Nikhil Siddhartha: 18 Pages is more than a love story
The actor says he hasn't done a film as unique as 18 Pages in his career
Nikhil Siddhartha’s long journey with 18 Pages finally finds closure on Friday. The film, written by Sukumar and directed by his protege Palnati Surya Pratap, began in 2019, beheld multiple setbacks over the course of its production, and is finally hit the marquee. Hours before the film’s release, Nikhil is a bundle of nerves. “I am anxious to see how the audience reacts to the film's climax,” he says. There’s a lot of excitement and anticipation surrounding the climax, which we will uncover in a couple of hours. There are many speculations floating around. Is it something that we haven’t seen in Telugu cinema? “Yes!” Nikhil confidently responds without thinking twice. “Even I couldn’t guess the climax.”
Speaking about the reasons behind the film’s delay, Nikhil shares, “Sukumar sir got busy with Pushpa and he was not available for nearly six months to finish the scripting process and I got busy with Karthikeya 2 during the same time. We also opted for some reshoots to improve the quality of some scenes that we had to initially rush through originally for logistical purposes. You can say we took some time for scripting and other improvements. But the story remains unscathed. We shot exactly what Sukumar said has penned.”
Nikhil’s previous release, Karthikeya 2, had been released in Hindi in August earlier this year and it performed beyond expectations, opening a market for the actor in the North. While it is natural for the trade to expect his upcoming releases to release in Hindi too, Nikhil says the process might not be that simplistic after all. “Dubbing a film into Hindi and releasing it is a huge process. If done nonchalantly, it doesn’t reflect well at all. Take, for instance, a film like Sita Ramam, which was released in Hindi nearly 45 days after its Telugu release. In the case of Karthikeya 2, we had everything aligned for the Hindi release. With 18 Pages, however, we hadn’t planned a Hindi version when we kickstarted it back in 2019 and we felt that suddenly opting for a pan-India release might not be right. It is important that the originality of the story remains intact.”
The actor asserts that 18 Pages is “more than a love story” and vocally expresses disinterest to act in "simple" love stories. “I hate love stories!” he says with a laugh. “I believe I have always done films that are not just plain love stories. For instance, take Surya vs Surya (2015), which looks like a love story on the surface level but is actually about a person with a health condition and the challenges he faces due to it. 18 Pages is more of a crazy love story. It will offer a thrilling experience.”
Sukumar’s association with a project lends a certain level of creative credibility to it, assuring his trademark touch, dubbed ‘Sukumark’ by cinephiles. Nikhil believes 18 Pages also has Sukumar written all over it. “Trust me when I say I haven’t done a film like 18 Pages, in which every facet—from the character design of the leads to the screenplay—is unconventional. To be honest, I would be puzzled while shooting any scene. It was only after watching the finished film a couple of days back did it all make sense ultimately and I got confidence about the film,” says Nikhil, laughing. He also expresses optimism that the film will fulfill a long-pending due. “Even though I have done some good films, I still sometimes feel I haven’t been recognised for my performance. With 18 Pages, I feel will make people talk about my performance. Every scene was a challenge performance-wise in the film."
Reeling back to his headspace, Nikhil reveals that he is “scared” to see the reactions of the audience and the critics but there’s one part of him that’s keeping him content. “Regardless of the success or failure of 18 Pages, I believe everyone will accept it is a good attempt. That, I can guarantee,” he signs off.