Jai Lava Kusa is a personal film to me; it’s a gift to my parents, says NTR Jr
A lot has happened in NTR Jr’s life ever since he became a father in mid 2014. Not only is his career going great guns with back to back hits, but also, the actor has made it evident that he’s a different man today. He’s no longer the brooding young man, who had cut himself off from the public glare, and every interaction with him in the past couple of years has revealed a lot more about his personal life than what people have come to know about him for nearly 15 years.
Ask him what the reason behind this transformation was, he admits that prior to 2015, there was a big gap between him and the audience in general.
He says, “In the past, there were plenty rumours about me and people were reacting to that, without me speaking about it directly. I’ve always been a closed person and I like my privacy. Once I step into my house, I want to dedicate all my time to my family. I can’t let my success or failure to affect my family, and I certainly don’t want to jeopardise their freedom because of the baggage that I might carry home. So, when I think about all this, I felt the need to open up a lot more to people and open more channels to communicate. And once someone interacts with me, I suppose they walk away with a different perception about who I’m (laughs). There will always be a deviation in people’s lives, but it’s about how you bounce back. The change in my life has been a combination of a lot of factors, including my fans who have been very supportive, my directors who have been very focused, and personally, you learn from your mistakes. Change is the only constant.”
Admittedly, his son’s birth was a wake up call in his life and the first time he held his son at the hospital was a moment of truth for him.
Adds NTR Jr, “He didn’t know who I was and I was trying to tell him that I’m your father. And all he did was smile back. That sort of innocence vanishes once people grow up, but I think that state of being is so genuine that it makes you question yourself. To my son, it didn’t matter that I was a star. You begin from scratch to show that you care. Somewhere, sub-consciously, all this played a major role in my life to look at my work from a fresh perspective."
"So, right from Temper to my latest film Jai Lava Kusa, the whole idea has been to put in a genuine effort to do something challenging and hope that people like it as well. My son is growing up and I have to be a very responsible father to him. I want to create an atmosphere around him so that he can go on to explore what he wants to do. If he’s destined to be an actor, so be it, but I’m not going to force him into it,” he confesses, furthering, “I don’t believe in the idea of legacy. Talent is what matters in the end. No one forced me to be an actor. My son might be tilted to this profession, but I won’t push him into it.”
Post the success of Temper, Nannaku Prematho, and Janatha Garage, the actor is now back with his latest offering Jai Lava Kusa in which he has played triple roles. Directed by KS Ravindra (Bobby), the film has been produced by NTR Jr’s brother Kalyanram, and it focuses on the relationship between siblings in a family. Interestingly, for the first time in his career, NTR has played triple roles, out of which, Jai is modelled on the lines of a modern avatar of Ravana.
Talking about the film, he says, “I didn’t accept to do the film just because I fell in love with the characters. Yes, it was quite challenging to play the role of Jai and I might be biased to say that he’s my favourite character in the film, but this film won’t be the same without the other two characters. More than that, it’s a very emotional film, and a personal one for both my brother and me. Leaving aside the success or failure of this film, it’ll be a memorable experience in our lives, and this was a gift to our parents.”
Inspired from key characters in Ramayana, the film revolves around the idea of what happens when three brothers - Jai, Lava, Kusa - whom their mother wants to be like Rama, Lakshamana, and Bharata, end up becoming Ravana, Rama, and Lakshamana.
“The whole story is about whether the mother’s dream comes true or not in the end. Over the years, we have seen a lot of films which take about the relationship between parents and their children, but there have been very few films, like Michael Madana Kama Raju and Bhale Thammudu, which talk about the bonding which siblings share. I love the role which my grandfather NT Rama Rao garu played in Bhale Thammudu. And then, there’s Dana Veera Sura Karna in which he played the role of Duryodhanudu, Krishnudu, and Karnudu. He even convinced us to look at an antagonist on par with the protagonist. That was his magic. Subconsciously, all these films were a driving force for me while acting in triple role in Jai Lava Kusa, although none of the characters are inspired by what my grandfather had done in those films,” he adds.
Ever since the makers of the film unveiled the characters which NTR is going to play, there’s been a lot of focus on him as Jai, who considers himself as a modern day Ravana, and quite rightfully so. He even stutters while delivering his lines, and that’s become an USP of the character.
“There were no references for me to play this role, and it drained me out both mentally and physically. When actors depict stuttering on screen, it’s usually exaggerated. But we wanted to put a different spin on it. Instead of stressing on the first syllable of a word, I tried doing that in the middle of the word or a sentence. This made the dialogue both audible and convincing. Acting is all about how your internalise an experience and convince someone that it is plausible. I’m often asked to share tips on acting, but I believe that it’s something that can’t be taught,” NTR explains.
The biggest stress buster in the midst of all this was his stint as a host of Bigg Boss Telugu.
“Films are scripted, but on Bigg Boss, I got a platform to showcase who I’m as a person. I’m just Tarak there. And Tarak laughs a lot,” he laughs. The show’s popularity has surged a lot and the actor, by his admission, has gained a lot from it: “I made it a point to watch every single episode of the show and it’s only then that I was able to host the show with some degree of spontaneity. It was a wonderful experience, but I don’t know if I’m going to do more TV shows. Let’s see what else is in store for me.”
Jai Lava Kusa is slated for release just a week before Mahesh Babu’s Spyder arrives in theatres; however, NTR Jr is unperturbed by this clash at the box-office.
“We have had numerous instances where multiple films have gone on to become hits, despite releasing at the same time. If the content is good, then people will even watch 100 films! And I’m sure that both the films will do well. I’ve always believed in competition because that’s what keeps everyone on their toes; however, there’s absolutely no bad blood between actors. Ultimately, the industry should thrive and the only way forward is by doing good films.”
Moreover, NTR Jr states that going by the kind of films being made in the past few years in Telugu cinema, the industry is moving in the right direction. And just when we begin to wonder if he’s no longer wary of expectations riding on his films anymore, he replies, “There’ll always be expectations. You can’t avoid it. The only thing you can do is put in a genuine effort to make good films and surpass expectations. Look at Baahubali - the whole country had huge expectations on the film and it was due to the efforts of every single artiste and technician that the film became what it is today. You can’t have any apprehensions before taking up something and I love challenges.”
Jai Lava Kusa hits the screens on September 21.