“Many years ago, my school offered to take us to watch Chota Chetan if we paid 2 Rupees. My father didn’t want to send me because he was worried about my safety. However, I used the money I had stolen from my mother’s savings and went for the show anyway, only to be beaten up later- anything to watch a good film in the theatre!
Growing up, I watched the likes of Chiranjeevi and Kamal Hassan in films that were telecast every sunday, along with my parents. I watched many Indian films, but was introducted to world cinema only when I joined the University of Hyderabad for my Masters. A few classmates and I formed a gang that would do anything to watch a film – our true love. I also met Richa, the love of my life, my wife, at college. We never spoke then, but years later, in 2012, one comment turned into friendship, that slowly blossomed into marriage. Her presence in my life instilled a sense of hope in me.
Hence, despite the poor paying stint with short films after college and other jobs like wedding shoots and product marketing, I continued to write to people for work. I even learnt Tamil so I could get a project in that industry.
Finally, in 2016, I spent about 30 days shooting for Pelli Choopulu – and it changed my life. Tharun Bhasckar and I were in a car, on our way for promotions, when he got a call from Adivi Sesh saying Pelli Choopulu is a brilliant film and that he loved Kaushik’s character. Once the screening began, almost everybody asked who played Kaushik’s character, because they enjoyed it so much.
I had an old phone back then and every time I came home, the wifi would connect and I would receive tons of messages – my phone wouldn’t stop buzzing. I just couldn’t believe it! My life changed into ‘before Pelli Choopulu’ and ‘after Pelli Choopulu’. The appreciation I received was overwhelming. It was a dream come true – the dream of a 7-year-old boy who watched Sagara Sangamam and fell in love with cinema. It’s cliché, but that’s my love for cinema.
Along with the appreciation came good offers, but they were mostly comic roles. I wasn’t sad, but I was hungry to explore life-altering characters. After four years, Mallesham came my way – a chance to rediscover acting and, myself.
Loser, my latest web series, was another great opportunity, where I also learnt rifle shooting! I loved the script and I signed up immediately. It’s inspiring, moving and powerful – exactly what I learnt cinema to be. I believe that cinema can be more than just entertainment. It can be a mirror to the society, have an impact and inspire people like it inspired me, decades ago. That’s the cinema I have watched and that’s the one I want to be part of!”
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