Satyam Rajesh: I would love to play a lead role now and then, but I prefer being a character actor

The seasoned character actor talks to CE about his views on typecasting, the contentious differences between being a star and an actor, his favourite roles over the years, and more
Satyam Rajesh: I would love to play a lead role now and then, but I prefer being a character actor

Ever since his debut in Satyam (2003), a title that he later incorporated into his screen name, Satyam Rajesh has been the friendly face that populated the world of Telugu cinema, particularly in the comedy space. The actor reveals that his foray into comedy was accidental, saying that he initially wanted to be a villain and not a comedian. “Back in the day, my “Krishna Nagar” struggles made me really lanky. Now, one does not associate antagonists with skinny men, so nobody took me seriously when I auditioned for villain roles. Then Satyam happened. The comedy roles I got over the years created this distinct image my career began to be known by,” says Rajesh.

Two decades later, he seems to have lived his dream of playing a negative role with Maa Oori Polimera (2021), a thriller with elements of black magic, and its 2023 sequel Maa Oori Polimera 2. Rajesh has also recently appeared as a character with shades of grey in Tenant, an ensemble drama he likens to Samsaram Oka Chadarangam (1987). Post the Polimera franchise, which has surprised many of its viewers, it is fair to assume that in true film industry fashion, Rajesh has been getting bombarded with roles after roles in the horror genre. Not so long ago, Rajesh has received multiple cop roles after playing one in the Adivi Sesh starrer Kshanam (2016). What does he feel about typecasting? “I think more than typecasting, as someone who listens to stories from filmmakers on a daily basis, you see the same kind of narrative patterns emerge in most of these stories," replies Rajesh. He elaborates, "For instance, if someone is telling me they are going to narrate me a suspense thriller, my energy levels drop a bit and I go, “what kind of suspense story is he going to say now?” (laughs). Every other story has this dark road, this one malfunctioning CCTV camera, the same missing people. It is the same kind of stories you see on Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Disney+ Hotstar. I politely say it is not my cup of tea and leave. But I make sure to listen to as many stories as possible. It is important to listen to every single person out there with a story to pitch. I try my best to listen to as many people who approach me." When asked if he has anybody who to vet stories before they come his way, the actor quips, “Who do you think I really am? Naku antha scene ledhu andi (laughs). No, it is all me.”

While talking about Maa Oori Polimera and Tenant, Satyam Rajesh is quick to correct that he is not the hero of these films but rather a character in them. The actor says, “There is no heroism as such in either of my films, I play a key character.” But does the fact that he is the most known face of these said films make him a hero? Rajesh refutes the argument, saying, “The advantage of being a character actor, as opposed to a hero, is that, you get to play a range of roles. If you are a hero, the role you play is dictated by your market value and the expectations you have from your fans. Two decades ago, I would have jumped at the idea of being a hero, but I know better now. As a hero, you are subject to so much scrutiny and stress. I would love to play a lead role now and then, but I prefer being a character actor. For me, any role, at the end of the day, is a character.” 

When enquired about his most memorable roles over the years, the actor goes down the memory lane and picks a few favourites. “I really enjoyed working in Teja garu’s Oka V Chitram (2006). I don’t know if many people know this film, but I played a poet in the film. I had a blast working in Oka V Chitram. I also liked Vedam (2010), where I worked closely with Allu Arjun. The New Year Eve scene from the film makes the rounds on social media annually, and it feels good to see people remember the film to this date. Mirchi (2013) and Fidaa (2017) were also some great times while working on the film. I worked with Anil Ravipudi on almost all of his films and we have forged a fun equation over the years.  Polimera… was a film we shot during the lockdown. To go to work on location in a village like Dhammapeta, when the world was shut down, was also memorable in its own way.” says Rajesh.

The actor has Varun Tej’s Matka and the Ravi Teja starrer Mr Bachchan in the pipeline. Rajesh is also working with Sathyaraj in a yet-to-be-titled film. “I am currently working on the film, as we speak. It might release in multiple languages, I am not sure. There are also a couple of projects I am excited about, but I cannot talk about them at the moment,” signs off Rajesh.

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