Panja Vaisshnav Tej: I never wanted to be an actor
The actor talks about the making of Uppena and his choice of films in a candid chat
Panja Vaisshnav Tej was known as Chiranjeevi's nephew and actor Sai Tej's brother long before he signed his debut film Uppena. The debutant says he didn't aspire to become an actor. "Life makes its own choices. I never wanted to be an actor. I aspired to join the Indian Army and serve the nation. I also wanted to become an astronaut, enrol myself in the photography course, and learn VFX, but never found a way. After graduation, I started losing weight and put up a few pictures on Instagram. It has opened the doors for filmmakers to approach me with their scripts. Even then, I hadn't made up my mind. One fine morning, I met Chiranjeevi mavayya and he told me that the opportunity to be an actor should not be missed. It was then I came across the script of Uppena, a rustic story," recalls Vaisshnav Tej.
The youngster, who appeared in brief roles in Johnny and Shankar Dada MBBS as a child actor, doesn't seem perturbed by all the hype surrounding Uppena. "I feel blessed to have received an overwhelming response to the promos and music of Uppena. Pawan Kalyan mavayya too watched the trailer and had some good things to say about Kriti Shetty and my performances," says the newcomer.
Although Vaisshnav learnt the nuances of acting under Dr NJ Bhikshu, he says that the atmosphere on the sets helped him hone his skills. "I had to talk in Coastal Andhra dialect for my part. Also, the dialogues in the film are sharp and meaningful. I got trained for a month to fine-tune my diction and received amazing support from the team."
He is excited and confident about Uppena's success. “I've heard a number of people debate about the climax of Uppena on social media. One thing is for sure, it will blow everyone away. The audience will be thrilled to bits,” asserts Vaisshnav.
Discussions of a direct-digital release have also cropped up as the film, which was initially planned for release last summer, got postponed due to the Covid-19 outbreak. "The pandemic times were stressful for everyone and in the midst of it, I didn't think of our film's release. Like everyone, I was worried about the well-being of people and with great confidence, have left the decision to my producers. They have followed a wait-and-watch approach and handled the situation well to ensure a grand theatrical release on February 12," explains Vaisshnav.
The nephew of Megastar wants to identify himself as an action hero. “I never thought of being introduced with a film set in a rural backdrop. But, it happened. Personally, I am a fan of action movies and relish watching the films of Mahesh Babu, Jr NTR, Prabhas, and all mega heroes. I will do such films when the time is right. I have just started and right now, I am surprised to see myself on the screen.”
On sharing screen space with Vijay Sethupathi, Vaisshnav says, “He is a sincere actor and is an asset to our film. Despite being busy, he accommodated his call sheets and completed our film. He is so grounded and I admire his off-screen persona a lot. On the last day of the shooting, he hosted a feast for the entire team and offered gifts to the lead technicians.”
Besides Uppena, Vaisshnav will also be seen in yet another rural drama under Krish's direction. “The shooting and dubbing have already been wrapped up and the promotions will begin soon. I have also signed my third film and I will divulge those details soon,” signs off Vaisshnav Tej.