Life in full circle

Life in full circle

One of the most recognised faces of Sandalwood, Ramesh Aravind has made his presence felt in all mediums. Bindu Gopal Rao talks to him about his next release ‘Uttama Villain’.

Ramesh Aravind is arguably amongst the best known faces of the entertainment scene in Karnataka. This versatile actor is also a screenwriter, director, TV show host, author and celebrity radio jockey and has also worked in films in six languages. Well, that certainly packs a punch and when I meet him in his plush South Bangalore home, he comes across as someone who wears his fame lightly on his able shoulders.

A new direction

As we ease into this conversation, I ask him if the entertainment business was always his calling. “No, I was a serious student. I turned to acting by instinct and never planned anything. I did watch several plays, but somehow I was clear that I wanted to do mainstream cinema. My career started on stage, and I did ad films which I used to write and direct, then I did radio — Aakashvaani, television — Doordarshan, and then movies.

If you look at the point where I started, to now, it is a full circle.” As an actor, he has about 95 Kannada films, 30 Tamil films, 10 Telugu films and two Hindi movies to his credit as the leading man. Awards are a reassurance that the path he is treading on is correct. “I like it when awards are credible and are based on merit.”

Rama Shama Bhama marked his directorial debut, in which he starred with Kamal Hassan, which has today become a classic and one of the biggest hits in Kannada films. He followed it up with Satyavan Savitri, Accident and Venkata In Sankata, which were all well received.

“Direction is a different ball game all together and while many think it is a natural progression from acting, it need not be. Acting is a cosy job and it is a privilege to be accepted as a mainstream actor. Direction is like creating everything from scratch. The more exposed you are to life’s experiences, you find peculiar ways to represent it on screen,” he says.

However, next in pipeline as a director is Uttama Villain, starring Kamal Hassan. “I have 760 hours of him acting that I have condensed to roughly two hours and 40 minutes and that is why a director’s job is so challenging. I am happy he chose me to direct this movie. He felt that this subject would suit me and our relationship is always about discussing ideas as we connect on the same wavelength.” The film, incidentally, has a lot of depth and for people who can read between the lines, there is a lot to watch out for.

Currently in post-production, Ramesh estimates about eight weeks of work are still pending on the film. “Apart from Kamal, who is a master of the craft, the others like K Balachander, K Vishwanath and Urvashi are also a part of the film. Moreover, we also have eager youngsters in the movie. Moreover, one part of the movie deals with the 21st century and the other features the 8th century. So for me, it was like working on two different films at the same time.”

Back to television

In his television debut, Ramesh was actually a score keeper in a game show. Currently hosting the hugely popular Weekend With Ramesh talk show, he has his hands full. “I have got calls from almost everyone in the industry telling me that they now know how to best spend their weekends, so it does mean a lot. I am happy because we sorted out all the negativity, and I was clear that all guests must be celebrated. I have grown up on motivational books all my life, and my library has a mix of motivational and film-related books. It is important for me to show the human side of celebrities and the public reaction is clear that I have been able to connect well. This is the third time I have received such an overwhelming response for my work after America America and then Rama Shama Bhama, so there is a perfect connection with the audience,” he explains.

Ramesh understands that television can be a double edged sword and over-exposure is something that should be dealt with. “However, if the content is good, it just works. Also, I have only signed the contract for the first season with 24 episodes, so it has worked as I have not been seen on the big screen for the last 18 months.”

Looking ahead

Having not acted in the last year-and-a-half, Ramesh is clear that he wants to get back in front of the camera soon. “Earlier, I would hesitate to delve into certain subjects as there was a glass ceiling of budgets. But now I feel differently and I am able to envisage things on a larger scale. I am now zeroing in on scripts both as an actor and a director. I have become more focussed on the job and I have never doubted my capacity to direct a Bollywood or Hollywood film. Uttama Villain has cleared my path in a sense,” he admits.

Ramesh is all set to act and also announce his next directorial venture early next year. And his mantra of choosing movies is simple.

“As an actor, it should excite me and dates must match. I also look at the production house and their ability to release the movie. The movie must have some novelty, which is a big deal, and money is the last aspect. As a director, I am bombarded with thoughts that are almost bizarre, but I am able to work on multiple scripts, and I am constantly thinking. I have a simple story with three characters in mind that I may take to Bollywood, but I am clear that it must be a commercial vehicle. It is important that it is made into a sensible film that the audience can connect to. It’s like Uttama Villain — I told my entire crew that this will be a film that we will all be proud of.”

The multi-talented artiste has seen the industry grow through the years and says one thing is however constant. “Talent really stands out and no one can trample on it and the really talented people survive. Also, old values like commitment and professionalism are the sure mark of longevity. And nothing like a story well told on screen.” Little wonder that these words ring true and are an apt reflection on his own fulfilling career.

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