Donning several hats

Donning several hats

National Award winning-film director Tharun Bhascker discusses his transformation as an actor and his renewed focus on the digital space with Srivathsan Nadadhur

Tharun Bhascker

A not-so-long ago, director Tharun Bhascker, the brain behind the national-award-winning Telugu film Pelli Choopulu, didn’t have a high opinion of filmmakers who nursed acting ambitions and transitioned their careers over time. Little did he realise that he was due for an acting debut soon. Being a kid who had a poor self-image and was constantly bullied by his peers, acting was the last thing on his mind. So, when his friend Vishwak Sen invited him to play the role of a cop in the Telugu film Falaknuma Das, he was naturally apprehensive. It took some convincing for him to let go of his inhibitions. Not only did the role provide him fame as an actor, but also gave him the confidence to headline a film titled Meeku Maathrame Cheptha recently (incidentally produced by Vijay Deverakonda, whom he had directed in his debut film).

Engaging

“I felt I had to stop worrying (about my image) and put myself out there. I am glad I took up acting because I wouldn’t have found enough calm otherwise. Now, I know the other side of the coin too,” he shares. When he turned an actor, he admits his approach was far more detached about the film than his directorial stints. “While acting, you are just performing the character and letting it go away later. As a director though, every frame and plot point is your choice, you are literally stitching the film together,” Tharun mentions. 

As an actor, he made it a point to literally ‘shut his mouth’ on set and become the protagonist that his director (Shameer Sultan) visualised. “I was trying to be very silent, do my job and not ask too many questions. I would only talk to the director about the mood and how the character is supposed to behave. I exactly got to know what an actor goes through during a shoot,” the 31-year-old adds.

A special feeling

Meeku Maathrame Cheptha was special also because it was the first time that Tharun got a caravan in between the shots. “I never had one on my sets as a director because my budgets couldn’t afford it and I didn’t believe in giving comfort to my actors, but I have now changed my perspective about it (laughs). I thought the time inside the caravan would give me a great space to write a few stories. But I need complete solitude to reflect a lot of things I have experienced and put them onto paper. Even though writing didn’t happen, the caravan gave me the feel of having my personal space.”

During the promotional rigmarole for the film, Tharun was particular about driving a certain message to the audiences. “Acting has unfortunately become a profession where the industry and the audience judges you by the way you look, the clothes you wear, the car you drive and not what you are. I admit I have played to the gallery to climb up the ladder. I wanted to break the stereotype, maybe slowly,” the actor-director is firm.

The post-release phase as an actor was smoother than what he imagined. “I was curious about what people feel about the film. I have realised I have a thicker skin and wasn’t the sensitive person I used to be. Earlier, I used to lash out at review writers. A lot of people made money out of what I said. I don’t think I’ll give them that opportunity eventually. I remain unaffected about it now,” he quips. 

As a director, he’s yet again returning to his roots now — the digital medium. He’s signed up to direct one of the stories for the Telugu version of Netflix’s popular original Lust Stories.

A team of his writers are working on a digital sequel to his second directorial Ee Nagaraniki Emaindi. “I love the digital medium, it breaks a lot of restrictions for the filmmaker. But I do know the theatrical game. I am trying to widen my audience base and balance my strengths in the digital and feature film space. Whatever I am doing for Netflix though is completely out of my comfort zone.”

Dark comedy

His story for the Netflix show is a dark comedy, a complete departure from the supposedly safe zones that he has ventured to date. “Lust Stories is just the beginning of many more things to come and I am super happy. This will be a dedication to Fargo and I am going to shoot the film in Coen Brothers’ style.”

Tharun also wants a few characters of his films to continue from time to time in various media. He hopes for acting jigs that are concrete and still experimental.

The end of 2020 could also see him turn a producer. A lot is on his plate, but here’s a determined film-person open to all opportunities coming his way.

 

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