Nani opens up about Gang Leader, Jersey and the secret behind choosing the 'right' script
Nani was last seen in Gowtam Tinnanuri's Jersey, where he played a middle-aged cricketer.
In his career spanning 11 years, Nani has mastered the art of striking a balance between what he wants and what the audience expects from him. In the past few years, his success rate has been enviable, to say the least, and by his own admission, there is a trick behind choosing the right film.
“The trick is not to overthink whether a film will work or not. Success or failure is not in our hands. As actors, all we can do is trust our instincts and just go ahead with it. That’s what has helped me to do films back to back, and at the same time, choose films which people would like to watch,” he explains how he was able to shoot at least three films a year. “I don’t get exhausted while shooting for a film. That’s my vacation time. The most tiresome part is having to promote the film.”
Earlier this year, his sublime performance in Gowtam Tinnanuri’s Jersey, where he played a middle-aged cricketer, made headlines and for a good reason. The film, Nani says, defied every preconceived notion about the success formula for a quintessential Telugu film but was met with universal acclaim. Is he happy with the way it was received at the box-office?
“Oh, yes! I’m extremely happy with the way people lapped it up. Usually, films which have a high dosage of action, romance, and sex sell at the box-office. Jersey had none of that. We didn’t make it thinking that it’ll be a blockbuster like an action film would. When you are narrating the story of a middle-aged man, who’s already branded as a failure in life, and then, after all the struggle that he goes through, he dies in the film’s climax, it’s not something which you see in every other Telugu film. Despite all this, the film collected a share of Rs 30 crores, and it’s being remade in Hindi, Tamil, and Kannada. We are also planning to release it in China. In my view, Jersey was a huge success,” Nani says, adding, “It’s funny because when I did MCA, I was asked if I was going to do a good film anytime soon, and when I do a film like Jersey, I’m asked if it’s going to collect as much as MCA did.”
Right now, all his focus is on his forthcoming film, Gang Leader, in which he has played the role of a crime writer, Pencil Parthasarathy. Directed by Vikram K Kumar, whose previous credits include films like Manam, 24, and Hello!, Gang Leader is his first collaboration with Nani. The duo had been planning to work with each other for a long time, and when Vikram pitched the story of Gang Leader, it was an instant yes from the actor.
“Vikram is full of ideas and he’s incredibly funny as a person. Given his choice of films over the years, I don’t think he has been able to explore his comic side through his film, but Gang Leader is going to be a revelation. In general, when you think of a revenge drama, it’s portrayed in a serious tone; however, Gang Leader showcases it from a very different perspective. Vikram is known for his intricate screenplays, like what he did in Manam and 24, but I would say that Gang Leader is his most fun and least complicated film. We were able to finish the film soon because Vikram had plenty of time to work on the script and plan the shoot much in advance. In the end, he told me that he couldn’t believe that shooting the entire film at a stretch can be so much fun,” Nani smiles.
“While I was shooting for Jersey, it took me a while to get out of the character after the shoot each day. But Gang Leader was a laugh riot on the set everyday. It was a privilege working with actors like Lakshmi and Sharanya. They are incredible with this comic timing in this film.”
Talking about his role, Nani says, “Pencil believes that he’s the best crime writer in the world, but only his publisher knows that his books don’t sell at all. And then, one fine day, his life changes when he’s approached by a bunch of women who want to take revenge on someone. Whether Pencil writes the perfect crime story which they follow or if he writes what the women do...it’s something which you’ll have to watch on screen.”
When the film’s title was announced, there was considerable backlash from actor Chiranjeevi’s fans since it was also the title of one of his most popular films. However, Nani clarifies that it was never his team’s intention to create a controversy.
“I am a huge fan of Chiranjeevi garu and Gang Leader is one of my favourite films. Besides, we are not scared that the expectations will be different with a title like this because unlike the original film (which was an action drama), ours is a comedy film. There’s no comparison between the two. Pencil is the leader of a group of women who want to take revenge. That’s all there is to the title,” he adds.
The secret behind his success, over the years, has got a lot to do with how he has been able to stay rooted with what the audiences enjoy watching on big screen.
“I’m a big movie buff, and everytime I watch a film, I’ve been able to forget that I’m an actor and soak in everything that I watch on screen. The only time I lose my objectivity slightly is when I watch my own films. But I still think I haven’t lost touch with reality. It’s true that the way we watch movies has changed in the past few years, and I’ve changed as a person too. The movie buff in me is alive and craving for me,” Nani says.
Gang Leader, also starring Karthikeya and Priyanka Arul Mohan, releases in cinemas on 13 September.
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