Jr NTR on Aravindha Sametha: What I love about the film is it doesn't glorify war but focuses on its aftermath
Jr NTR on his approach to playing Veera Raghava in Aravindha Sametha and working with Trivikram Srinivas
On 29 August, 2018, when news broke out that actor-and-politician Nandamuri Harikrishna passed away in a road accident, life came to a standstill for his son and popular actor Jr NTR. Three days after the incident, he shocked the team of Aravindha Sametha when he decided to continue shooting the film so that it’s ready for release in October. It’s little wonder that Trivikram Srinivas credits the success of the film to the actor, who has surprised the team with his professionalism. “He never made us feel the burden he was carrying in his heart, and he was always ready to perform in front of the camera, despite the pain,” Trivikram Srinivas said, referring to Jr NTR’s mental strength and dedication towards his work. The film, which released on 11 October, also marks Jr NTR’s return to factionalism based action dramas after a long gap. Back in 2002, Jr NTR scored one of his first blockbusters with VV Vinayak’s Aadi, which helped him cement his position as an actor to reckon with, and now with Aravindha Sametha Veera Raghava, he has proved that he hasn’t lost his mojo yet. Excerpts from an exclusive interview:
In the cinematic universe, would it be an exaggeration to say that the boy from Aadi grew up to become Raghava in Aravindha Sametha?
Absolutely. It’s right. It’s a very personal journey for me when I look at my acting career from Aadhi to Aravindha Sametha, and I've matured a lot both as a person and also as an actor too. It’s interesting when you connect the two characters and in hindsight, it feels appropriate too.
But was that the approach to play Veera Raghava in Aravindha Sametha?
I personally feel that an actor doesn’t choose a film if he likes his character alone. It’s the totality of the script that matters more. What I loved about Aravindha Sametha is that it glorifies the aftermath of a war. Everyone likes to glorify the war itself because it’s got a lot of pleasing emotions which we like. For instance, the camera is always focused on the man carrying a weapon, but no one turns the camera to capture the image of a person — who could be this character’s wife, father, mother, or children — standing at the doorstep, almost pleading them not to go. Aravindha Sametha narrates the story of plenty of such characters. We talk a lot about Mahabharata, but do we really know what happened to the Pandavas after the war in Kurukshetra? No one’s worried about them. You might think that the war is the main element of the story, but there’s so much more to the story after the war is over. What must have happened to the five Pandavas who became kings? How did they rule the kingdom? What did they tell Gandhari? We don’t talk about any of this.
Aravindha Sametha focuses on lives after the war. The first 15 minutes of the film is almost like a war, but the story is more about what happens to Raghava once he leaves the sword? What hurdles is he going to face? What is his family going through? What is the conclusion of that war? This is what intrigued me to take up the film. And who could be a better narrator to tell this story than Trivikram Srinivas? I’ve always believed that he has a strong emotion in him which is evident in all his films. Joy, sadness is momentary, but true emotion stays with you for a long time. I’ve had immense faith in Trivikram’s ability to do something like this, and I prayed to God that I get that opportunity to do something like this with him. So, when he narrated the story, it was an instant yes from me.
Few days ago, you stated that you needed a lot of life-experience to be part of a Trivikram’s film, and that’s why it took you 12 long years to collaborate with him. What exactly did you mean by that?
What I meant was, when two people have to sit together to discuss or travel together, there’s a certain mental maturity that both of them need. We need to be on the same page while talking about anything. I felt that an actor needs quite a lot of maturity to really understand the depth of the stories he narrates. Probably, what I felt was true because I’ve gone through plenty of experiences as an actor, and have gone through things in my life, which have helped me to portray Veera Raghava. He’s someone who’s carrying a lot of burden. He’s a mix of many emotions. He’s a mix of love interest, his dead father, villain, his people, his grandmother, and mother. You need a lot of maturity to portray all that in a film. All the characters I’ve played have made me a better person; they have added to my personal life as well. Maybe it became easier for me to portray Veera Raghava.
A lot of times, in the context of your films, it’s hard to separate your real and reel life persona. And it’s even more difficult in Aravindha Sametha. Did your approach to the role and what the film meant for you change after the sudden death of your father (Harikrishna) in a road accident? There are scenes where your tears seemed way too real…
Throughout my career, I’ve tried to separate my personal and professional lives, and not let anything that has happened in my life change the way I act in films. I don’t know if the tragedy in my life changed the way I performed in Aravindha Sametha. We had already shot that scene where I put the seat belt on after my father in this film is shot, and that became a reality much later when my father died in a road accident. My father (Harikrishna) was still alive when we shot the first action sequence. It was only the segments where I had to light to pyre, 'Peniviti' song, few others that were shot after my father’s death. Initially, it was my own emotion that drove me to perform the action scene. But once my father passed away, it became my mother’s emotion. I started looking at it from a different perspective. I don’t know if it helped me, but it took a huge toll on me. It wasn’t about me anymore. I kept thinking about what my mother was going through. I don’t think it added anything to the film or my performance, but it added a lot to me as a person. Rather than adding to my portrayal as Raghava, it added a lot of emotion and depth to my own life as a son to my mother, as a father to my kids, as a husband to my wife.
You are quite emotional and expressive as an actor, but in Aravindha Sametha you were toeing a fine line where your emotions had to be consistent throughout the film. So, what helped you to achieve that while shooting the film?
The credit goes to Trivikram, I must say. The director is the first person to witness what people are going to watch much later, and we as actors just put our face to a story. I’ve had many conversations with Trivikram about the film, the characters, among other things, and it also depends on how he injects the emotion into the actors. I don’t think you can sit in the dark and start shooting bullets without any guidance. I feel every director is a guide to the actor on the set.
Have you figured out what makes Trivikram Srinivas so unique?
Well, it’s a question that continues to intrigue me and I still haven’t found an answer yet (laughs). I believe the magic lies in the emotions, which are quite rooted, that make a person strong and how you approach something with all those emotions in your heart and soul. It’s his life experience, probably. I can only guess though (laughs).
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