In search of that elusive glory

The minute you sit down with Avinash, you can figure out he’s a man of theatre. He’s expressive, his voice is loud and clear, and whenever he wants to make a point, he leans forward and stares right into your eyes, making sure you are getting the point he’s trying to make. At his lovely home in RR Nagar, Avinash is dressed in casuals, looking fresh even though he’s returned at 4 in the morning from a film-shoot.

A student of literature, Avinash began his career as a teacher. He took up theatre merely as a hobby and did many plays in English before shifting to Kannada theatre. Then, Shankar Nag offered him the movie Accident, but Avinash firmly refused. But Shankar Nag managed to convince him and he did the movie. But, only after Samyuktha with Shivarajkumar did he realise what it means to be a film actor. “That’s when the acting bug bit me,” he says.

This commercial hit catapulted a simple theatre man to the big league of films. Avinash then shared screen space with stalwarts like Rajkumar, Ambareesh, Vishnuvardhan, and then with the next generation stars like Shivarajkumar, Darshan, Sudeep and Puneeth. While scripts and heroes changed, Avinash remained a fixture in most Kannada hits. “I guess I am lucky in that aspect. I am glad the audience hasn’t rejected me,” he says simply.

Today, this 56-year-old actor finds himself in the unique position of being a versatile performer who is sought after by most young Kannada film-makers. Case in point is his latest film, Gultoo. “The Gultoo boys came to me one day and said they wanted to shoot a teaser to show the producers, but they had no money to give me. I was so impressed with the story that I agreed to do it. We shot the teaser for an entire day. The final product was so good that they eventually got the producers, made the film, paid me in full, and now, Gultoo is running successfully. It’s not always about money. You have to encourage these youngsters. If I see a spark, I surrender,” he says.

Same is the case with his upcoming films, David and Arishadvarga. He explains, “As an actor, after a while, you feel like you are doing clichéd roles, and it gets monotonous. Because in a commercial framework, whatever story it is, I always end up playing the role of either a father, a villain, a police inspector, or a minister. But it’s the treatment of these characters that has to be new. In Arishadvarga, I am doing something completely different: there’s a huge gap between me and my wife, and there’s infidelity. It’s a murder mystery, but the characterisation is new.”

Avinash waxes eloquent about the new-age Kannada film-makers or “the young boys”, as he likes to call them. “I admire them. They are absolutely brilliant. They come with so much confidence, and their discipline and sensitivity is amazing. They know the likes and dislikes of the current audience better than anyone else.”

There’s one rule that Avinash has for every role he does. He won’t cross the level of decency. “Anything crass is a complete no for me because I have to protect my image,” he reveals. Having said that, Avinash makes it clear that he will never let go of an opportunity to act in big-ticket films. He reasons why ­— “I need to be with commercial stars because that’s where the market is, that’s where you survive. And there, I don’t make many demands. No matter how big or small the role is, I will definitely do it because it’s my livelihood.”

Avinash is almost 31 years old in the film industry with more than 100 films in his repertoire. For this seasoned actor, one would assume, no role is challenging. But Avinash tells me otherwise. He counts Singaravva and Dweepa as his most challenging films till date as his roles in them were both physically and mentally demanding. “It’s only then that you start enjoying the process because your potential gets challenged,” adds Avinash.

However, his face falls a bit when he reveals that he is still looking for that one role where he can make an impact and create a market for himself. “No actor can ever feel content. If you feel content, you are dead,” says the actor before bursting into laughter saying, “looking for good roles is like looking for gems in a dunghill.”

Some of the most memorable performances of Avinash have been in films like Chinnari Mutha, Huliya, Apthamitra, Chigurida Kanasu and Matadana, although he tells me it’s the journey that has been the most memorable for him. From his debut in 1987 with Madhvacharya to his latest film Gultoo in 2018, Avinash believes that the Kannada film industry has “grown fantastically”. “We used to do films in 40-50 lakh earlier, and the top-most heroes got 4-5 lakh. Today, our heroes charge 7-8 crore per film. That’s a huge growth from where we were, hardly 10 years ago. Even content-wise, we are making huge strides. Apart from commercial cinema, we also have an influx of youngsters such as Pawan Kumar, Hemanth Rao, Janardhan Chikkana and others who are all making sensible films.”

A cup of coffee brings our conversation to an end when I ask him if actors have end goals in life. He chuckles saying, “Actors have an end, but no end goals.”

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In search of that elusive glory

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