Actor Sree Vishnu says, “There are too many stars and not enough directors”

...says actor Sree Vishnu opening up about his new film Samajavaragamana, negotiating expectations, what lies ahead of him and more
Sree Vishnu
Sree Vishnu

The forthright, droll humour that is characteristic of most Sree Vishnu comedy performances comes through in his offscreen persona as well. “I am not making any panIndia films or big-budget entertainers. I do the small, good films that come to me and I am fortunate to find an audience for them,” he nonchalantly quips midway through the interview. Starting his career in 2009 with a supporting role in his friend Nara Rohith’s film Banam, the actor has steadily gone on to feature in a string of niche, author-backed roles through the last decade, films that have put his unassuming everyman disposition on the map.

Excerpts

After a string of action roles, you seem to be returning to comedy with Samajavaragamana…

Oh yes! I chose to work in this film because of that very reason, I wanted to make people laugh, period. This is a clean, commercial entertainer that has something for the family audience and the youth demographic in equal measure. There are no gimmicks or big surprises here, we intend to bring relief to our viewers.

So are you trying to say that there isn’t any novelty in the film?

The characters and the dynamics are the same, vis-avis most comedies set around a family. Relatable moments notwithstanding, the kind of situations this family will be thrown into will set the film apart from the rest. There is one plot point in the film that has not been explored in any Telugu film so far. I am fairly confident that the audience will receive this very well.

Could you explain the context behind the title Samajavaragamana a bit?

As you might be aware — Samajavaragamana has been the title of many a popular song across generations — from K Viswanath’s Sankarabharanam (1980) to Balayya Babu’s Top Hero (1994) to the more recent hit number from Allu Arjun’s Ala Vaikuntapuramuloo (2020). Titles of my films, be it a Raja Raja Chora, Arjuna Phalguna or a Brochevaruevarura had that Acha Telugudhanam with that Sanskrit touch. We wanted to continue that tradition with this film as well. The familiarity of the word Samajavaragamana with Telugu audiences also played a role in us choosing this title. The intention was to have something traditional without sounding too pedantic. The title had to strike a chord with a wide segment of the audience at the same time.

Unlike comedies, your work in other genres has not been received very well. How do you feel about the ups and downs you have in the path of experimentation?

It is fair for the audience to expect to be entertained. I have noticed that in some of the films I have done earlier, maybe because we were trying to tell too many things or we were in a rather serious zone — those films lost their entertainment factor in the process. It was a relief with Samajavaragamana, to not worry too much about its subject. This was a film I made with a lot of confidence. I intend to continue making films that have a lot of fun in them.

You have worked with newcomers throughout your career. Directors like Vivek Athreya and Venu Udugula have made their careers after working with you. Do you feel any disappointment with having not worked with a lot of “star” directors over the years?

There are too many stars today and not enough directors. People making films for stars are not able to secure dates of heroes, if that is the state of things in the top rung of the business, you can imagine how it is for the rest of us. There is little I can do when people have scripts with a certain kind of star or level of stardom in their minds. On the flip side, it is very interesting to work with newcomers.

Do you regret not having attained the kind of stardom that some of your peers enjoy?

No, not really. Nobody can control who becomes a star and who does not. Being an actor, getting good at the craft is comparatively more doable and I believe I have achieved that in my time here. I am also happy that despite doing smaller and more niche films, my producers have never suffered enormously. I have also managed to be practical throughout my career.

As an established actor often working with newcomers, do you find yourself mentoring them, giving story inputs along the way?

Yes, I do. I try my best to unify my cast and crew in the preproduction process itself, ensuring things are smooth sailing even before we get on the floors. As far as other factors go, I am not one to toot my own horn and take credit for my input. Some do that and more power to them, but that is not my style.

You are working next on the prequel of your 2021 critically acclaimed crime comedy Raja Raja Chora. Could you speak a bit more about that project?

The film focuses more on the episodes of Raju as a thief, before he gets married. There are three short stories in the first film, narrated by Gangavva’s character. The prequel will focus on three stories and features me in three different looks. The prequel is going to be a VFX-heavy film, the cast is going to be entirely different but the team behind the camera is the same.

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