An accidental actor

in his world

An accidental actor

When the interviewer lands in a situation of having to talk more than the interviewee, something is not alright. I find myself in this difficulty for some time on a Sunday morning in actor Achutha Kumar’s home in Banashankari, Bengaluru.

“Wouldn’t you rather spend the Sunday relaxing, maybe with a couple of beers? Why would you agree to an interview on a weekend?” he jokes when he first speaks.

Given that the 50-year-old’s work schedule covers shooting for at least a dozen films a year — he plays a pourakarmika in his latest film, Amaravathi, inspired by a real-life incident — the appointment seems just fine. But he is not one to keep count of the films, “only my bank accounts,” he laughs, and says, “I make sure I have time for leisure too.”

Notable roles

On the record, the artiste, with a sharp sense of humour, has three Filmfare Awards (in the best supporting role category) to his credit — one for, most notably, his portrayal of Shankaranna, a father figure to the lead actor and a cinema owner in Lucia (2013), and the other two for his roles in the films Josh and Drishya.

Achutha Kumar agrees to this interview on the condition that he be spared “from being asked the same old boring questions about his life as an actor.” He talks with the essence of a man who dislikes interviews as he wonders if they are of any importance to anyone at all.

But, over the cups of tea that he has brewed for us, the actor from Tiptur
admits to have cultivated an interest in acting in his childhood “because of the many plays that I watched in my hometown. And later, Ninasam (a reputed drama school in Shivamogga) conducted a theatre workshop in Tiptur. Only then did I become aware that there were schools to train people in theatre. Theatre became my passion, and has always been my passion.”

It’s at this drama school that he meets Nandini Patawardhan, also an actor. “Well, I was the senior and she, my junior.

So that’s how we came across each other,” he recalls about the first memories of his wife. The couple has a 12-year-old daughter.

Although this accidental actor (as he calls himself) is going steady along the film circuit since 2009, sometimes the stage calls in the form of Theatre Tatkal, a group he has been associated with. “When we feel there is inspiration and a chance to create something, we put together plays. Our last production was called Shakespeare Manege Banda. But I have stopped acting on stage now. I have to say that, sometimes, we have received calls to the company, asking us to book train tickets for them,” he guffaws. The small screen, too, has been a familiar field for the thespian, having acted in TV serials like Moodala Mane and Manthana.

What really keeps him going, when he is so often offered similar roles? Especially that of father — tough, supportive, fun etc (Mr. & Mrs. Ramachari, First Rank Raaju are two among the many). “Well, let’s say there are 15 movies in which I act. Of them, 10 characters may not have any scope for existence. But two or three of them will be great. Those roles make everything worthy; feed you with enthusiasm to keep going. It’s partly about livelihood too.”

The biggest reward

Having said that, he asserts that “an actor will not act just for money. Because, along with much money, he’ll also get the weakest of roles. Just imagine his state of mind after a while! That’s why strong and diverse characters are an actor’s dream. Audience acknowledgement, if not recognition, is also important. It doesn’t matter if it’s a big or small role, or good or bad. As actors, we have nerves about any film’s performance at the box office. Good cinema gets all its performers a good name, even to a person who has acted in just one scene.”

And, by way of explaining the scripts he receives now, he mentions that “they are hard-bound, or are sent via email (laughs). Just kidding. I mean, some characters are scripted keeping me in mind. In this way, I get variety in roles. Most scripts are by a younger crop of writers and directors.”

In the beginning of the meeting, due to a mistake on my part, a hobby of his comes to light. When I can’t remember one half of a film’s name — Kiragoorina Gayyaligalu — (or the novel’s author, Poornachandra Tejaswi), he walks to a cupboard that is stacked completely with books on mostly Kannada literature. And over the next 10 minutes, in absolute silence, he handpicks a few novels and short stories, and hands them over to me as a gift. Perhaps the books will offer us more topics to discuss during the next conversation.

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