'The sets of Pushpa was my film school'
Jagadeesh Prathap Bandari talks about his latest release Sathi Gani Rendu Ekaralu, his journey in acting, his filmmaking aspirations and more
Jagadeesh Prathap’s interesting trajectory in the world of cinema from relative obscurity to fame with his breakout role as Kesava, Allu Arjun’s man Friday and the narrator of 2021’s Pushpa: The Rise is only rivalled by his parallel trajectory towards the film industry itself. “I used to work as a sales executive in an ice cream company, in Warangal. I was responsible for sourcing and supplying snacks to multiplex cinemas in that region. I used to work in catering before that. That said, I did always have artistic ambitions.” Jagadeesh mentions that his father, an artist and athlete himself, is his primary role model. “My dad is a postman by profession. He met a lot of people, he used to hear and share innumerable stories along the way. I learnt storytelling from him. My mom, on the other hand, worked in the fields.” Speaking more about his childhood, Jagadeesh says, “I was really good at sports as well, especially badminton. I could have probably gone to play at the national level, or at least settled down as a PT coach, but I really wanted fame and that hallowed celebrity life I guess, so here I am.”
Likes Nani and SJ Suryah closer to home, it was the craft of direction that caught Jagadeesh’s fancy first. “I am an accidental actor, I initially planned to be a filmmaker first. When I decided I wanted to be a filmmaker, I taught myself acting, enacting dialogues in my room. I was writing stories right from my inter. I was convinced that I could write and narrate stories with ease, direction offered me a creative autonomy that no other craft did. So, I started my career by making a short film with my Bava, who is a cinematographer. So I took the short film with me and came to Hyderabad, which is where I met Rohit and Sasi.” They are filmmakers who run Avanti Cinema, a website and youtube channel for Indie Telugu cinema. “I used to regularly attend their screenings everywhere…be it at Ramanaidu, Saradhi or Prasad Labs. They were impressed by my earnestness when they saw me take trips from Warangal to Hyderabad and back to just attend their screenings. Soon enough, I got a small role in their web series Story Discussion and I went on to play one of the leads with Nirodyuga Natulu.”
The path to Sathi Gani Rendu Ekaralu, Jagadeesh’s first film as a lead, came through gradual turns and steps. “From working with Avanti Cinema, I went on to do supporting roles in films like Mallesham, Palasa 1978 and George Reddy. The work was good, but the money wasn’t. Then I worked in a web series called Gods Of Dharmapuri that changed my life.” Gods of Dharmapuri had Jagadeesh play a character named Chalapathi, from the time he is in his 20s to the time he is in his 50s. The series also made Jagadeesh, a Telangana native, speak in the Kadapa dialect. “I got my role in Pushpa from Gods of Dharmapuri. My experience speaking in the Kadapa dialect also made me pick up the adjacent Chittoor dialect in Pushpa.” Gods of Dharmapuri was edited by Abhinav Danda, who went on to direct Sathi Gani Rendu Ekaralu. “I was initially hesitant to accept this role, or any role for that matter, because giving my dates to Pushpa 2 was the first priority. I was asked to work in the film again, once it was turned down by a bunch of actors and I went ahead with the film, since the film was also produced by Mythri Movie Makers, who are also backing the Pushpa duology.”
Jagadeesh credits Sukumar for mentoring him to be a better performer in the commercial space. “Sukumar sir used to always take me aside and give me tips on handling relationships and strategising my career better. Acting alongside Allu Arjun, who is such a magnanimous presence himself, was a learning experience unto itself. The sets of Pushpa was my film school.” Jagadeesh assures that the stakes of Pushpa 2 will be bigger, and his own role will morph and magnify as the character graph of Pushpa Raj increases. He also has Suresh Pasha, his fellow Avanti Cinema alum Anvesh Michael’s directorial, where he plays the role of an antagonist. Jagadeesh, who also does want to get back to direction in the future signs off by saying, “I am inspired by Vijay Sethupathi’s career. He plays all kinds of roles. Versatility is what I am aspiring for, throughout my career.”