Jagapathi Babu: There's nothing great about being a hero in movies
In this freewheeling chat, the actor, who is currently in Mysuru shooting for Mahesh Kumar’s Madagaja, tells us about his bond with the Kannada film fraternity, his Bollywood prospects, and more
Irrespective of which language or project he is part of, Jagapathi Babu has always added value to the end product. The actor, who has predominantly worked in Telugu and Tamil, is slowly developing a strong base in Kannada too. “I have started enjoying working in Kannada more, and I’m learning the language now. I am going to start dubbing with Roberrt,” says Jagapathi Babu, who is currently in Mysuru shooting for Mahesh Kumar’s Madagaja. The film has him teaming up with producer Umapathy Gowda for the second time.
Cinema Express caught up with the actor for a conversation, and he talked about his love for Bengaluru, learning Kannada, finding a friend in Darshan, the pandemic, and his Bollywood prospects.
‘My affection for Bengaluru dates from the time I was a student in Chennai’
“As a student, I lived in Chennai and would travel to Bengaluru every other week. I would take the Bangalore Mail and leave by the Brindavan train in the morning. I wanted to be here even if I got to spend just two to three hours in the city. I would spend the summer holidays here because my aunt and uncle lived here. My affection for the city dates from then,” says the actor, who makes a special mention about Kannada people. “Basically Kannada people are very innocent, and they have a pure fascination about stardom,” says Jagapathi, who adds that actor Rakshita has been a ‘godmother’ and guide for him.
‘I trust producer Umapathy's judgement and taste’
After Roberrt, Jagapathi Babu is teaming up with producer Umapathy again for Madagaja. “There are other projects which were offered, but I couldn’t take them up because of date issues. But with Umapathy, what I've found is, he is good with his work. As a producer, he spends where he has to spend, and at the same time, he is hands-on with the project,” says Jagapathi, adding, “His banner will grow, and so will he. I trust him for his judgement and taste, and his sincerity towards his projects.”
‘I’m much older than Darshan, but we are friends’
Jagapathi says that actor Darshan, with whom he has worked in Roberrt, has been very sweet to him. “Although neither me nor Darshan is exactly the talkative kind, we got along well,” says the actor, adding, “I don't talk much. My conversation with people is limited to when I have something to talk about. I don’t force myself to talk. He is similar and initially kept to himself. But with time, we bonded. Though I am much older than him, I would say we are friends. I have heard of his good nature and service-oriented mindset.”
Jagapathi Babu has nice things to say about his Madagaja co-star as well. “I have just started interacting with Sriimurali, and he is also a sweet person. Generally, I don’t have issues with anybody unless they act up. Some people get carried away and act up and I don’t like talking to them,” he mentions.
Take on pandemic and its impact
“The pandemic may come and go, but we need to move forward. Of course, we need to follow the government rules and be cautious. Till the lockdown was relaxed, we did not get out of our houses. But we can’t be scared and sit at home all our lives. Secondly, this is not something which we will know for sure will get over in 2-3 months. So, I say, when it comes, it comes. Till now, I don’t have it, so that’s good,” says the actor.
Cinema, he feels, is not just entertainment but a magic world and so, people won’t let go of it that easily. “Maybe the small screen will take over, but cinema will go on. I have signed 19 films and have been working every day from September 2, with small gaps. I have been travelling to different cities, juggling various projects. I have mingled with at least 7,000 people. Touchwood, I’m still fine,” adds the actor, who feels relaxed after the six-month break. “It was a proper holiday, which I couldn’t have taken normally. I got the chance to do a lot of yoga and meditation. I found time to discover myself and it has helped me to behave even better. I enjoyed my time at home, and now I’m enjoying my time on the sets.”
Anticipating good times to come
The 125-odd-films old actor is happy that his career in took off despite some bad luck at the start. “My initial films flopped. Life is like that, and that’s a good thing. I prefer a good time to come later than a bad time. If I hadn’t had the flops at the end of my career as a hero, I wouldn’t have landed the variety of roles I’m doing right now. Everything happens for good,” says Jagapathi.
He recalls his conversation with Amitabh Bachchan during the making of Chiranjeevi’s Sye Raa. “I told him that we have a very similar journey — the initial flops, voices being rejected, having a slew of hits, bankruptcy, and then making it to small screens. To which, he mentioned that’s the way life has to be, and only then we can learn, which is very true,” says Jagapathi, who adds that his first two films in Kannada didn’t do that well, and he is now looking forward to Roberrt, which will be a sure-shot hit, followed by Madagaja. “I liked the way Roberrt director Tharun Kishore Sudhir handled the project, and the camerawork of Sudhakar S Raj is something to watch out for.”
‘It’s important to be a hero in real life, not on screen’
Jagapathi is enjoying this phase of his career, where he is getting to explore a variety of roles. He feels it has enabled him to be an actor, something he wouldn’t have been able to do as a hero. “I am certainly enjoying playing various roles. I get to be responsible as an actor, but not entirely responsible for the final product. Earlier, there was a time when I would return the money to producers when they were in trouble. I don’t have that issue now. I am an actor, not a hero.” Jagapathi Babu thinks it is more important to be a hero in real life than on screen. “There's nothing great about being a hero in movies. The various characters I've been able to explore with various directors and top actors from every industry, this is something I wouldn’t have got if I had remained a hero,” says the actor, who hints at a prospective Bollywood foray by the end of this year or 2021.