He's funny like that

in conversation

He's funny like that

The set of the comedy show Majaa Talkies at Kanteerava Studios sounds like a laughing track. At the centre of the stage is the host, Srujan Lokesh, learning to walk the ramp. Three celebrity guests are his teachers. He apes their movements in a comical way, evoking a round of laughter from the audience. This is around 11 in the morning.

Post-lunch, after a costume change, Srujan comes back on stage to shoot the next episode, featuring a film’s audio launch. Since he is also the director of the show, he shouts cues at the cameramen. One of them is — “Spare some screen space for me. I know you guys like to follow beautiful women on your camera.” He dismisses the afternoon lethargy of the audience by comparing its mood to that of folks with debts. There is not a dull moment in the house. He keeps everyone tethered to his timely comical charm, repartee at the ready.

Among the audience is his sister, Pooja, who says, “He is a serious guy off-screen; by that I mean he is quite grounded.”  

Onscreen persona

The truth of that statement becomes clear when he begins to speak during his break. But soon the first visitor summons him for lunch. But Srujan insists they begin without him. He doesn’t have to eat much anyway, because he is on a diet, and spends “nearly four hours a day in the gym. I have set goals for the next one month,” says the now well-built, six-feet, three-inches-tall actor, towering the vanity van. His wife Grishma, also a TV artiste, “is damn supportive and even takes care of my diet.”  Father to a six-month-old baby boy, he recounts laughingly that his mother had wondered when he would have a kid; even the pet dog had welcomed a new pup to its family.

But seriousness comes over his face when he explains how he conceptualised the show. “As a participant of Big Boss, Season 2, I had become quiet and did not interact much. Loneliness had sunken into me. So, I indulged in wondering what I could do after my elimination. That’s when the idea for the show hit me.” He finished as the first runner-up of the show. It’s easy to hear his father Lokesh’s voice in his narration, a huskier version.
Stage is fimiliar territory to Srujan. A third generation artiste, his parents Lokesh and Girija have acted in many noteworthy films. His grandfather M V Subbaiah Naidu remains a loved thespian known for his distinction of acting in the first Kannada talkie, Sati Sulochana (1934).

Srujan, too, is seen in a few films. He has portrayed young Veerappan in a 1989 film of the same name. Neela Megha Shyama is his debut (2002). His latest, Sapnoki Rani, will premiere in some time. But his charm works better on stage. Perhaps because he believes that “One should make people laugh their lungs out. Comedy is no logic, only magic.” It’s reassuring for him to know that children are his show’s followers. “Wherever I go, kids hum the title track of the show. I can proudly say that the show’s comedy is healthy.” The viewer’s reactions on social media sites reflect this, but there are brickbats too. “Of course, that’s part of any showbiz. I make it a point to thank my critics because I know they are at least watching the show.”

But his greatest critic is his mother. “The whole world would have given my show appreciation, but when I get back home and boast in front of my mom, her reply is sometimes, ‘Dabba show.’ It’s not that she doesn’t like it. She is just being frank. You need people like that in life, who criticise your work to provide valuable inputs. If you want people to spend an hour on your show, you better make it a quality one.”

Srujan is passionate about cooking and swears he can cook (especially Biryani) for the whole team. “No, not for those in the  van, but for the 300-odd crew members,” of his production house, Lokesh Productions, founded in 2013. “Believe it or not, I did not have a single rupee when I wanted to start this company. I only had projects and ideas. And I didn’t want to go asking for money. My  mom helped me with everything initially,” are his recollections about the production house.

Behind camera

Now, as a director, “I have learnt to explore the potential of the characters. If something does not work, I should be smart enough to salvage the situation.” As if to illustrate, there is a short circuit on the set, and he dismisses it with a funny, self-deprecating remake. The perks of hosting, however, are many... “holding everyone together, having direct conversations with the audience, making them feel that they are not a part of a set, but in front of me, having a chat... I love doing this!” When the comic timing falters, he has to turn resilient soon, because he is also the producer. But, in totality, the experience has been “damn strenuous.”

Srujan’s only focus now is the home production. “We shoot five days a week, but rehearsals take a lot of time. I don’t think I will take up anything new until I complete Majaa Talkies. It has clicked well. Touchwood.” He is not supertitous, just “ very particular about certain things. Like, as soon as I wake up, I have to look at my father’s photo. And his photo must accompany me wherever I go for shooting.” He is also very particular about his comedy: “clean” and “it shouldn’t hurt others”.
Let’s wish this talented actor, who celebrates his birthday today, the very best in all his endeavours.

 According to me, beauty is honesty, truth, loyalty & friendship
My biggest weakness is perfumes
When in despair, you inspire
Behind every successful man, there is hard work
When in doubt, be doubtful
If I were to write a book, I would never publish it. I would be happy to read it by myself
I’m happiest when I’m making others happy
My punchline would be dishoom

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