Abburi Ravi: I agreed to play a terrorist in Operation Gold Fish because of my friendship with Sai Kiran Adivi
The actor talks about his role in Sai Kiran Adivi's upcoming action thriller, Operation Gold Fish
Renowned dialogue and screenplay writer Abburi Ravi steps into unfamiliar territory in director Sai Kiran Adivi's action thriller, Operation Gold Fish, playing an angst-ridden terrorist. The actor, who hasn't charged a penny as remuneration for the film, describes working with Sai as a family reunion. "Sai may not have made much money, but he has made a lot of good friends in the industry. He is like family to me and I have signed this film out of my respect and love for him," says Ravi, who believes Operation Gold Fish will "evoke the patriotic spirit and will make everyone proud of our country."
Excerpts from an interview:
"Before signing Operation Gold Fish, I had appeared in a cameo in Cheekati Rajyam and also acted in a couple of ad films. That was because the situations demanded it. Recently, I was offered the roles of Chowdary (Kshanam), Acharya (Goodachari), and Vinay Varma (Evaru), but I didn't take those up as I never wanted to be an actor. However, I agreed to play the full-on negative role of a terrorist named Ghazi Baba as a token of my friendship with director Sai Kiran Adivi. It was he who suggested I try out for this role," says Ravi, who admits to having apprehensions over playing such a sensitive character. "I also wondered how my mother and children would feel about the role. But Sai convinced me to give an audition. It was a scene where the evilness had to come through in my expression. Instead of shouting Jihad, I chanted Jai Hind! The unit members clapped and Sai was happy with the shot."
However, he soon had second thoughts and wanted to quit. "But Sai was confident in my abilities. So I gave it my 100 per cent."
Ravi's role has two shades — a terrorist in his 20s and mid-40s. "I have tried to show two different modulations to bring substance to these timelines. Apart from acting, I am also involved in scriptwriting, music sittings, dialogues, and editing for the film. The overwhelming response to the first look and trailer has been both satisfying and humbling," he says.
A difficult process
Ravi found acting to be quite challenging. "I remember once Kamal Haasan garu said, 'Being an actor is like being on a paid holiday.' Acting may be an easy process for someone like him, but for people like me, it's not. It is a big challenge to perform in an easy manner."
He recounts some of the difficulties he faced. "While playing the younger part of Ghazi Baba, instead of size 9, we got shoes that were a size smaller. As a result, I got shoe bite and also damaged my feet while walking on the rocks. It was very painful, but I couldn't let that show on screen. Another challenge was internalising the dialogue delivery and voice modulation in sync with the character." He credits his experience as a writer for helping him understand these aspects better. "I worked for six-seven months with sheer dedication and pulled off this character."
Based on true incidents
Operation Gold Fish, Ravi tells us, is based on real-life observations. He goes on to say, "I can vouch for the fact that you wouldn’t have seen something like this in Telugu cinema before. The way it has been shot and the narrative are all new." Calling it a "patriotic" story which is narrated against the backdrop of Kashmiri Pandits and their struggles from the 90s, Ravi adds, "We did extensive research, met a lot of people, and shot in Kashmir to stay true to the story. We went by the information available including the details procured from Union Minister Rajnath Singh's office, Jammu Kashmir Society, Raka Sudhakar Rao, a senior journalist, and Suresh Kochatla, an RSS and BJP administrator."
He lists some of the incidents they have chosen to highlight in the film. "Sample this: A 200-acre landlord Bharat Nandan ran away after Kashmiri Pandits' exodus, and he is now working as a software engineer in Hyderabad. A famed novelist Rahul Pandita, who wrote the book Our Moon has Blood Clots owned a 22-room swanky house in Kashmir. But he was forced to vacate his house, and to fulfill his mother's last wish, he was escorted by a militant to click the pictures of his house. The militants had given an ultimatum to Pandits saying, 'Relu (convert to Islam, you will survive ), Xelu (quit Kashmir, you will survive), Gelu (you will die if you stay here).' We have incorporated several real incidents like this and woven a story with fact and fiction."
Story not tweaked after current events
"We haven't tweaked the story after the government repealed Article 370 and Article 35A of the Indian Constitution," Ravi says, adding, "We have been working on this film for three years and the government's decision came as a surprise to us. After the reorganisation bill, we put out a thanks note to the government and saluted the soldiers and the Kashmiri Pandits who have lost their lives fighting for their rights before the end credits."
At the helm
Though he is enjoying his stint as a writer and now, an actor, Ravi confesses that directing is what he really wants to do. "I narrated a script to Amitabh Bachchan garu in 2002 and wanted to debut as a story and dialogue writer, but things never materialised. Again in 2013, I pitched another storyline to him, but luck was not on my side. During Oopiri (2016), I also met director Rohit Shetty and narrated a story each to Akshay Kumar and John Abraham, but nothing happened. All these stories were written keeping Bollywood audience in mind. Now that I want to debut as a director in Telugu, I am working on a story to prove my credibility as a director. I think my past experience of working as an assistant director on films like Nuvve Nuvve (2002) and Ela Cheppanu (2003) will come in handy."
In the pipeline
Ravi has several other projects in the offing. "Ten years after Kick (2009), I reunited with actor Ravi Teja for Disco Raja. I am also providing dialogues and screenplay for Adivi Sesh's Telugu-Hindi bilingual Major, a biopic based on 26/11 attack hero Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan. Sesh and director Sashi Kiran Thikka interacted with Sandeep's parents, relatives, his colleagues, and several other NSG commandos to prepare the script, and portray incidents from his life that are not in the public domain. It's a unique story about our national hero, and we are trying to capture the core emotions with patriotism as the backdrop. I am sure Major is going to be one of the best films of my career," he signs off.