One look at Rishi and you know he’s meant to be on the big screen. He’s tall, handsome, has an easy smile, and a charming demeanour. He speaks with the eloquence of an experienced artiste, and talks about things with refreshing clarity. It’s hard to believe Rishi is only one-film-old in the industry.
Rishi, a civil engineering graduate from Mysuru, grew up on a steady diet of 90s Bollywood films and was enamoured with the idea of becoming a movie star. While in college, he did amateur theatre and was also a radio jockey. While he was initially apprehensive about television, he took up serials that he thought were in line with the kind of work he wanted to do. Then followed Mahaparva and Anuroopa, serials that gave him instant recognition.
Rishi explains why he took up performing arts, “Being a civil engineer, my world was defined by set formulas and methods. But I realised that when it comes to arts, there’s nothing right or wrong. You can do one particular thing in a hundred ways and all of them could be right. I found the craft of acting very amusing.”
Rishi made a grand entrance to the world of films with his hit debut, Operation Alamelamma, in 2017. Playing a comical vegetable auctioneer, aka Purmy, who is fascinated with good life, Rishi charmed one and all and established an identity for himself. But any actor worth his salt would feel the pressure for his second film, especially when his debut does so well. But when I point it out to Rishi, he laughs saying, “I think I will be nervous for every film of mine because every role has its own challenges. It’s difficult to be satisfied with every shot you have given. And since I am taking up such diverse roles today, I don’t think I can take it easy.”
One such diverse role that this actor has chosen is the one in his next film, Hemanth Rao’s Kavalu Daari. Interestingly, Hemanth offered this thriller to Rishi right after seeing the teaser of Operation..., a feat that not many actors can boast of. “Hemanth saw the teaser of Operation... and told me that he liked it. He thought I would suit the role of K Shyam in Kavalu…perfectly. Also, Appu-sir (producer of Kavalu...) had watched the teaser and liked me in it, too,” says Rishi.
Rishi insists that Kavalu… is an honest film made with a lot of conviction. He plays K Shyam, a moustachioed hunk of a police officer who is out to solve an old murder case with a retired inspector played by Anant Nag. Rishi details the process he went through to nail the character. “This was a character largely built by Hemanth and he was already clear about the things he wanted from it. So, it was all about understanding his vision. There were certain scenes where I surrendered to him completely with no idea of how it would look finally. But I saw those scenes later and was blown away with what he’s done. Apart from that, I met a couple of police officers to understand their jobs better; how they work, what protocols they have to follow, and so on,” he says.
Acting with one of the most respected actors in the industry is certainly another feather in Rishi’s cap. Talking about the experience, he says, “Anant Nag-sir is young at heart. Though he is such a senior actor, he is simple and grounded. He’s always, always thinking about the scene even after we have finished shooting for it. He’s a thinking actor, and he approaches every scene with a lot of honesty and passion.”
Open to variety
Rishi doesn’t want to confine himself to his own ambitions but wants to do all kinds of roles. “I want to do a gangster role, a negative role, a politician’s role, a pani-puri-seller’s role, everything,” he says before declaring, “sensible cinema that will also entertain people. Those are the kind of films I want to do.”
This enthusiastic actor, who is currently working on Jacob Varghese’s untitled project, has certainly chosen the right time to be in Kannada cinema. Just like many others, Rishi is also positive about the industry’s changing fate. “Right now, you have a beautiful mix of traditional filmmakers who are doing what they are really good at and new-age filmmakers who are trying to do something fresh. Things are slowly changing and I am really excited to be a part of the industry now,” he asserts.
Although Rishi is still a young actor in Kannada cinema, his talent, enthusiasm and positive attitude certainly puts him on the fast track to success.