Siddharth On His Return To Acting

February 6th, 2010 - 4:01 pm ICT by Sampurn Wire  

By Subhash K Jha

Feb 6, 2010 (Sampurn Wire): On Wednesday night Siddharth screened “Striker’ for colleagues in Hyderabad. The entire Telugu fraternity turned up.

“It was crazy!” said Siddharth the morning after the exhilarating experience. “A very emotional experience. Several actors, directors, writers and producers were all there. My parents feel I’ve finally grown up as an actor. I hope the Hindi film audiences are in the mood for a serious film. My colleagues in Telugu cinema feel it’s the role of a lifetime and one well worth waiting for.”

After “Rang De Basanti’ (RDB) Siddharth who played one of the protagonists chose not to do any more Hindi films for four years. The Tamil actor who found stardom in Telugu says, “RDB was a difficult role and I was doing it at a difficult time of my life. It required a lot of pain and sadness. I was smoking 70 cigarettes a day for my character. The guy in “Striker’ is very different.”

Siddharth underplays his success in RDB. “I was noticed in RDB because I was the unknown face with an author-backed role. You know how this industry is. They slot you. I was offered either ensemble films or serious brooding roles. I turned them down. “Rang De ..’ offered me no scope to show my range beyond a point. I didn’t want to capitalize on “Rang De..’ I wanted to make sure my next Hindi film would feature me in a role far away from RDB. Because I knew I wouldn’t get a third chance if I goofed up in my second opportunity. There are no second chances, let alone third in life.”

In “Striker’ Siddharth feels he has striking post-debut film. “If people ask what I was doing for four years here’s the answer. I was also doing Telugu films quite consciously. I was deeply offended when it was suggested from both Mumbai and Hyderabad that I was leaving Telugu films for Hindi cinema. I found that condescending. It was very difficult to find a foothold in Telugu cinema where opportunities for actors are provided by lineage. I had no family in the Telugu industry. Not only was I without a lineage in Telugu cinema I wasn’t even from Andhra Pradesh. I “m from Tamil Nadu. And no way was I going to let go of my hard-earned place in Telugu cinema. To be the first actor to come from the outside and consolidate my position in Telugu cinema is a huge honor. I learnt to read and write in Telugu to be part of Telugu industry. Now I’ve completed two Telugu films one a martial-arts fairytale and a rustic comedy, for my distributors and fans to hold on to Telugu, so I can focus on Hindi cinema.”

Why so little work? “If you’ve been following my career you’d have seen that I’ve done just 9 films in 9 years. Out of these only one film didn’t turn out the way I’d have liked it to. I wouldn’t say I’m choosy. I’m just a sensible chooser. I take myself seriously. I’m paranoid about letting my audiences down. But the one film that didn’t work got good reviews. It just didn’t work as much as I’d have liked it to at the box-office. No regrets. If a film works, fine. I’ve full control over my career. I wasn’t compelled to do any film. And I’m not here to do anyone favors. No one will be here to sign me if tomorrow I do bad films. So I’ve to be careful.”

At the moment Siddharth is hurting. “I’m all battered and bruised shooting from my first action film in Telugu. So now I know why I do love stories. I can take heartbreaks, not bone-breaks. I’ve been threatened by my well-wishers that if I continue to walk on the eccentric path choosing one film every two years they’ll stop talking to me. To me it isn’t about numbers. Any film that I want to see is a good film for me.”

He felt that way about “Striker’. “The moment I read “Striker’ I said, “Wow I’ve to see this film’. It’s like watching a Martin Scorsese film. “Striker’ is a ghetto film like “Raging Bull”. I wanted to a do bio-pic for a long time, “Striker’ took me a long time to research. I stayed in the Malvani slums for three months. I learnt to master the game of carrom board. Fortunately I am from Chennai where carrom is a huge family game, so I played carrom as a kid. I met 250 carrom players from the slums for “Striker’.”

Siddharth says he has stolen so many things from the Malvani slums. “Shooting on location in Malvani I got the perfect smells and scents. I wish more directors would shoot in live locations. In Malavni we had no vanity vans, not even places to eat lunch. I remember this wonderful actress from down South Padmapriya walking into location on the first day as a vegetarian and eating raw fish within the first day because she plays a fisherwoman.”

Every half an hour Siddharth had a fish meal in the slums. “I’m a huge foodie anyway, so I didn’t mind. I am not aiming for a six- pack look.”

-Sampurn Wire

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