Quirks of a star

Sandalwood

Quirks of a star

The last time I met Upendra was at the music launch of Uppi 2 and when we catch up now, the movie has created a new box-office record in Sandalwood. Riding high on the super success of Uppi 2, the actor says that he is humbled by the love of his fans. “I was confident of the content and to live in the present is something that most of us need to inculcate. The concept of ‘you’ which was different from the original that focused on ‘me’, and the screenplay of the movie was something that the audiences connected with.”

This was also a movie which Upendra consciously did not over publicise as it was widely anticipated amongst his fans. “My fans had done all the publicity and because the film was already hyped, I felt it was best to step away. But I must admit that we did not expect to see fans throng cinemas at 6 am, and theatres screening eight shows per day, so it was great.” Upendra is, however, known for his body of work in films like A, Upendra, Preethse, Gowramma, Auto Shankar, Aishwarya, Super, Katari Veera Surasundarangi, Godfather, Kalpana, Topiwala, Brahma and Super Ranga among others. An ace actor, director, producer, screenplay writer, lyricist and playback singer, he started his career 26 years ago and is still going strong. And the best part is his affable nature and ability to connect with fans and audiences in a humane way that automatically endears him to everyone.

Movie matters

This year has been pretty eventful for the actor and he also showcased a powerful character in the Telugu hit S/O Satyamurthy. “I admire the director’s previous work and I was approached since the character was important and a highlight of the movie. And it’s great it worked as I received a lot of feedback that I could pull in family audiences to the theatres.” So, does that mean he is open to acting in other languages? “I would do a role that is substantial as I owe it to my fans to essay roles that entertain them.”

In fact, he also admits that his entire outlook towards choosing films has changed. “Earlier, it was all about the production set-up and the director, but now it is about my gut feeling, it is impulsive, I will sign a film if I feel it works.” And, at the cost of sounding clichéd, one word that has been associated with Upendra is unconventional, whether it is in his choice of roles, names for his films or his movie’s subjects.

“People want to see change and new interpretations of creativity. While something drastic can get rejected at times, it is important to ensure that while experimenting we retain the entertainment quotient of the film. After all, the audience is watching a movie to get entertained and that is something that must be a part of the narrative and not inserted deliberately.”

Known for doing things differently, Upendra also has a practical take on creativity. “Not everything that comes to your mind is creative. I feel that the creative side of you must listen to the critic in you and the point where they meet is the truth — you will find that at one level.” This is also why amongst the myriad roles he does quite effectively, writing is close to his heart. “When I am writing a script, it gives me the freedom to express myself. Imagination is like a sea and when you find it, the joy is something that cannot be quantified.” Likewise, he says that he has never thought of himself as a singer despite lending his voice to many hit numbers and says that he has never pursued it.

Connecting with fans

So, does the constant scrutiny of his life bother him? “As artistes, we enjoy attention — the photo and autograph requests. However, over time, one may feel that it is impossible to go anywhere without being noticed. But, what I have done is to understand that ultimately you are what you are because of your fans — and I consider them as God. So, when I am approached for a photo, I feel I am posing with the star and I believe that fans are the reason for your happiness. I must also admit that many of them are so creative themselves. They had sent me some great designs for Uppi 2. And the fact that they went back to watch the film more than once to understand the message I have tried to convey has made the movie what it is now.”

The key, according to Upendra, is balance, and he says that just like you are happy when you receive praise, you must be ready for the brickbats as well. “You cannot gorge on sweets and worry that you will get diabetes, or drink a lot and not expect a hangover. Life is like a pendulum and you need to ensure that you are ready for the positives and negatives.” Talking of rumours of him finalising projects like Kalpana 2 and directing Chiranjeevi, he quashes all of them saying, “There are several scripts I am reading and many projects have been offered, but I will finalise everything in October when I will make an official announcement.”

The actor says that he will never force his children to take up any particular career and that he will accept whatever vocation they choose. On a parting note, I ask him who the real Upendra is, and he laughs. “Now you have got me thinking. I am also looking for an answer to that question. I think the day you can spend time with yourself, without being bored, and without the need for distractions like phone, Internet and television, you can find out the real you.”

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