Silver lining after a storm

Kannada Cinema

A Charlie Chaplin poster, a framed sepia photograph of Akira Kurosawa (Japanese director), a rack of books inclusive of Kannada and English literature. And a fan club-made collage that has in bold Neen’awesome, among other congratulatory messages.

This last is the result of one man influenced by the former set to establish himself as an actor.

You’ll spot these in the house of Satish Neenasam, who plays the lead role ‘Nikhil/Nikki’ in the Kannada movie Lucia. He might be accepting fame now, but it indeed has been a long way to get here.

In love with films

Hailing from a village near Mandya called Yeladahalli, he is first to venture into acting from his family of farmers. He swears to an unruly childhood marked with mom’s care and scolding. “I often ran away from home to nearby theatres, soon followed by a worried mother to take me back home. My favourite getaway was to the only house in the entire village that had a TV,” he says.

His next stop was at Shimoga. There, acting interested him. Carrying doubts and fear he got into Neenasam, a theatre training school in Heggodu, for a two-year diploma course that changed his life. “I was an insensitive and useless guy. I would say anything to anyone. I had no patience and no sense of direction in life. Neenasam refined me.”
Transformation came about when he took to books egged on by the gurus there. “Words of B V Karanth, Poornachandra Tejaswi, U R Ananthamurthy, Girish Karnad and Shakespeare humbled me. I understood my life needed a lot of work to become meaningful.”

“Also, I came from a middle-class family. If I didn’t mark my niche, the family name would fade away. There was my opportunity,” he recalls the brief period of apprehension.
Like in a gurukul, acting classes would begin from five in the morning and extended to 10 in the night. The one-year training was followed by one year of thirugata — staging dramas across the state. Living out of a suitcase taught him hard work.

In 2006, he arrived in Bangalore to realise his dream. “I acted in plays and directed a few for a year, which did not fill my stomach. I was part of the Samashti Theatre Group. Safalya, a story about Lord Krishna, and Avantara, a three-story drama, were my creations.” To further his career, he took up roles in Kannada TV serials. You would see him in Paramapada, Takadimitha, Guptagamini and Silli Lalli.

The nature of a TV serial is that it goes on and on. But Satish did not want stagnancy or a mediocre career. So he quit acting in serials when monotony set in. “I did nothing for one-and-a-half years. No job, no money, no motivation. Just left to my solitude.” But fortunately, through a contact, he landed a role in Shivarajkumar’s movie Madesha (2008), which marked his debut in commercial Kannada film, albeit a four-scene cameo. The movie flopped.

Evolving as an actor

He continued playing supporting roles in movies Manasare (2009), Pancharangi (2010), Lifeu Ishtene...!, Paramathma (2011), Anna Bond, Addhuri and Drama (2012), until Lucia brought him under the spotlight this year. He plays the role of a theatre guide (helping movie-goers to their seats with his torch beam and handling projection room) and a movie star, each dreaming the life of the other.

Incidentally, he has worked at Gopal Theatre in Bangalore as a projectionist and guide for six months after he ran away from home, irked by the constant nagging of his mother to study.

Thanking Pawan Kumar for casting him and directing a unique movie, and Yograj Bhat for fishing out the talent in him, he says the whole of Lucia constitutes his favourite moment in life. “There is a lot of talent at home. But it is the director’s job to look for it. Lucia stands as a fine example of cashing in on local talent in every department; be it music or technical work, everything was done right here in Bangalore.”

Talking about life after Lucia, he exclaims, “Noted directors want to collaborate with me now. Anurag Kashyap complimented me. So did Irrfan Khan. Siddharth of Rang De Basanti fame has tweeted about my acting! It’s dream-like.” He has a whole line-up of movies: Dyavre, in which he plays a tribal, Anjada Gandu, Love in Mandya and Petromax.
As his acting journey picks up, he aspires for the role of a historical figure or that of a James Bondesque character someday.

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