Perfecting characters

Sharath Lohithashwa is like a horse with blinders on. A horse that’s not interested in winning the race, for whom the journey is the destination. As a young boy, he put on the blinders and embarked upon the journey of acting all on his own. He’s extremely passionate about the craft; this he stresses upon time and again throughout our hour-long conversation. For the son of the famous Kannada actor, Lohithaswa T S to get into films is not surprising. But what is surprising is the unique portfolio Sharath has crafted for himself in the world of performing arts. He’s a noted theatre artiste, a popular face on Kannada television, and an established actor in films.

An observant actor

Obviously, his initial influence was his father, whom he used to observe on the stage of Samudaya theatre group. “An English professor, my father was the man behind the Tumakuru section of Samudaya. I have been privy to many rehearsals, theatre talks and performances since my childhood. Since I grew up in that atmosphere, I was also inclined towards arts and entertainment,” he says. But Sharath wasn’t merely an observer here. He stored everything he observed in his mind. As he grew up, he often went back into these ever-expanding labyrinths to seek out finer aspects of the craft.

For instance, in his school, every year, Sharath churned out plays from short stories and took home the award for best actor and director. In those plays, he used techniques that were far beyond a young kid’s capacity. “I had seen in theatre how light and shadow were used to create dramatic effects, so I used the same in my school plays. Mind you, my father neither nudged me in this direction nor taught me the ropes. He, in fact, never used to let me watch movies, except for a few good ones. I always did that on the sly,” Sharath says.

This passion for acting placed Sharath on renowned stages of Nataranga, Spandana and NSD. Soon, television beckoned, and he gained fans through serials such as Kicchu and Chidambara Rahasya. His debut on the big screen happened in 1996 with the thriller, Police Story. Sharath displayed the rare courage of debuting with a negative role. “I didn’t look at roles with all these bifurcations of negative, positive, lead or supporting roles, and I still don’t. I was crazy about acting and I wanted to establish myself,” reveals Sharath.

After donning the negative avatar in movies through the late 90s, Sharath took on perhaps the most negative role one could find, that of underworld don Kotwal Ramachandra, in Aa Dinagalu. Sharath explains how he chose not to do an elaborate research on the don. “Firstly, there wasn’t a lot of material on him. Also, I believe a person’s eyes will tell you everything you need to know about him or her. When I looked at his photograph, his eyes reflected evilness and inhumanity. Of course, K M Chaitanya (director) had also briefed me about him. And that was all I needed,” he says.

Tough times

The journey hasn’t been easy for Sharath. He talks about how there was a dearth of opportunities from 1995 to 2009. In those dark times, theatre and television brought in the much-needed sunshine into his life. “I did theatre and television exhaustively. In fact, television gave me the opportunity to enact diverse roles. Till I did Saarathi in 2011, I hadn’t earned a consolidated amount of Rs 25,000 in my life. But I had done work that would last for 10 generations!” he says.

Although the audience recognises him as the baddie on screen, Sharath likes to believe that he hasn’t been typecasted. “I never let that happen.” What sets this 46-year-old actor apart in Kannada cinema are his confident portrayals. And this, he says, comes from his proficiency in other mediums like theatre, television and films.

Pandya, DK, Kiragoorina Gayyaligalu, Ranna, Kotigobba 2, Chowka, Churikatte... the list of movies Sharath can boast of is long and ever-growing. And are there any ‘good ones’ in the near future? “Yes!” he exclaims. “I have done a small role in The Villain. Then, there’s Bazaar by Simple Suni, a Tamil movie called Hello Mike Testing. I will also be starting on Phailwan soon.”

 

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