Nani: When things return to normal, I will be ready with theatrical releases

Actor Nani opens up on ‘Tuck Jagadish’, shift in focus for his new Telugu films and why he wants to be known as a complete actor

“We made a film for family audiences. Given the pandemic situation where families might hesitate to come to the theatres with children and elders, we are making it easier by taking our film into their homes on a festive day,” says actor Nani, when we begin this interview, minutes after the trailer launch of his new Telugu film Tuck Jagadish in Hyderabad.

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The Shiva Nirvana-directed family drama, starring Nani, Ritu Varma, Aishwarya Rajesh, Jagapathi Babu, Thiruveer, Nasser and Rohini, will premiere on Amazon Prime Video on September 10, Ganesh Chaturthi.

Much has been written about the deliberations after which the film’s producers opted for a digital release, owing to 50% occupancy and night curfew in several States and restrictive ticket pricing in Andhra Pradesh.

Nani explains that for a big budget film like Tuck Jagadish, the logistics didn’t work out for a theatrical release and he felt responsible to support the decision of the producers. “Everyone in the industry wants to see their films in theatres and I am no exception. In a situation where we aren’t sure if we can release our film in theatres in other States within India, through Amazon Prime, our film can reach viewers in 240 countries.”

In pre-pandemic days, one would normally spot Nani watching the morning show of his film on release day in the theatre, standing behind the last row so as to gauge the reactions. He is quick to add that when things return to normal, his new films will be ready for the theatres. Shyam Singha Roy by director Rahul Sankrityan is in post production stage and the actor is currently filming for director Vivek Athreya’s Ante Sundaraniki.

Family dynamics

A still from ‘Tuck Jagadish’

The trailer of Tuck Jagadish indicates a mainstream family drama that’s high on emotions. Nani asserts that Shiva Nirvana’s story goes beyond scratching the surface of family dynamics: “We are looking at complex issues. Often, we see films where the on-screen characters turn emotional but viewers don’t relate to it. This is a film where, we hope, the viewers will also get emotional. At the same time, we took a commercial approach intending to draw whistles in theatres.”

Tuck Jagadish is set in Bhudevipuram, a fictional village, and was filmed in Pollachi in Tamil Nadu and the East Godavari region in Andhra Pradesh.

A few years ago, Nani became synonymous with films where he scored high on comic timing. Then came the sports drama Jersey (2019) where alongside the cricket portions, he was lauded for his performance in the emotional segments. He reflects, “I entered cinema as an outsider in 2008 and had the opportunity to take up films with diverse storylines. Each time I was part of a fun film, people liked it. After a point, I decided it was time to do something else. Nag Ashwin had faith in me for Yevade Subramanyam (where the protagonist learns to look at life beyond corporate rat race), Gautam Tinnanuri could see me as cricketer Arjun in Jersey and Shiva Nirvana could see me in an intense role in Ninnu Kori, all of which worked.”

The complete actor

Ritu Varma and Nani in the film

Ritu Varma and Nani in the film

Nani recalls a discussion among family members he had overheard in his younger days, about what made Kamal Haasan and Chiranjeevi stand out: “They said an actor is someone who should make you laugh when he laughs and make you cry when he cries. When I began acting, I wanted to see if I could do that. To me, being a complete actor is more important than sporting six pack abs, riding horses or looking stylish.”

In Tuck Jagadish, his character believes that men don’t cry. “Jagadish believes boys shouldn’t cry; I don’t subscribe to that personally. The story explores the journey of a sensitive guy who ultimately breaks down, and has beautiful moments.”

Nani debuted as an actor 13 years ago and he says is ready for the next stage, seeking films with “exciting concepts”. He describes Shyam Singha Roy as a supernatural thriller with multiple elements and Ante Sundaraniki as Vivek Athreya’s best work till date. “Ante Sundaraniki will be a mad, mad film with laugh aloud moments. But it isn’t your regular comedy, just like you cannot slot Vivek’s previous film Brochevarevarura as a typical comedy.”

Be the change

Taking stock of his career, Nani says, “I didn’t think I would last this long.” An unfulfilled wish is to act in a Mani Ratnam film and he believes it will happen if it is meant to. Right now, he wants to be a part of the change that Telugu cinema has been witnessing in recent times.

His production house Wallposter Cinema is producing HIT 2 with director Sailesh Kolanu starring Adivi Sesh and the anthology film Meet Cute to be directed by his sister Deepthi Ganta.

Does he see himself acting in a web film? “I am a fan of the big screen, I don’t know if I will fit into a web series or a web film. I love the theatrical experience where films have a beginning, interval and a climax.”

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