Actor Nani opens up on playing the antagonist in action thriller ‘V’, which will soon stream digitally, and plans to resume shooting for his next project, ‘Tuck Jagadish’

“We have opened the floodgates, more mainstream films are likely to stream directly on digital platforms,” says actor Nani, when we begin talking about his new Telugu film V, directed by his mentor Mohana Krishna Indraganti. The action thriller starring Nani, Sudheer Babu, Aditi Rao Hydari and Nivetha Thomas will stream on Amazon Prime from September 5.

V was to all set to court theatres on Ugadi, March 25, when the pandemic forced a change in plans. Six months later, Nani is looking forward to a different pre-release scenario: “The theatre experience is what I work for. You all know how much I love the first day, first show experience at Prasads (multiplex in Hyderabad). But we are in an unusual situation and the uncertainty continues. The film was completed long ago and we can’t wait forever. We discussed and finally agreed that someone has to make a beginning — to bring a big, mainstream Telugu film directly to an OTT platform.”

Last week, the makers of Suriya starrer Tamil film Soorarai Pottru directed by Sudha Kongara (Aakasam Nee Haddu Ra in Telugu) also announced an OTT release.

Mentor and protégé

  • Nani and Indraganti share a rapport that goes beyond protégé and mentor, says the actor. When Gentleman was offered to him, Indraganti was clear that Nani should pick it up only if he liked the story, not because he feels indebted to work with the director who gave him the first break.
  • The mutual respect continues: “When he comes to narrate a story to me, I always hope that I will like it, because I love working with him. He’s well read, a terrific writer and his enthusiasm is infectious. I cherish the conversations on set. With this film, he, and cinematographer P G Vinda have outdone themselves. After V, people will expect a lot more from our combination,” says Nani.

Second chance

Nani is confident that when theatres re-open, there will be a window to screen V: “At different stages of filming, dubbing and re-recording, we would consider how the audience would collectively react to a situation in theatres. I’m sure those who love V will watch it again for the theatre experience. For now, I will be glad to track the comments online from midnight when it begins streaming. I have a unique role and the film gets a unique release.”

V is his 25th film, he plays the antagonist and it’s his third with Indraganti after Ashta Chamma (2008) and Gentleman (2016): “The team and my fans have been kind to celebrate it as my 25th. I was very intrigued when the story was narrated to me. I play a character that’s scary and eerie, but you might end up rooting for him,” says the actor.

The teaser hints at cat and mouse games between Sudheer’s and Nani’s characters. Duels involving mind games need to be sharply written and executed to grab the attention of viewers, more so at a time when international content is being consumed more than ever before. Having watched V a couple of days ago with the director, Nani agrees, “In fact, we were discussing this; more than just smart twists and turns, viewers will connect with the emotions in V. We haven’t had films in this genre in Telugu, but even if we had tried to do something on the lines of an acclaimed international film like Se7en for instance, we wouldn’t have been able to match up. But when a film is strong on emotions, it will stand out.”

The antagonist?

Playing the bad guy, a killer on the loose as the teaser suggests, the character has been a detour from the endearing good guy roles Nani has essayed in recent years: “A lot of thought went into shaping a character who kills people, has a weird laugh and is still likeable at some level. V is not a bang-bang action film. There are conversations that make you think…” Talking of negative roles, Nani reveals his admiration for Joker, and the grey shades portrayed by Chiranjeevi and Mohan Babu among his favourites.

V was also a physically challenging film for Nani, after Jersey which required him to train extensively in cricket: “It was an exciting and tiring film. I’ve always worked out, but haven’t done anything extreme. Sudheer, of course, sports six-pack abs. We did action sequences in different conditions in different locations. I enjoyed doing them.”

The six-month break from the film sets gave Nani time to slow down from his hectic pace of work (three or four films each year). He smiles when he talks about spending the lockdown with his three-year-old son Arjun: “I was shooting for Tuck Jagadish (directed by Shiva Nirvani) before the lockdown. When I return home after a 10 or 15-day outdoor schedule, I would notice something new that Junnu (Arjun) does and missed watching him grow. We bonded so well during these months that even if I step out for a few hours now, he demands to know when I will return.”

Back to shoot

The time away from sets has also helped Nani think of fresh ideas, write and discuss them with friends and family, like he used to when he was an assistant director.

Come October, plans are on to resume shooting for Tuck Jagadish and work towards an early 2021 theatrical release. Plans are also on to produce a web series. Will Nani act in a series? “I never thought my film would have a direct OTT release. So who knows? But I am a cinema guy and enjoy working on a film rather than a 10 or 20-episode series,” he says.

Towards the end, I ask what V stands for and he laughs, “The fifth scene in the film will reveal the answer.”



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