If actor Tejus Kancherla was to look back and try to remember the exact moment he fell in love with cinema, he would say it was when he was 11. The young actor who has just starred in a new movie Priyanka, where he plays a character with negative overtones, loves the fact that cinema gives him a chance to explore new and diverse roles.
After the success of his first film, Oggarane, that did phenomenally well in Kannada, Tejus is known as the young hero with the irresistible twinkling eyes and unmistakable talent. His first film was about cuisine, comfort and creativity, interwoven into a cinematography that captured the elegance and artistry of beautifully cooked food. But now, Tejus has stepped into a darker role where he plays the role of a young man-turned-killer. The thriller Priyanka is based on a true story and explores the nuances of relationships, social media and the dangers that lurk within and without.
On playing villain
“When the role in Priyanka was first offered to me, I was a little apprehensive of taking it up,” he says, adding, “My mentor and celebrity actor Prakash Raj told me to go ahead; director Dinesh Baboo said I was apt for the role and I really liked it. As it is just my second film, I thought I could try out something new.”
According to Tejus, the shooting of the film was fun, though it involved a lot of hard work. “Most of the shooting was done in Mysuru and in a few of the malls in Bengaluru. When I first heard I was going to work with a superstar like Priyanka Upendra, I even wondered whether I could call her by her first name. But she put me at ease immediately,” he recalls.
The scene that Tejus liked most about the movie was the climax, where the expressions on his face were crucial to the crime that he was depicting. “It was a really challenging scene for me,” he says.
Tejus remembers watching countless films as a child. “Whatever I saw in a film was what I wanted to be,” he laughs. “If I watched an army officer on the big screen, I wanted to be an army officer, and if the hero was playing the role of a doctor, I would want to be a doctor. And so my dreams kept changing and then finally in middle school I decided to be an actor so that I could take on all the roles.”
A rough start
Tejus joined an acting institute called Kreating Characters in Mumbai. “During the course I learnt to let go of my inhibitions as an actor,” he remembers. “I learnt how to take a shot, use my space and decide how to do the scene. A lot of actors don’t do this. This training feels good even today.” After finishing his course, the youngster struggled to find his footing. “I got a lot of rejections,” he recalls ruefully. “I would meet people and they would promise me a role, but then would never get back to me. So when I went to meet actor Prakash Raj for the film Ulavacharu Biryani in Telugu and he said he was interested in casting me, I thought he was kidding. But later that day he called me back to confirm the role. The movie went on to be an A-list film, and today, Prakash Raj is my mentor.”
Tejus is looking forward to more negative roles in the future. “It gives me scope to expand my horizons,” he explains. “It gives better exposure too. Shah Rukh Khan started with negative roles but later became a romantic hero. One day, I hope to do a Hollywood film too.”
When he is not working, Tejus likes hanging around with his family and friends. The only thing he does not like about the film industry is the fact that you can never be sure what people are saying about you. “People will talk nicely about you in front of you, but then say bad things about you behind your back. Success is the only goal in this industry.”
Tejus is keen on doing more Kannada films and he has some interesting projects in the offing. As for the arena of movies that he has stepped into and loves, Tejus says that it is a wonderful world of make-believe. The magic of the movies lies in the fact that though everything on-screen is fake, you make people believe that it is happening.