Q & A with Naga Shaurya
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30 January 2019

The film Aswathama that releases on January 31 is surely a labour of love for actor Naga Shaurya. Apart from writing the story of the film, the actor has produced it as well. But what’s really intriguing is that he even got a tattoo of the film’s title on his chest and underwent a complete physical transformation to look the part. Ahead of the film’s release, he speaks to us in a brief but insightful conversation...

The idea of Aswathama
We start off asking Shaurya how the idea of the film came to him. He recalls, “The release of my film Chalo was postponed from December 29, 2017 to February 2, 2018. We thought it would not be a great time to promote the film because Sankranti releases of the big stars were coming up as well. I took a trip to Mumbai meanwhile to relax and destress at a friend’s place. Within 2-3 days I realised he was dull and not speaking much.”

On prodding, the friend shared an incident with him that was surprising to Shaurya who never knew something like that could happen. “Eventually a police case was filed but no result came of it. But the incident stayed with me when I returned to Hyderabad. While I was disturbed by it, I realised that it would be nice to tell a story of this sort in the medium that is accessible to me and has the ability to reach a wide audience,” he shares adding that he worked on the concept and developed the story over time.

From the looks of the film’s trailer, teaser and other promos, one can understand that it explores the action and entertainer space alongside talking about crimes committed against women. It also seems possible that the film is a thriller. Shaurya explains, “I am an amateur writer and learnt at every step of the process taking suggestions from people around me. While writing this story, I decided not to have any genre in mind and to let the story speak. Which is why it is hard to classify this into a certain category. I’d let the audience tell me what they take from it.” He adds that the film would connect to families because it is emotionally driven.

“I wanted the story to be as real as possible. Over 70 per cent of the film features incidents that happened in real in various districts across AP and Telangana. Except for the villain’a character, nothing is fictional,” shared the actor talking about why this film is special to him. He adds, “Since the film began, a lot has changed in my life, both good and bad. I have learnt to be more passionate about my craft and have developed an understanding of how money can’t be wasted because every penny is hard earned and you can’t spend it so easily!”

The actor says that he knew he had wasted money on Narthanasala and seems to regret it as well. “I shouldn’t be wasting my parents money and should instead be helping them out in my own capacity, if needed.”

He states that this journey of growth and realisation is what makes this film a very special one.

The permanent tattoo
Shaurya is surely drawing a lot of attention for the permanent tattoo of the film’s name that he got on his chest. Speaking about the same, he clarifies that this was surely no publicity stunt as is being assumed by many. “I’ve wanted a tattoo from very long. I am a youngster and have seen many friends get it and was thinking of was keen to get some pattern done for me too. However, a chance encounter with one man in the US changed things for me,” he says.

Apparently, this man, an acquaintance, told him that tattoos were only done for military personnel who would ink a line every time they killed someone and that when the person died, his greatness was gauged by the number of lines on his body. “I don’t know if it’s true or not but he said that tattoos have evolved into a fashion accessory and it hit me hard. He said that when my future generations ask me what the story behind my tattoo is, it should be something that I can tell them proudly about, something that will get respect from them. I kept that in mind ever since. Aswathama has been a life changing experience for me in every way! A lot of things have changed professionally and financially. I wanted to commemorate this time,” says Shaurya.

He adds that he didn’t want to get it done upon the success of the film. “Irrespective of the result, I am proud of the tattoo and happy I got it done. Aswathama will always have my heart because it changed my life.”

Turning action hero
If one observes, it is the romance films that have worked well for Shaurya so far. But with Aswathama he takes a complete leap into the action hero space. He tells us that it was a conscious decision that was made four years ago that landed him here. “Everyone, including my mother, wanted a fight scene in the climax of Chalo. But at that point I was very particular that we don’t take the route because people will assume I took liberties as it’s a home production venture. I didn’t want that assumption in people’s minds. We ended the film in a lighter vein for that reason. And even with Aswathama, it’s the same. There’s no action sequence that is unnecessary. I have not done anything for the sake of it,” he shares.

Decoding Aswathama
The character Aswathama is a key character from the epic Mahabharata. The name surely seems to have a relevance to the story.

“When I characterised the villain, he was extremely violent and powerful. To lock horns with him, we need a hero who has a character in the same range and stature. And I discussed with our dialogue writer Parashuram that we need to change things a bit in the first half because it wasn’t matching up. He suggested that if we want a match to such a strong antagonist, we will need a protagonist who is like the Narayanastram. I didn’t understand what he meant because that is the name of a weapon! And that’s how we kept developing it and reached Aswathama after discussing the epic tale for around seven hours!” he elaborates, adding that the mood of the film matches perfectly to the personality of Aswathama himself. Interestingly, the title was decided in the writing phase only.

For those who don’t know, Aswathama is the only person in the court of Dritrashtra who is said to have opposed the public humiliation and stripping of Draupadi by the Kauravas. The film Aswathama explores the concept of atrocities on women. That’s where Shaurya saw the matching traits and decided to go ahead! The hero in the film is named Gana though.

Director diaries
Shaurya collaborates with debutant director Ramana Teja for the film. Speaking about how he decided to work with him, he shares, “I loved his inputs from the beginning. He understood what I was trying to convey and that was very important for me. He has done 100 per cent justice! Teja is a learner and never hesitates to say it if he doesn’t know something. I feel he has grown with the film and having him on board was perfect. It was very comfortable to work with him.”

Nervousness in the mind
Just as the film releases, the actor is really nervous. “I now realise why the kid who studies very well is more nervous than the unprepared one. I understand that you want to score the best. For someone who didn’t study, both passing and failing are just happenstances!” says Shaurya.

He explains that he never felt like this before because he was a different person then. “There are many expectations now along with the responsibilities towards the family. I have seen the film and I liked it and au can only hope that the audience likes it too!”

What’s next?
Shaurya mentions that his next film will be with director Avasarala Srinivas with whom he has collaborated twice in the past for Oohalu Gusagusalade and Jyoachutananda.

He shares, "We have wrapped up three schedules and have four more to go. The film is titled Palana Ammayi, Palana Abbayi."

The actor will also be seen in a sporting film titled Parthu which is a joint production of Northstar Entertainments and Asian Cinemas. "This is the first film on archery in India. It hasn't been explored before. It's a fictional story that revolves around the Olympics," shares Shaurya.

Post that he reveals that he has a film each with director Sowjanya - to be produced by Sithara Entertainments, and a film with director Nandini Reddy.

Well, he might have taken a while to release his latest film but there sure is no breathing space for a while now with so many films in the queue.

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