Rajasekhar: Shekhar is the most intriguing character I have ever played in my career

Rajasekhar opens up on life after Covid-19, his journey as an actor, and discusses playing a retired cop for the first time in his career
Rajasekhar in Shekhar
Rajasekhar in Shekhar

Dr Rajasekhar's 91st film, Shekhar, is hitting the screens on May 20. The nervousness ahead of the release makes him feel like exam results are to be announced. "I am an anxious person and am anticipating the moment like a student waiting for exam results or a politician contesting an election. However, the response to my look and also the trailer has instilled confidence in me," he begins.

A remake of Malayalam crime-thriller Joseph (2018), the film has Rajasekhar playing a retired cop, who is seen sporting a salt-and-pepper look for the first time. The 60-year-old actor admits that he found the prospect of Joseph exciting and liked the way the protagonist's character was conceived. "The film could be a game-changer in two aspects: it's the most intriguing character I have ever played in my career and the script brought a sense of freshness in terms of my look. I had to prepare a lot to look mature, and in control to portray the intense emotions. My close friends who have watched the film (in a special preview) are in awe of my new look, story, and performance. Sai Kumar, who dubbed my lines in the film, believes that I have a winner in hand. I am sure the people will relate to my character, it wouldn't matter even if they have seen the original."

He couldn't contain his excitement and shares, "Shekhar is a wholesome entertainer and it will be remembered for its soul-stirring emotions and family drama. I believe that the film will give the vibe of my previous outings Akka Mogudu, Maa Aayana Bangaram, Gorintaku, Maa Annayya, and Simharasi, which were received well by all kinds of the audience. I am waiting to see how the audience will reciprocate our efforts," he adds.

The film brings together Rajasekhar and Jeevitha as an actor-director duo after 9 years. "We had considered a couple of names before finalising Jeevitha. She has done a wonderful job and got the best from the entire cast. She was quite successful in the art of remaking a film and I believe only she could do justice to this film. Apart from that, Anoop Rubens's re-recording is also the soul of our film,” he opines.

The film is also special because Rajasekhar and his elder daughter Shivani played on-screen father-daughter for the first time. "It’s not an opportunity every actor can get. Shivani is a natural actor and is getting noticed for her work. Casting Shivani as my daughter in the film will bring an instant emotional connection. She will be seen in a cameo that comes at a crucial juncture in the story. Her performance will leave a lasting impression,” says the actor.

A week before Shekhar was to go on floors, Rajasekhar had fallen severely ill due to Covid-19. “My condition was critical and everyone was worried. Thankfully, I have recovered and completed the film with renewed energy,” he explains, adding, “Our team had extensive discussions before commencing the shoot. The audience has become wiser and their tastes were refined after the pandemic. So to bring them to the theatres, we should offer something new and special. I think Shekhar is one such film that will appeal to all kinds of audiences. We have given our best and I am sure our film will not disappoint anyone."

Rajasekhar maintains that they have made Shekhar with the same amount of enthusiasm a straight film requires. "A remake film too requires the same effort as the original. Here the responsibility will be huge as comparisons will be drawn. Most of the films I have worked on are remakes. From my experience, I have learned that we should not tamper with the original and always stay true to the soul. Hence, we have kept the psyche of Joseph intact. The original feels a bit lengthy...so we have restyled our film and made it tighter and crisp. I guess people will be able to sense that,” he reveals.

He isn’t apprehensive of the comparisons. “I think only a small percentage of the audience would have watched Joseph. So that was not an issue. I firmly believe those who have watched the original will also come to theatres to watch Shekhar,” the actor brims with confidence.

Rajasekhar is on the verge of completing four decades in the industry. Hitherto, he has seen many ups and downs in showbiz. Asked how he evaluates his journey so far? He says, “Recently I went to a college and the students were asking me the secret behind my longevity. I have survived in the industry for the last 38 years because I choose my scripts with care. I am a successful actor and people are still accepting me. I think staying relevant is important. I am carrying the same enthusiasm I had during my initial days. I have done 91 films so far and I want to complete 100 films as a lead actor. After that, I am open to playing different roles, including negative roles. I hate sitting idle and I don’t wish to retire.”

So what’s next? “I am teaming up with Pavan Sadineni for an action entertainer. The film will be in my element and will be made on a pan-India scale. I will be sporting short hair and a bearded look. We are planning to take the film onto the sets in June. I am also joining hands with Praveen Sattaru for the sequel of PSV Garudavega. It is expected to go on floors either in November or December,” signs off Rajasekhar.

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