I still have a lot to prove as a hero: Bharath
The actor, whose latest film, Simba, hit the screens this Friday, talks about his preparations for the stoner comedy, his upcoming ventures, and more
Bharath has always sought to challenge himself by working across genres and picking difficult characters to play. With his latest film, Simba, he has done it again, as he plays an aloof and indifferent stoner, who hallucinates that a Great Dane is actually a human:
Excerpts from the conversation:
You've played a college student who has an imaginary friend in February 14. Did that experience come in handy for you here?
Not exactly. I underwent a different kind of research for my role in the film. As I had to play a dispassionate and cold stoner, I began mimicking the body language, dressing style and accent of my director, who is a stoner. In fact, he was completely high when he wrote the script. I made note of minute details of his behaviour, like replying a bit late during conversations, and looking lost all the time.
When I signed Simba I was quite beefed up and muscular. As stoners don't care much about their appearance and often look a bit shabby, I lost about 4-5 kilos and grew a lot of beard and hair to look the part.
Whenever characters get high on alcohol in a comedy film, they usually exaggerate their behaviour. How did you set the meter right for this role?
The first decision I made was to remember not to act too much. I was a bit afraid about this decision too, as the audience have been exposed a lot to the culture of alcoholism, but marijuana usage is something that is found only in the city. I spoke to a lot of friends and experts and decided to deliver a subtle performance.
Were you not apprehensive that Simba might normalise the use of marijuana?
I admit that a certain section of the audience in the metros seem excited about Simba because of this, but this is a story about the relationship between a stoner and a dog. It has all the elements for the family audience and nowhere in the film, have we actually promoted the use of drugs.
Initially, it was supposed to be an out-and-out stoner film. But I was clear that if that was the case, the director and I would likely have to end up watching the film at our homes. To reach a wider audience, we brought in humour, and went easy on the stoner content.
How difficult was it to visualise this film when director Arvind Sridhar narrated it to you?
I was able to understand only half the vision during the first narration. But I had complete confidence in the script as shooting neared. Cult films usually end up facing extreme results. They are either celebrated or hated by those who say, "Pudhusa panromnu mokka pannitaanga." Simba, I think, is being thought of as a 'one-time watch'.
Your identity as an actor has gone through a constant change. You were first thought of as a dancer, and then you began focussing on family-friendly films, and now, experimental roles.
The only way to survive in this competitive industry is by attempting such interesting films. You can’t keep running around trees and singing duets. That era has ended. Over the last few years, many creative short-film makers have redefined our cinema. I've also constantly looked to redefine myself.
How has cinema evolved during the course of your 16-year-old career?
I think the change can be categorised into two types. The amount of creativity exhibited has improved exponentially. But ten years back, film distribution wasn’t this complicated. Irrespective of budget, getting films out was far easier. Today, even if small-medium budget films get a release, they get only morning and noon shows. Who will come to theatres looking for small films at that time? For the big stars though, audience seem willing to watch even a 4 AM show. Small films need the evening and night shows. If not, actors like me will be forced to sit in our house without any relases.
You've played characters with grey shades in Chellamey, Kadugu, and most recently, in Spyder.
I was offered a lot of villain roles in Tamil and Telugu after I did Spyder. I felt it wouldn’t be useful, considering I'm getting offers to play a hero. I still have a lot to prove as a hero. In films like Chellamey and Kadugu, the situation demands that the character turn evil, while still being innately good. I'm happy to play those roles.
You seem to have an interesting line-up of films...
I have played the cop for the first time in Kaalidas, and that will be my next release after Simba. It will be followed by the social thriller, Naduvan, which will examine murders associated with extramarital affairs. I'll also be making my web debut through a series produced by Kavithalaya Productions for the Amazon Prime platform. It is a sci-fi comedy, made on a feature-film budget. Apart from me, actors like Priya Bhavani Shankar, Robo Shankar, Karunakaran and Sanjana Sarathy are also part of the project.