leaps and bounds. I have never felt the same before the release of any of my films. Usually, I get the jitters before a release and my whole system crashes. I can barely eat or sleep. This time, I don’t feel the same way. Never have I been so positive, calm and confident before a release. The success of the film will just serve as an additional bonus because I am already extremely happy with the way the film has come out.
This is your first collaboration with Hanu. How was it to work with him?
I am so passionate about films. Even after a tiring day of shooting, I would find time to watch a film. But I realised Hanu is even more passionate about films. So much so that, he would forget to eat, or attend to an injury he sustained on the sets. He hardly spends time on personal grooming. He is so involved in films that sometimes you worry for him.
His passion is what makes him a cut above the rest.
During the shoot, we understood each other so much. Hanu would know instantly if I am not happy with something, and vice versa. I think it would be unfair if he does not succeed, given the efforts he has taken for the film.
Also, you’ve teamed up again with your mentor Indraganti Mohan Krishna for a new project. How is it coming along?
It’s a reunion of sorts to join hands with my mentor after 8 years, since Ashta Chamma. I am currently shooting for the film, which also stars Srinivas Avasarala, whom I have worked with in the past. It is a very interesting script and genre-wise, it is completely in contrast to Ashta Chamma. As a viewer, you will see a very new Mohan Krishna in this film.
You had signed a Tamil project with Mani Ratnam. However, there has been no update on that front since then.
The script we were supposed to work on, has been dropped. Mani sir, I hear, is working on a fresh script and I don’t know if he will retain the same cast. Otherwise, I keep getting scripts to read from producers C.V Kumar and Gnanavel Raja, almost every week. But I am only keen on doing bilinguals for now.
You were also supposed to produce the Telugu remake of the Tamil film ‘Pannaiyarum Padminiyum’. Has it been dropped?
I still own the remake rights. In fact, even the script for the Telugu version is ready. But I don’t know if I am interested to produce any film immediately.
I am enjoying this phase as an actor.
I know I will definitely work on that film. We have made a lot of changes for the Telugu version and I even bought a Fiat Padmini car, which I have in my garage, for the shoot.