Ahead of the Telugu film ‘Thimmarusu’, actor Satya Dev takes stock of his decade-long journey, entering Hindi cinema with ‘Ram Setu’ and why he loves to be versatile
Actor Satya Dev has been in the thick of the action. His Telugu film Thimmarusu, a legal thriller directed by Sharan Koppisetty, is ready for theatrical release. He will be making his entry into Hindi cinema with Ram Sethu co-starring Akshay Kumar. A handful of projects are in progress. “ I quit my job [in the IT sector] to pursue cinema full time. I am happy to do what I am passionate about; I think I am sane when I am on film sets,” says the actor, taking time out for this interview on a day off, amid attending to his 16-month-old son.
Those who’ve been following his journey since his debut in Mr Perfect (2011) might be aware that he juggled his IT career and cinema till 2016 and later began to focus solely on cinema.
This is Satya Dev’s 10th year in cinema and over the years, he has earned the tag of being a versatile actor.
- Lending his voice: Satya Dev’s voice is one of his strong points and the actor has dubbed for Simbu in Mani Ratnam’s Nawab (Chekka Chivantha Vaanam), for Suriya in Aakasam Nee Haddhu Ra (Soorarai Pottru) and for Neil Nitin Mukesh in Saaho: “I agreed because of the respect I have for Mani Ratnam sir, Sudha Kongara, Suriya sir and Prabhas anna. But I don’t intend to dub for others, often.”
- A year of UMUR: Looking back at the film, where his character steered away from the stereotypical machismo of mainstream heroes in Telugu cinema, Satya says, “July 31 will mark a year of UMUR. I rewatched the film recently and was proud of what we had done. This reinterpretation was possible because of [Venkatesh] Maha’s vision. We see people like Mahesh around us — in our fathers, brothers,… real life heroes don’t have six pack abs. If I am asked to portray Mahesh today, I’m not sure if I would be able to do it the same way. It happened at the right time with the right people who were part of the project.”
In 2020, he got to explore the darker side with medical thriller web series Locked; on the contrary, he played the sensitive man next door in Uma Maheshwara Ugra Roopasya (UMUR), the remake of the Malayalam film Maheshinte Prathikaram. We also saw him in the Netflix anthology film Pitta Kathalu and the music single ‘Daare Ledha’, a tribute for frontline warriors of COVID-19:
Satya discloses that he consciously looks for stories and characters that aren’t repetitive. “I get bored if I have to play similar characters. The day I feel I am going to the sets merely to narrate a few lines, I might quit cinema. We play different roles in life — as a son, father, husband, friend… The only place where I don’t feel I am acting is in front of the camera. I like stories that allow me to experiment.”
In the offing are projects that cut across genres. Skylab, co-produced by Nithya Menen, is an entertainer pegged on the disintegration of the Skylab space station in 1979; Gurthunda Seethakalam, a remake of the Kannada film Love Mocktail, is a full-fledged romance drama; Godse will have him team up again with Bluffmaster director Gopi Ganesh. Also lined up is an untitled Telugu film to be presented by Koratala Siva and directed by VV Gopala Krishna.
In Thimmarusu, he plays a lawyer named Ramachandra who fights for what he feels is right. A remake of Kannada film Birbal (2019), the title refers to Timmarusu who served as the prime minister to emperor Krishnadevaraya and was known for his sharp acumen. The film’s promo song has Satya letting his hair down for a fun outing. “Those who know me well keep telling me that I am a fun person in real life but appear serious on screen. This song breaks that pattern. The vibe on set was friendly. Sharan is a cool-headed director who believes that magic lies in simplicity. Appu Prabhakar, who shot UMUR, is the cinematographer for this film as well.”
Satya Dev in ‘Thimmarusu’
Broach the topic of him starring in three remakes (UMUR, Thimmarusu and Gurthunda Seethakalam) within a short time, and the actor says he has decided not to take up any more remakes for a while: “I turned down a few other remake offers because, irrespective of the effort I put, there will be comparisons. When I did UMUR, I wasn’t trying to compete with Fahadh Faasil. I wanted to do my own thing.”
Talking about his Hindi debut project, Satya says he’s eager to work in different languages: “I auditioned for the role after I got a call from the casting director of Ram Setu, and got selected. I am looking forward to beginning work. A decade from now, I would love to be part of cinema in different languages. Regional and language boundaries are blurring.”
With Season 2 of Locked, which is in its preliminary stages, he hopes they will be able to meet expectations: “Locked was a slow burn series and became one of the most viewed shows on Aha; the response has been overwhelming.” Satya’s entry into the digital space happened with Gods of Dharmapuri (2019) on Zee5. As more web series offers came his way, Satya reiterates that he was careful and chose Locked, an unconventional story.
Satya Dev prefers to work on a project from a start-to-finish schedule so that he can devote all his attention to a character and if needed, sport new looks. He says there was a time when people believed what was shown in cinema to be real. New-age filmmakers today are keen to make cinema reflect reality: “I like to do my research to bring authenticity. I like to meet people from different walks of life and observe them. This subconsciously helps when I have to portray specific characters.”