Vasishta Simha: Nobody is born as a villain or a hero
The actor, who has mainly appeared in negative or character roles, turns hero for the film India vs England
Though he is known for his versatility and his baritone voice, as well as his singing prowess, Vasishta Simha has mostly appeared as an antagonist or in character roles in films. His upcoming film, India vs England, showcases him as a full-fledged hero. “When you enter a film as an actor, it is always exciting, but when you're the hero, the feeling is different,” says Vasishta, admitting that he feels anxious. “How people will accept me and what they expect from me is a thought that’s running constantly in my mind.”
Citing examples of actors who started as villains and transformed themselves as heroes, Vasishta feels that it is rarely seen today, “Back then, we had actors like Ambareesh and Rajinikanth, who initially started as villains and then turned heroes. It made me realise that this transition is not wrong. Now the scenario is different and there is a lot of competition. Today, I am really not keen on the result. But at the same time, I don’t like to hear this sentence, 'Avane eno maadkondeddnalla, evalla bekitha (he was doing something, did he need this now)?' As an actor, I am confident that people do have a good opinion about my character portrayal. However, on the whole, when it comes to cinema, you are shouldering a bigger responsibility as a hero, and I am keen to know the audience's view from that perspective.”
Vasishta recalls the day Mestru (Nagathihalli) approached him for India vs England. “I get a call from an unknown number, and the caller introduced himself as ‘Geleya, naanu Nagathihalli’, before enquiring about my films, and mentioning that I should be working in his directorial. Without a thought, I replied with a question, ‘For which character, Mestru,’ and he said, ‘Hero’. Right at that moment, I asked him whether he had dialled the wrong number. It would have felt normal if anybody else had popped this question. But coming from Nagathihalli sir, it was quite surprising. Especially, if we look back at the heroes he has cast in his previous films, they all look so soft and fair. But he stressed that he needed an unconventional-looking actor, and also break the myth about the NRI looks, and he thought I fitted the bill. I came on board after just a few rounds of discussions.”
Turning a hero involved a lot of changes for Vasishta. “I was given just 15 days to join the sets of India vs England, right after the shoot of Kavacha. Within that, I reduced the 7 kgs I had gained for Kavacha. I also underwent a total makeover, including the hairstyle,” he reveals, adding that the kind of costumes he has worn in this film is something he has never done earlier. “Thanks to designer Pavithra Kumar for making me look good.”
Giving a sneak peek into India vs England, Vasishta says, “Everybody who watches this movie is sure to dig into history. According to me, a person without a sense of history, who has no knowledge about family roots, native place, the state, country, and world, is not human, and this is brought out in India vs England. The film also discusses the NRI lifestyle.”
He feels that the character of a blogger that he plays in the film is drawn from Nagathihalli’s personality as he has been blogging for a long time.
Talking about his experience of working with Nagathihalli, Vasishta says although the former has been a director even before his birth, he was never commanding. “He gives a lot of freedom to the artistes. He is a workaholic with deep knowledge about our state,” he says.
Vasishta has a series of films coming up next, which feature him as the lead, either solo or as part of an ensemble cast. So does that mark an end to his character and negative roles? “Actually, people never treated me as a ‘villain’. I think the last time we saw a proper villain on-screen was Ravi Shankar. It was a conscious call to become a villain. I've always loved playing the antagonist since my theatre days. However, my role in Godhi Banna Sadharana Mykattu changed that perspective, and people started calling me ‘the villain with the chocolate look’. They have been giving me the same love that they have showered for other heroes. I have got the opportunity to play the lead now, but I'd still love to do negative roles, provided there is some substance in the grey shade. According to me, nobody is a born hero or a villain. It is the director’s call. We just have to go by his instructions.”