'I want to do films that will set me apart'
Harshavardhan (Harsh) Rane has been steadily making a mark in Telugu with his roles and films. This talented actor, who began his career with Thakita Thakita in 2010, last seen in Sekhar Kammula’s Anamika has Maaya, directed by National award-winning director Neelakantha, coming up for release on August 1.
Besides, Harsh has just completed a Hindi film Satra ko Shaadi hai.
In this exclusive chat, Harsh lets us know more about Maaya, a film revolving around Extra- Sensory Perception.
How did you feel when Neelakantha called you to act in his film Maaya?
I signed a three-film deal with Madhura Sreedhar Sir, and Maaya is the first film. Just a few days after signing the deal, Sreedhar Sir called me to meet Neelakanta Sir. I could not believe my luck. I wanted to work with great directors always and here I was being considered by a national award winner.
I told myself, “Harsh -now it’s time for you to put in all your experience and learnings and put in your best." I was very happy yet nervous to meet a director of his class. But, when I met him, he floored me with his simplicity and warmth.
On what basis did you decide to sign his film?
I only follow one part of my body, that is my gut. But when I look at my career, I understand that I subconsciously want to do films that will set me apart. When people see my name on a film poster, I want them to expect some genuine effort and a good concept.
Image: Harshvardhan Rane
'Maya has a fresh concept'
Had you seen Neelakantha’s films? Any particular one you liked and why?
I love his film Show which won the national award. I love it for the way it portrays complexities even in simple human relationships. It's a brilliant film. Neelakantha is a blessing to the Telugu film industry.
Maaya is supposed to be a thriller and based on extra sensory perception. It’s something rather new for Telugu. How is it dealt with in the film?
Many times I hear people saying that nowadays films are very predictable and of the same format. Maaya is based on a fairly new concept which has not been explored much, and that concept here is based around a love story. A fresh concept through a national award winner’s vision, I think it has all aspects to come out as a very entertaining thriller which Telugu industry will be proud of.
You play the lead role. Did you research on the subject of extra sensory perception in order to play your role?
In the film, Avantika is the one getting the ESP. She did all the hard work.
Image: A still from Maya
'The director has given my character many shades to my role'
You seem to be working hard on your physique in this film. Could you talk about it and the methods you adopted?
I was in my most "kitchen happy" days (eating anything and everything) till 2013 but when I got this offer, Neelakanta sir told me that my first scene is in a swimming pool. I had three months before that shoot day, so I had to do something drastic yet natural. So i went on a diet called caveman diet. It includes non-veg and veggies, and avoids grains. It helped me lose 17 kgs in a span of nine months. I am so glad as the timing worked out perfectly as by the time Maaya finished, my Hindi film started. Even though it took time, this diet helped me so much and now whenever I am shooting, I am on this diet.
Could you tell us about your role?
I play a fashion designer. The director has given my character many shades. I have really enjoyed my role in this film. They have really worked hard on designing my role. Rama (the stylist) ma'am had designed my whole look starting from hair to costumes. She has an eye for detailing and style. Neel Sir has given me a graph. We discussed a lot and we sometimes kept in mind the second time viewers also. We wanted my character to look different to the first time and second time viewers.
In this film, there are three heroines you are cast with. How was it acting with Avantika, Sushma and Nandini?
They are all very professional and sweet; it was a pleasant experience working with them. For her first film, Avantika seemed very confident and dedicated towards her job. Sushma is a bundle of energy who surprises you with her versatile performance. Nandini is one of the most passionate and hardworking actresses in Telugu film industry.
Image: A still from Maya
'I depend heavily on my gut feeling to choose my films'
How was it being directed by Neelakantha? Were there any learning lessons?
It was like a dream. He is an institute. He explains each situation with so much detailing, that as an actor you get totally involved in the scene and your character. He is one of the most patient persons I have ever met. Even though he is very intelligent, senior, knowledgeable and leagues apart, I still feel like I have a friend in him.
You are choosing offbeat roles and trying to walk a slightly different path. Is it a conscious decision?
I have a filter in my brain, which I guess helps me filter almost everything in life. I depend heavily on my gut feeling. Yes, sub-consciously I do want to do the kind of work which will fetch me respect in the long term, but my mind also knows that I need to be seen in commercial projects also. So I signed two films where I have special appearances one opposite Anjali and the other opposite Karthika – both beautiful and talented actresses.
Have you signed any Telugu films?
Yes, I just signed a Telugu film for which I start shooting on August 5th.
Were you disappointed that Anamika did not fare well?
Yes, of course, I do feel bad if any of my favourite director’s films doesn't do that great, but I have to be realistic, it was a Nayantara film, I was a very small part of it. I am grateful that my work was noticed and appreciated. I will still want to do such experimental roles every now and then.
Now that you are doing a Hindi film, would you be happy juggling films in Hindi and Telugu?
To be honest it was just a one-off opportunity in my life. It was a pleasant surprise. I gave it the best I could. It’s over now. I would love to watch it. I am back here doing more Telugu films that I believe in. I like to give all I have to one thing in life. I can only focus on one thing at a time, so no juggling. I am grateful I got such an opportunity, I thank each and every one who must have prayed for me and wished me. It is because of those people that I have reached wherever I have.
Image: A still from Maya