I am in no hurry for Bollywood roles: Siddharth

Feb 15, 2006 Subhash K. Jha

Mumbai, Feb 16 (IANS) He is known as the Aamir Khan of the south. But despite wowing audiences with his first Bollywood film "Rang De Basanti", Siddharth has no intention of moving bag and baggage to Mumbai to pursue a career.

"But, of course, I am open to good offers. The only problem," Siddharth revealed shyly in an interview with IANS, "is that I am very picky. In five years, I have done only five films. I like to choose my roles carefully."

Director Rakeysh Mehra chose him as the dark, brooding, confused capitalist in "Rang De Basanti" for his vulnerable, boyish looks. But Siddharth says he went into acting quite "by chance".


What prompted you to take on "Rang De Basanti", your first Hindi film?

Interestingly, I was actually steering clear of industries other than Telugu when Mehra's office called; I was very noncommittal. They sent me a bound script and that's when things really took off. The moment I read it, I knew this was not a film to reject. In two days, I was a part of "Rang De Basanti". I was moved by the script, and felt Mehra was definitely on to something.

Weren't you deterred by the fact that it was an ensemble piece, and the fact that Aamir would get centrestage?

I cannot possibly explain how exciting it is to hear the term ensemble piece with respect to Indian cinema. The most exciting aspect of "Rang De..." at a script stage was this very ambitiously equal treatment of all the protagonists. The reason I believed it could be pulled off was that Aamir was a part of it. Also, there is no centrestage in the film. It is a huge stage, and all of us get to run around, just doing our own thing.

It always hurt me when people said unfair, accusatory things about Aamir and his attitude towards his co-actors' roles. "Rang De..." should go a long way in rubbishing these silly allegations. An individual like Aamir really does not deserve them.

What was the experience of working with Rakeysh?

Mehra is at the cutting edge of two very important horizons. The first is in the realm of heart-felt Indian storytelling. Mehra is an Indian... period. His food, his humour and his nostalgia, all swim in hardcore India juice. That is why the friends in "Rang De..." jump out from the screen and bite you. They exist all over this huge country.

The second area Mehra astonishes you in is his craft. He is by far the most ambitious technical filmmaker in Indian cinema. In effect, he combines state-of-the-art film wizardry with lorry art. As Mehra would put it, "stuff like that..."

You are known as the Aamir of the south. Why have you done such a small body of work in five years? And do you really charge Rs.20 million?

I am a bit of a paranoid actor. I started off as an assistant director to Mani Ratnam. Direction was passionately my ultimate dream. When I suddenly became a screen actor, I took a reality check and promised myself to only commit to work that completely excited me. It isn't really my fault that such projects were very few in number. Also, I am building a CV of serious standing.

Mani Ratnam, Shankar, Prabhu Deva, Rakeysh Mehra... these guys make going to work so much fun. I am only five films old. As for the Rs.20 million, it sounds lovely. I haven't seen it yet.

You stride two regions - Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh and now Mumbai. Is that a comfortable position?

I am actually, exclusively with only the Telugu film industry. It is a huge, vibrant and warm place to work. It is the largest single state market in the country for motion pictures. I am in a position there where I can do what I really want.

My last release was a film that I wrote myself. It gave me a lot of pleasure and did really well too. So yes, life is good. "Rang De..." hopefully should make things more fun. Good work is more than any actor can ask for. "Rang De..." should do a bit in that direction for me.

Tell me about yourself...where do you come from?

I am a Tamil. My school education was spread over Delhi and Chennai. I did my B.Com (Hons) from Kirorimal College in Delhi University. I got my MBA from the S.P. Jain Institute of Management in Mumbai. Then came the assistant director stint with Mani Ratnam for a couple of years. Acting happened by chance, and the rest is a blur.

You are known to be picky and pricey. Is that a reputation well deserved? Doesn't scarce work scare you?

Strangely, scarce work is a really welcome proposition. No work might be really frightening. I haven't been there yet. I want to be proud of my films. It is much better to show your kids 10 good films than to make excuses to them about why you made 20 bad ones.

Again, good or bad doesn't reflect commercial success. I judge films on how they justify my conviction in them. It is hugely gratifying when they do.

Southern actors are not known to be too successful in Bollywood... Do you think you can break that mould?

I haven't made any plans yet. Whether I do another Hindi film depends solely on the work I am offered post "Range De..." I am in no hurry to prove anything to anyone. I have two wonderful Telugu films lined up this year. A good Hindi script would be a great icing on the cake. Let's see.

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Rang De Basanti


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