'I play the antagonist in Damarukam'
In the last four years in tinsel town, Ganesh Venkatraman has acted with superstars such as Amitabh Bachchan, Kamal Hassan, Mohanlal and Venkatesh.
He will now be seen in Damarukam starring Akkineni Nagarjuna, Prakash Raj and Anushka Shetty. The film releases during the Dasara festival.
In this exclusive interview, Ganesh throws some light on the character he plays in the film, acting with Nagarjuna, and working on Damarukam.
How did you come to sign Damarukam ?
As you know, Damarukam is a 'socio-fantasy', a high-budget film (Rs 45 crore), and one of the most awaited films of the year.
The film has an ensemble cast. There are many important characters. They have taken mythology and given it a contemporary feel. My character is an important one in the film.
Definitely Nagarjuna Sir's presence also made me sign the film. I wanted to work with him.
I met the director Srinivas Reddy in Devisriprasad's studio a month after he had contacted me and asked me to see Maya Bazaar. That film was a benchmark in special effects at that time.
Srinivas Reddy told me my character was inspired by one of the key characters in Maya Bazaar. That film was in the mythology genre. Damarukam is slightly different as it's about an impending peril.
Image: Ganesh Venkatraman
'Srinivas Reddy had a lot of confidence in me'
You play the antagonist in the film. What's your role like?
Yes, I play the antagonist. The whole film happens because of the antagonist. It was challenging to do the role.
Srinivas Reddy had the confidence I could pull it off. This character is bad and good.
Initially the cinematographer Chota K Naidu was not convinced I could play this role whereas his wife and the director were confident.
Did you do any preparation for your role?
During the month between signing the film and the shoot starting, I watched many films similar to this one, such as Poltergeist, Exorcist, X-Men etc. The character has not been done before.
Do you wield any ancient weapons?
Let me put it this way – it's me (the character) versus a lot of forces. If there was an Armageddon in Hindu mythology, this is what it would be.
The asura can take on several forms. The asura is extremely deceptive—he has one personality but can take multiple personalities to achieve what he wants. So, in the modern world, he has to take a form that is convincing.
The first half of the film establishes the character while the conflict is in the second half.
Image: Anushka Shetty, Chota Naidu and Ganesh Venkatraman
'Nagarjuna's films get a certain kind of opening'
It is said the film is loosely based on Amish's book The Immortals of Meluhha...
I haven't read the book. From what you tell me it's like Shiva is an alien. I'm a devotee of Lord Shiva. I have read books that he was an alien. If you see Mount Kailash, it is different compared to the other mountains in terms of colour, texture, mineral composition, energy, radiation. It is unique.
I am intrigued by Shiva. Damarukam has Shiva mythology but it's a contemporary take.
How was it working with Nagarjuna? Did you bond off screen too considering he is a fitness freak...
He is a thorough gentleman who is informed about everything under the sun—from native American tribes to Steve Jobs!
He has maintained himself very well as far as fitness goes and I would want to learn and imbibe that.
He is kind-hearted. I have one-on-one scenes with Nagarjuna Sir and he used to compliment me when I did them. We shared a good comfortable equation and he told me he would help me also in the industry. He's chilled out and cool.
I am also excited because his films get a certain kind of opening.
Do you have scenes with Anushka? How was she as a co-star?
I have scenes with Anushka. The film is a kind of love triangle. My character is obsessed with her.
She is grounded and an easy co-star to work with. When we were shooting for the film, she helped me get membership into a proper gym. Since she's into yoga, she's peaceful. There's a spiritual side to her too. Anushka would say hello to everyone from the director to the spot boy almost effortlessly.
Image: Akkineni Nagarjuna and Ganesh Venkatraman
'I'm excited and thrilled to be part of this film'
The last time you were seen in a Telugu film was in Eenadu with Venkatesh. Why did it take so long to sign a Telugu film again?
There were offers but nothing that interested me. There was no point in being in a big film with an inconsequential role or a blink-and-miss appearance. I was waiting for the right character.
How was the overall experience of working in Damarukam?
I must thank the technicians who worked in the film. We had to shoot with the background of a green screen for the special effects. When acting we had to visualise certain things that would be present in a make-believe world. Such a film requires a great cinematographer and director.
Hats off to Srinivas Reddy who did a lot of research. I'm a director's actor.
Chota K Naidu is a brilliant cinematographer. For each frame he had to consult the computer graphics guys as they had to do the special effects later. There is 70 minutes of computer graphics in the film. As Nagarjuna Sir said at the audio release, Damarukam will have better computer graphics than Eega!
I had a blast working on this film. It's a special effects film and I am a science fiction fanatic. Very few films are made in this genre as the budget is not there. I'm excited and thrilled to be part of Damarukam.
Image: A scene from Damarukam
'I have started to pick up Telugu'
How did you cope with Telugu?
I understand the language to some extent. I have Telugu friends. I have started to pick up. I made the effort to learn.
You've worked with all the superstars--Amitabh Bachchan, Kamal Hassan, Mohanlal, Venkatesh and now Nagarjuna, and all this at the beginning of your career. How does it feel?
It feels good. I have seen so many actors struggling and things not working out. I entered the industry in 2008 and it's been fantastic since then.
I'm God's favourite child and he has been showing the way.
I came into the Tamil industry and that started opening doors. I think I have a neutral look. I feel blessed. Appreciation and acceptance is crucial.
Image: Ganesh Venkatraman