No looking back

No looking back

in conversation

No looking back

One of Sandalwood’s most popular stars, Shivarajkumar has seen a steady rise to the top, setting unmatchable acting standards over the years. Bindu Gopal Rao talks to the actor about living up to expectations & more...

To be the eldest son of arguably the biggest name in the Kannada film industry is something that actor Shivarajkumar (SRK) is naturally proud of. It also means shouldering a huge responsibility towards the creative line of filmmaking, which he has ably handled in over 107 movies he has worked in. With a huge body of work behind him, he is unbelievably humble, with no trappings of superstardom. And when I finally caught up with him, after months of relentless pursuit, on the sets of his movie Belli, his easy demeanour made me forget that I was actually chatting with one of Sandalwood’s biggest stars. 

Looking back

When asked if movies were always on his radar, SRK said, “I never thought I would be an actor. In fact, I was pursuing my BSc in chemistry, and wanted to start a small scale industry in the chemical field. However in my first year, I was approached to do a Malayalam movie and when I told them I was Dr Rajkumar’s son, they came home to speak to my father. At that time even my father was surprised that I might want to act. While he was open to the idea, he asked me to first finish my education, and to prepare myself before starting work in the film industry. So after my graduation, I trained in classical dancing for a year and then joined the film institute and learnt the ropes of acting.” 

Being the eldest son of an iconic actor meant that pressure of performing and meeting the huge expectations of people was immense. “Today, there is more tolerance for different kind of cinema. Whether it is a movie like Simple Agi Ondh Love Story or something offbeat like Lucia, the industry is changing for the better. Way back in the 1980s, it was not so easy and we would think hard about what would work. Moreover, apart from my father, there were several great icons like Vishnuvardhan, Ambarish and so many other stalwarts who had to brainstorm quite a bit about selecting the right story and script,” he reminisces. 

His debut in Singeetham Srinivas Rao’s Anand (1986) was a runaway hit, and the actor says that all reviews were positive and gave him the title of being the industry’s first ever dancing star. “When I decided to do movies, all that I had in my mind was to make an honest attempt to act. And that has been my mantra to date — to be honest with everything I do.” Little wonder then that his first three movies — Anand, Rathasapthami and Mana Mechchida Hudugi — were silver jubilee hits, and earned him the title of ‘Hatrick Hero’. 

Taste of success

SRK has been part of several movies including hits like Janumada Jodi, Jogi, Nammoora Mandara Hoove, Om and Chigurida Kanasu among several others. He also acted in Sugreeva, which was shot in just 18 hours. His movie Om, directed by Upendra, is one of the biggest hits and manages a re-release every year, with houseful shows even to this day. “I have had a phenomenal journey as an actor and my team’s conviction has made me do roles like that of a college student on screen when I was in my late forties. To be honest, there are so many offers that come my way and it becomes hard to make the right choice. Often, I am quite confused whether I can fit into the character, but the conviction of filmmakers gives me the confidence to pull it off.” 

His 2013 hit Kaddipudi is another film he is fond of, and today it is a classic case of art imitating life, as he is backing his wife Geetha’s political ambition like he did on screen for co-star Radhika Pandit. Having won several awards including four Filmfares and four state awards in the best actor category, the actor says, “Awards are like tonics that encourage me to perform better.” He chooses his films based on what appeals to him at that point in time, and says that he chose Belli because he loved the way the character was narrated to him. He has wrapped up shooting for Aryan, in which he has teamed up with Ramya for the first time. He has his hands full with several other projects and is also looking forward to Kabira, based on the life of Sant Kabir.

Family matters

A complete family man, family always comes first for the Century Star, as he is popularly called. “I have been surrounded by women at every stage of my life. My mother would always take care of me and in her absence, my aunt did. After marriage, Geetha has always been there for me. I felt it was my duty to support her when she wanted to enter politics. In fact, when I campaigned for her, all I asked people was to vote from their heart.” At 51, the ace actor is so fit that he can easily pass off as half his age. 

Ask him the secret of his fitness and he smiles, “I have always been pampered and encouraged not just by my family, but also friends. I get energy from the faith and love they have for me. I am careful about what I eat and have a cook who makes food on the sets, and my wife ensures that I eat right.” Having been an athlete from a young age, fitness has always been a part of his life. Of course, a regular workout session keeps this actor fit as a fiddle. 

He has also been vocal about not encouraging dubbed films and says that he speaks from the heart without malice. “When movies are dubbed, we are taking away the opportunity to employ a lot of people. This makes no sense to me.” For his profound simplicity, he says that he is fortunate that he gets offered several films every year. “I am happy for all the love I have received and believe in taking the ups and downs in my life as they come. Life is a race — you win some and lose some. Just be serious about what you are doing and do it with full honesty and results will surely follow,” he signs off. Here is a star, who has his head firmly on his shoulders, and it is little wonder that he is easily the most loved star in Karnataka.

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