Satyadev Kancharana, ever since his blink-and-a-miss appearance in Mr Perfect, has been one actor that audiences have wanted to see more of. Despite the many eccentricities in the characters he plays, there’s likeability and a strange sense of mystery he has brought to his performances. He’s like the puzzle you get addicted to. He’s that success story every newcomer in the industry wishes to have. His on-screen enthusiasm is palpable but remarkably controlled too. Opportunities haven’t come by thick and fast for the underrated actor and he hasn’t been the one to make a fuss about it.
A filmography with appearances in Jyothi Lakshmi, Brochevarevura, The Ghazi Attack, Antariksham, iSmart Shankar and George Reddy can be a cause of anyone’s envy. He hasn’t taken this to his head and instead used them as a worthy showcase to exploit his range. It was Anish Kuruvilla’s Gods of Dharmapuri that catapulted him to stardom in the digital space, where he truly appeared to have arrived as an intense performer. His latest digital show, Locked for the OTT platform Aha, opened viewers to another dimension of the actor, as he played a dubious neurosurgeon, Dr Anand. Last seen in the Sankranti blockbuster Sarileru Neekevvaru, LetsOTT.com talks to him about the sweet taste of success and getting his due in the industry finally…
It has been nine years since your first film Mr Perfect had released and you’ve slogged your way to reach where you are today. Has the wait been long?
I see my nine-year career as a step-by-step progression, it was a gradual growth. I grew with every film, every second project of mine bettered what I did before. I began my acting stint by playing a friend to Prabhas in Mr Perfect. Everyone needs to wait for their time. As a person, you must never quit. You’ll get your due when it’s destined to happen. Many people claim that a few actors have achieved overnight success, but one doesn’t know the struggles they may have faced. It looks like a rosy story when viewed from a third person’s perspective.
Was it easier to progress because you never wanted to be the conventional mainstream hero in the first place?
True! Acting was the only thing on my mind – it never mattered if I was the hero or not. I needed an outlet to express the latent emotions concealed within me. It didn’t matter if it was a character role or a hero. I have loved every character that I’ve played in all the projects I got. I am greedy when it comes to acting and want to do a bit of everything. I feel very bad when I repeat myself. It’s important to try something different and keeps igniting my desire to perform.
What do you think has shaped you as an actor – the many struggles, rejections or the burning desire to succeed?
It’s hunger that has made me what I am today. I am so passionate about the craft that I rewatch my performances many times to understand what I could have done better and re-enact it at home daily. I keep questioning myself as an actor. Struggle is an essential aspect of any profession, you’ve to work your way past it. The uncertainty in the film industry makes the journey slightly more complicated. Be it a sport like boxing or even cricket, if you practice it every day for a year, chances are that you’ll become a professional at it. In the film industry, you may work for a year on a film and still not have a result – you really need to be internally motivated to do that.
That must not have been that easy, especially because there was no launchpad waiting for you…
I have been focused enough to take one thing at a time. I believe the film industry is a place where you’ll come across the most self-motivated people ever. Even after handling the uncertainty in this field, they wake up every morning, ignite the fire in them, come out of their rooms facing the world and smile as if everything’s okay, chill and get back to the routine the next day. At the end of the day, a film may or may not ensure your success. But, why do actors do it? You need immense drive and passion to keep at it for years.
Like Dr Anand, the character you play in your latest release 'Locked', do you genuinely believe geniuses have an evil side to them?
Every human has a dark dimension you may never know of, regardless of successful or creative people. In my opinion, creative people explore their darker side more. You see, artistes are emotional, sensitive people. Sadness and failure play a huge role in the creation of any form of art – be it a story, a painting or music. It has to tickle the innermost emotion of a person to elicit something creative. You may never know what’s so dark about a person or what triggered the work of art – the reason is secondary. Similarly, our opinions about people change with time – we go onto hate the same person we may have once been extremely fond of. Kevin Spacey was one of the most celebrated actors a few years before – how is he looked at, now? (in reference to the occasion where he was outed during the MeToo movement)
The duality in Dr Anand makes him a fascinating character. It’s hard to believe he would have a notorious side…
Yes, and I really liked the fact I got to play a character who has complete conviction in his beliefs – he truly believes he’s right and doesn’t think twice about the ifs and buts. He is someone who’s saving lives, making many families happy, even if it is happening at the cost of the life of a homeless guy. Eventually, he’s making someone smile and is a hero to them. However, as a person, you still know that he is flawed and problematic. I have always had a liking for darker characters – a Thanos, a Joker have a logical reasoning behind everything they do. They look at the world differently and that’s what makes them fascinating.
Do you believe Dr Anand has a humane dimension too?
