Actor Upendra says his politics is Gandhian

Known to go over the top when he writes and directs films, he says he also likes to keep it simple. He plays the lead in I Love You, ‘a story of unconditional love,’ releasing tomorrow

Actor Upendra     DH Photo by S K Dinesh

Upendra stopped by at the Deccan Herald office for a chat ahead of the release of ‘I Love You’, this week’s release in which he plays hero. Here is what he told Metrolife:

‘I Love You’ is an obvious name for a love story but it is not the kind of name Upendra would choose. You prefer names like ‘A’ and ‘Shh,’ and in one case, you chose just a hand gesture as your title. What made you settle for such a simple name?
Well, the title was chosen by our director Chandru. The basic subject of the film is unconditional love, hence the title.  But you don’t believe in the love shown in films. You even rage against monogamy in Upendra, and you get all three heroines. That was a symbolic film. The characters represented aspects of life.

When you write and direct a film, how much of yourself do you put into those characters?
That’s a difficult question to answer. Cinema is not real life; there’s a lot of symbolism there. I use some characters as metaphors for my ideas. My thoughts stretch over many films sometimes.

You started with theatre…
I was associated with theatre back in college. I started writing plays and that is when I met Kashinath. I used to assist him in his film work, writing dialogues, scripting... Since I got into this field early, I could try my hand at everything.

What do you remember of the earlier generation of Kannada actors?
I am lucky to have spent time with these actors. We have had long talks on various other aspects. With Rajkumar, I used to talk about philosophy and the spiritual life.

What differences do you see in the film industry of their time and the industry today?
With the digital revolution, a lot has changed. Earlier, coming up with scripts and making a film was a big deal. The industry was not crowded, as it is now. A lot of newcomers are trying out different genres and subjects. You can make an entire film using a good smartphone. That is how advanced we are. Earlier, for many, films were the only form of entertainment. But today, it is just one of many forms.

Among the films you wrote and directed, which has been the most difficult?
‘Upendra.’ I was trying to say something different and had to write a negative character. ‘Om’ is a story in which I cast real-life rowdies. In ‘Super’, we dealt with the concept of colonised people trying to strike back at the colonisers. Each and every film has been an experience.

You have moved into politics, and your party recently contested the Lok Sabha elections. Who are your political heroes?
Mahatma Gandhi’s idea of ‘Poorna Swaraj’ is something I like. He spoke about the concept of smart villages back then, and we are yet to do anything about it. We should talk about smart villages more than smart cities.

What is your reading like?
I like many Kannada authors. T K Ramarao, Nanjunda Swamy, S L Bhyrappa to name a few. J Krishnamurthy is also someone I enjoy reading. I like his concept of ‘live in the moment’.

Among people you have not worked with, who do you admire?
I admire Satyajit Ray’s works. The characters are so real you wonder whether it is a film at all. Directors Shankar, Maniratnam, Rajmohan, Suri, Yogaraj Bhat, Rajendra Singh Babu are a few that I have not worked with... but I am in awe of their work.

Tell us about five films that influenced you?
I am not influenced by other films. But I love ‘Bangarada Manushya’, ‘Mother India’, ‘Tezaab’, ‘Sankarabharanam’ and ‘Nagarahaavu’.

How do you keep fit? You haven’t changed much over the years...
I have, both mentally and physically, but I don’t have any secret as such. I work out and follow a decent amount of discipline in my life. But at the same time, I don’t restrict myself from eating anything. I do what the body tells me to. I don’t follow any kind of diet.

Looking ahead, what’s in store?
I am working towards improving our political party Prajaakeeya. I have a film planned under my direction.

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