Venkatesh on Anil Ravipudi’s F2: You have to go all out and shed your inhibitions in a comedy film
Venkatesh opens up about what excited him about Anil Ravipudi’s film, playing a comic role after a long gap, and why he hasn’t stopped learning.
After people watched Anil Ravipudi’s latest film, F2, one of the most common lines ussed to praise the film was — ‘Vintage Venky is back!’ This instant adulation for F2, starring Venkatesh, Varun Tej, Tamannaah, and Mehreen, is a hat tip to some of the veteran actor’s finest performances in his comedy films like Intlo Illalu Vantintlo Priyuralu, Nuvvu Naaku Nacchav, and Malleswari. It’s been nearly 14 years since Malleswari, best known for Venkatesh’s rib-tickling performance and Trivikram Srinivas’ writing, released in theatres, and the long gap that ensued after that made many wonder if he’s going to take on a comedy role ever again. “I’ve been waiting to do some fun stuff for a while now, but at the same time, you’ve to find the right script too and it has to be equally convincing to suit my age,” Venkatesh admits. His search ended with F2, but he still had his share of doubts before coming onboard.
Having been in the film industry for more than 32 years, Venkatesh is quite aware of the changing trends in cinema, and what sort of roles suit him best at this point in his career. His recent films like Guru and Drishyam were seen as a step in the right direction, and for a while, he was in the same hangover. However, when Anil Ravipudi pitched the idea of F2, Venkatesh had other things in mind. “Before saying yes to the film, I asked a lot of my friends and people I’m close to if the audience would like to watch me doing comedy at this age. A lot of people were quite positive about it. Moreover, it’s been a long time since I’ve done a full-fledged fun film. When Anil came to me with this script, I asked him why did he want me to do the role, and he said that he had seen all my films in the past, and since I was able to pull off my roles in Nuvvu Naaku Nachav and Malleswari quite well, he was confident that I would suit the role he had written for me here,” Venkatesh recalls.
The film delves into a newly-married couple’s life and how the husband gets frustrated soon after that because he has to deal with his wife and her family. The idea might be age-old, but Anil Ravipudi had packaged it quite well. Then, there was the prospect of another actor sharing the screen space with Venkatesh. “The set up seemed quite fresh, and since it was a multi-starrer, I was confident that we could do something new. Varun Tej and Mehreen came onboard as another pair in the film, along with Tamannaah and me. The film had a huge cast, and there was plenty of energy in the air while shooting for the film. It’s been a while since we have had a film like this, so we went all out to do our best,” the actor says.
He’s all praise for Anil Ravipudi, who had scored three consecutive hits prior to F2, and credits the young filmmaker for being quite honest with his craft. “Anil is in great form and he had a lot of clarity about the kind of performances that he wanted from the artistes. Since I had done few comedy films in the past, I was very honest about what was working and what wasn’t, and Anil too would correct the scenes or dialogues immediately, whenever I raised a point. He was also very honest about what he was doing. There were times when he would say that something isn’t working. We had a healthy rapport right from the beginning, and I believe it helped the whole film to shape up the way it has,” Venkatesh reveals.
The film has Venkatesh playing a personal assistant to a local MLA, who gets married quite late in his life. But more than that, he says that he was skeptical about why the heroine (played by Tamannaah) would wait for a long time to eventually get married to him. However, Anil’s logical explanation won him over and he was more than convinced with the plot. “In the film, Harika (Tamannaah) wants to wait to marry a guy who has no family, because she doesn’t want to deal with the baggage that comes after her wedding. It’s clear that she doesn’t want any problems from the guy’s side. Of course, all this is conveyed in a subtle yet humorous way. But I could connect to it because, of late, there are so many women who have a similar thought process. In the midst of all this, my character has to deal with Harika’s family and how he handles the situation is told in a funny manner,” he says, adding, “There are quite a few scenes between Annapurna and Vijaya and me, and I went all out while performing in those scenes. It looked fresh and good even during the time of the shoot.”
Comedy could get quite tricky, especially when heroes are put in an unfamiliar space, and not many can pull it off convincingly. “You’ve to shed all your inhibitions and go all out in front of the camera. You’ve to be like a joker and not think too much at that moment even if hundred people are looking at you. There were times when I would ask myself and the director if I had gone overboard, but certain sequences demanded the artistes to be loud. At times, I used to dread when the director wanted a retake because I was absolutely clueless about how I performed in few scenes,” Venkatesh says, laughing. Although Venkatesh was in a comfort zone, his co-star Varun Tej was new to the genre, and he had his share of nervous moments in the beginning stages of the shoot. “We had a few conversations about how to do few scenes and I told him to relax, and let it all out. What I loved about Varun was that he took his time to get into the groove and perform the way that suited him and his body language. It’s really important to do that for an actor. Your style has to be unique. And if you try to imitate your co-star, it would look odd on screen.”
It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that Venkatesh makes both comedy and drama look easy. So, where does it all come from? “If you had a mischievous childhood, it really helps I guess (laughs). I had my share of fun in school and college, and when I look back, that’s when I had all my fun moments in life. I’ve grown up watching great comedians like Relangi, Padmanabham, Allu Ramalingaiah, and later Brahmanandam do incredible stuff. At the same time, whenever heroes like Amitabh Bachchan, Rajinikanth, and Chiranjeevi did roles with a comic touch, people loved them. Quite early in my career, I had films like Sundarakanda, Abbayigaru, and Chanti where I got a chance to perform comedy, and directors like EVV Satyanarayana and Bhagyaraj guided me back in those days. And then, there are TV shows like Friends, Will & Grace, that I keep revisiting. In Telugu, I follow Jabardasth quite a lot. I love the body language of those comedians in the show,” Venkatesh reveals, putting things in perspective.
After a short break post F2, Venaktesh will start shooting for Venky Mama, which also has his nephew Naga Chaitanya in the lead role. And then, quite a few directors are pitching him stories. Apart from films, Venkatesh has also been approached for digital content; however, he says that he’s waiting for the right project to make his webseries debut. “There’s so much to do for actors these days. But you’ve to take a call about what you want to do because there’s so much more to life than just work. In my case, I like to travel a lot and continue with my spiritual journey. Now, all this takes time. I’m trying to balance it out. I’m not under pressure of any sort. You shouldn’t get too obsessed with anything. I have never been so and I’ve always tried to look into other things in life. You’ve to take what comes to you. Life is a big mystery because you might want something, but you end up getting something else. I’ve believed in a simple truth about life — Don’t refuse anything, but don’t ask for anything either. Make the best use of all that you get,” Venkatesh says.
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