Make no mistake, Dr Anand is a murderer in the guise of a neurosurgeon. He’s also someone who solves the most complex of cases that come to him with ease. However, it’s the darker side to his life and overnight experiments that lay a foundation for the good he does. Someone needs to be a scapegoat for his research and they happen to be humans instead of rats. How morally right is it to use rats for our experiments and research purposes as well? They’re the scapegoats because we can’t experiment with our ideas upon humans. You may say that killing/testing rats for research purposes is inevitable to save humans, but how will a rat perceive that? Is their life any less valuable because they’re smaller in size? What if an association for rats condemned this human practice? This show casts a light on the flawed sense of morality that we possess. I and the director (Pradeep Deva Kumar) created a skeleton of the character and built upon it over the course of its making. If one noticed, he has a few interesting quirks too – his sense of hygiene, cleanliness, his reluctance to shake hands because of his sweaty palms.
You, Samyukta Hornad and veteran actor Sri Lakshmi have truly come out of your comfort zone to play these edgy roles in Locked, unlike your easy-going off-screen persona. The contrast between your real and reel life was rather surprising…
We’re ultimately professionals at the end of the day. Regardless of how jovial we are, we don’t let that interfere with our roles. It was memorable working with Sri Lakshmi garu and I’ve been a huge fan of hers. Locked was the first time I ever worked with her/met her. She became a mother-like figure on the set. I’ve known Samyukta since G.O.D, so the coordination was easy as well. Ultimately, everyone wants to give their best shot to a scene, compel each other to get better. It’s a thin line where they need to distinguish themselves from what they are and the character they play – luckily most of my co-stars have done it in all the projects I’ve been a part of.
All said and done, it was Jyothilakshmi that showed the world what you were capable of. It took a Puri Jagannadh to give a direction to your career. Do you owe your career progress to him?
There’s no doubt about it at all. If you consider me a young boy who wasn’t tall enough to witness the world in its ultimate glory, he was like that elderly figure who not only lifted me up with his own hands, but also introduced the world to me (and me to the world too). If you consider the world as a film industry, Puri Jagannadh was that elderly figure who got me to the position that I’m in, today. My career can be divided into two phases – before and after Jyothilakshmi. At the same time, I give credit to director Dasaradh for introducing me through Mr Perfect. Mr Perfect is the very reason that I’m able to do an Uma Maheshwara Ugra Roopasya today.
You’ve managed to be versatile in a relatively brief career – portraying lead roles, negative roles, character-driven parts and a few extended special appearances (where your role was crucial) with several established directors and newcomers. Does this variety need planning or is it a by-product of the opportunities that have knocked your door?
A considerable amount of planning went behind it. I am a hungry guy and the direction of my career boils down to how I channelise my hunger. There’s every chance that many in my position would have taken up everything that came their way, especially when they’re desperately seeking an opportunity. Yet, I have been judicious with my choices and never took up projects where I didn’t have my heart in. Versatility involves some forethought and to an extent, is dependent on the projects that come your way. I am proud to say that I don’t have any regrets in my project choices. I’ve taken up every project because it struck a chord with me in some form. I feel responsible for the decisions I make and never want to ponder over them again. I came to an alien industry not knowing anyone. I know, for a fact that no one will lift me up when my chips are down. I am a product of the decisions I make and I hence give a lot of weight to them.
You’ve worked hard to be in films all your life. Given opportunities in the digital medium came your way when your film career had just begun flourishing, were you in two minds about your decision?
I never felt it that way. Why should an actor be worried about the medium at all? Does the camera know if it is filming an ad or a short film or a feature? I believe in taking up something only if I like it. I had five films in my hand when I was shooting for Gods of Dharmapuri. I finished Uma Maheshwara…. and shot for Locked. There’s no reason we should look down upon the digital space – the crème de la crème of Bollywood and Hollywood is reaping rich dividends out of it. Radhika Apte and Nawazuddin Siddiqui have found great roles in digital shows. Ultimately, the web reaches out to more people than a film during its theatrical run. It’s more democratic and I would only want more Telugu actors to consider the medium seriously.
Your next release Uma Maheshwara…. would have ideally hit theatres by now if not for the global pandemic. The promos and trailers have grabbed the eyeballs of many…
I am really looking forward to its release because it’s a story that needs to be told. And Venkatesh Maha was one of the most sorted directors that I have ever worked with. I and Maha are eagerly waiting for people to watch it because we know how well the film has shaped up. The first thing that we plan to do after lockdown is to ensure its release. The beauty of the film is its realism.
Telugu cinema and Bollywood have constantly fed us with larger-than-life characters that we can’t identify with, in our immediate society, whereas Uma Maheshwar Rao is a real-life hero. He is like the many men in our family – our dad, brother or that uncle in the neighbourhood. On a lighter note, women too go onto marry a character like Uma Maheshwar Rao and not the so-called superheroes they see on the screen. He’s timid, funny, shy, strong and brave – all rolled into one at different situations. In terms of the quirks in the character, his behaviour, dialogue delivery and the way he looks, it has been a great experience and I can assure you that Uma Maheshwara… will be a refreshing watch.