He's humble like that...

He's humble like that...

It is 1 pm and I am sitting in a chair facing Shivarajkumar. Sunlight is streaming in through the window on to his lean muscular physique. I look at him: pleasant, soft-spoken and polite. And this, just after giving a shot where he is required to be tough and intense. I guess it isn't easy being the eldest son of a personality who's revered in Karnataka...

As if reading my thoughts, he says, "I don't want to be another Appaji... I strive to follow his path, but I don't strive to become him because that's impossible. Appaji was one of a kind; let it remain that way. I will have my own ambitions and aspirations, won't I? Live for yourself, that's more important," he declares, opening his arms wide.

Current call

I ask him about the film he is shooting for. It is Tagaru, his next big film slated for a January 2018 release. "The tagline of the film is 'Tagaru Mai Ella Pogaru'," he says. Tagaru is a male sheep, ram, the one with curved horns, which means it has an aggressive temperament. "My character in the film is based on that attitude and what happens when he deals with people with the same kind of attitude. Although the story is not new, director Soori has narrated it in a different style. Just the teaser, which had no dialogues, created so much interest. I am hoping it will click with the audience," he adds almost wistfully. For someone who has acted in over 120 movies, that tone suggested humility and simplicity.

He is called for another take. It's an intense scene, full of raw emotions. Shivarajkumar, or Shivanna, listens closely to the director's instructions before making a couple of suggestions. After some exchange of views, the director calls 'Action'. Shivanna instantly transforms into a tough-sounding macho man mouthing dialogues that reveal his character's inability to handle injustice.

Shivanna comes back to resume our conversation with an easy smile. Gone is the fierce look, the air of danger he exuded in front of the camera. Must be easy to switch expressions when you are a seasoned actor. But then the easy manner and geniality are genuine, no airs, no attitude problems here. I ask him about his upcoming releases. Mufti is set to release on December 1. "In Mufti, I am playing a very different and interesting character, something that nobody would have expected from me. My character asserts his power through his voice and expressions," Shivanna declares, giving me a demo of what he means. He moves his eyeballs to the left and gives a mean sneering look. "Do you get it? Just by his expression, my character ensures people are put in their place," he explains.

Shivarajkumar's infectious enthusiasm belies his three-decade-long journey in films. Ever since his debut with Anand in 1986, Shivanna has been shining on the silver screen consistently with at least three to four movies every year. In every film, he has revamped his avatar and hopes to continue reinventing himself in future. From the gangster drama, Om, or Chigurida Kanasu, a film about a man who goes in search of his roots, or Bhajarangi, a fantasy film, or even his upcoming Mufti, an out and out action film, Shivanna's film journey has touched every possible genre. Is there any role you would particularly like to play, I ask. He immediately replies, "Something like Bhakta Kumbara (an award-winning movie of his father) and Santheyalli Nintha Kabira. I want to work on something devotional because such movies are reducing in number today."

Shivanna is truly cinema's child. He has the names of not his own films, but other notable ones, the names of directors and scripts, even memorable sequences at his fingertips. He is also a true family man. He credits his parents and paternal uncle and aunt for giving him the best upbringing possible. "We were brought up just like the other kids. I never got Rs 100 as pocket money just because I was Dr Rajkumar's son. We used to travel in buses just like the other kids. I think that's why I am so simple," he says. "At least, that's what I am assuming you and the audiences think," he adds.

"Familial relationships are important," says Shivanna. That is why when the character goes in search of his roots in Chigurida Kanasu, Shivanna says the role affected him deeply. "I felt his pain and anguish." He and his brothers Raghavendra and Puneet are more like friends than brothers. And what do they do in their spare time? Just like any other close-knit family, they get together often, party and have fun!

Future beckons

Shivarajkumar is not worried about the fading identity of Kannada and Kannada culture. A true blue Kannadiga, he says that this assumption is not true. Citing the example of films, he mentions that in earlier days, "Getting 25-30 theatres was a big deal. But with Simhada Mari (1997), we got 80-90 theatres. A.K. 47 (1999) was released in 120 theatres. Jogayya (2011) was released in 250, and now Mufti (2017) is going to release in 300 theatres. And ultimately, the responsibility of protecting our culture lies with all of us, doesn't it?" he asks.

When I question him about his plans for the future, he sounds very excited. He just set up a production house with his younger daughter, Nirupama. He talks about it excitedly and sounds more like a proud father and less like a celebrity actor. "My daughter came up with the idea of this production house, which is dedicated to my mother. Srimuthu Cine Productions will first start with a television show called Manasa Sarovara on Udaya TV. Then we are going to move on to films. Early in the year, we'll work on a female-oriented script and then maybe, Appu and I will do a movie together," he beams.

Work calls and it's time to wrap up our conversation. I leave, reassured by the fact that there are charming, honest and humble celebrities, too!

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