Here’s a true star

From the heart

Rakshit Shetty

Halfway through our hour-long conversation, Rakshit Shetty declares, “I am not a good actor!” Seeing my surprised expression, he explains with a smile, “I am a bad actor when I am playing a role I don’t like. If I am not into something, it will show on my face.”

But there’s a lot more that you can see on Rakshit’s face. His passion for cinema, his diligence, his honesty, his commitment to films, and a very endearing child-like wonder. Rakshit is close to completing a decade in Kannada cinema.

Besides the cameo appearances, Rakshit only has eight movies to his credit as an actor till date. However, his credibility as an actor surpasses that of many established actors.

‘Changemaker’, ‘a storm that rocked Kannada film industry’, ‘Sandalwood’s next superstar’... Rakshit has been given many monikers, but this young actor feels it’s too early to say such things about him. “It’s too much to say such things about me. I still have a long way to go,” he says, before adding cheekily, “I believe I deserve it though because I know the kind of films I am going to present to my audience!”

Towards perfection 

Rakshit comes across as extremely self-assured and confident when he talks. And why shouldn’t he be? His current line-up of movies, which are all in different stages of production, include Avane Srimannarayana (ASN), 777 Charlie, Punyakoti, Richie, Tenali, and more. We start with ASN. The film has been in the shooting mode for more than a year now, when will it switch over to the release mode, I ask. Rakshit says, “Firstly, it took a lot of time to write this movie. Because my character, Narayana, is so witty and intelligent, we had to keep writing and rewriting the script. And once we started shooting, the film began to grow bigger than what we had visualised. Probably because of the kind of team involved in its making, everyone started to give their best. So, after a point, I decided to give this film its time and focus on making every frame in the film a perfect one. There were times where we shot a two-minute action sequence over two days.”

A movie where every frame is perfect? Sounds like Rakshit is reaching for the stars. But he assures me that it will work. “This movie has been made purely for entertainment. I believe the visuals are going to be spectacular, something people haven’t seen in recent times. We explored a different genre which has not been attempted in South Indian films.”

ASN is the story of a smart, witty and heroic cop in a fictional town called Amaravathi, and is set in the 80s. The movie is going to be released in five languages — Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, Hindi, and of course, Kannada. Rakshit explains how he ensured his script lent itself to all the languages. “Since it’s a fictional story set in a fictional place, it works across languages. And the way the story shaped up gave us the confidence to look beyond a release just in Kannada,” he says, before adding, “as of now, I am looking at a July or August release for ASN.”

One might wonder why Rakshit hasn’t gone off running into the woods with so many films still on his platter. But he exclaims, “I thrive under pressure. I enjoy the process of film-making, right from researching on the script, brainstorming ideas, writing and rewriting the script, pre-production, shooting, post-production, and ultimately, sitting in the cinema hall with the audience and watching the finished product. It gives me sleepless nights, and that’s exciting,” he declares.

Learning curve

While the audience has only been welcoming to Rakshit, he, on the other hand, looks at his career as a mix of hits and misses. Every film is a learning experience for him, he says. “For instance, in the past two-and-a-half years, I have learnt that I can’t just work on one film at a time; I have to keep at least the script for my next films ready while working on one movie. After Kirik Party, not one movie of mine came out. I don’t want that to happen again.”

And this is not the only lesson this 35-year-old actor has learnt till date. He goes back to the time when he made Ulidavaru Kandanthe, a film that was way ahead of its time.

“While people talk about it now, back then, the movie was a failure at the box office. That confused me. It was an honest attempt at writing a story, and it didn’t work. Since my ideas were not working, I decided to do films with people who were giving hits. But when even that failed, I thought to myself, ‘What’s the point of it all?’ That’s when I realised that if failure is the only constant, why not fail at doing something you like,” he trails off…

A new outlook

What sets Rakshit apart from everyone else in Sandalwood is his ‘never say die’ attitude. When he didn’t like what came his way after Ulidavaru Kandanthe, he decided to take matters in his own hands. “I always wanted to be an actor, but when I realised that other directors would not treat my character the way I liked to project it, I decided to do everything myself,” says this actor-lyricist-writer-director.

In many ways, this seems like the resurgence of Rakshit Shetty, it’s Rakshit Shetty 2.0. A writer whose only goal right now is to tell good stories, an actor who knows exactly what he wants and how to get it, and a director who has unlocked the secret of a hit film.

He’s not here to prance around in an exotic locale romancing his heroine, or do a film with no soul.

“A song popping out of nowhere in the film makes no sense, right? But give me the best aspects of a commercial film along with a soul, I will take it up,” says Rakshit who likes to look at his films as a mix of art and commercial cinema.

The most of Rakshit’s recent past has been dominated by his break-up with Rashmika Mandanna, and dealing with all the trolling and comments must have been quite difficult, I comment.

Rakshit agrees, “I had never experienced something like this before, so I didn’t know how to deal with it. It took some time.
But soon, I realised that this is probably the worst thing that could
happen to me, but it has happened. So, I came to a point where I didn’t care about what people thought or wrote about me anymore. I am happy as long as I get to work in films. So, I decided to give people something better to talk about.” And he definitely has.

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