One of Telugu cinema’s leading actors Adivi Sesh has constantly been striving to break the glass ceiling. His association, and not just as an actor, with game-changing Telugu films like Kshanam, Goodachari and even Baahubali, has given this new-age actor a fillip into pan-India fame.
In his next, Sesh is going to play Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan, the NSG commando who rescued hostages during the 26/11 terror attack on the Taj hotel in Mumbai and perished in his valorous mission. Sesh talks about the process of playing a soldier so heroic.
How did this dream role come your way?
Yes, dream role sounds like the right way to describe it. You may find this hard to believe, but I had been dreaming of playing Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan for 11 years. Even through my stay in San Francisco, I was completely taken up by his grit. I felt like he was my brother.
So playing him on screen is just a logical culmination of your dream?
You could say that. When Mahesh Babu, who is a co-producer on this project, and his wife, Namrata Shirodkar, approached me with this offer it felt unreal. How could I be offered a chance to play a character that I have only dreamt of playing for so many years?
Do you feel a special affiliation to Major Unnikrishnan because he is a South Indian like you?
Well, I can’t deny that it does heighten the sense of kinship. But I’d be just as happy and comfortable playing a war hero from Punjab. I think playing a hero of this stature goes beyond cultural boundaries. After all, even Ben Kingsley did not have to be Gujarati to play Mahatma Gandhi.
How much research is being done for the film and your character?
I have been interacting with Unnikrishnan’s parents for quite some time now. I am very close to uncle and aunty, but I prefer to avoid dwelling on my relationship with them as it might seem like an attempt to attract attention to our film. However, now that I have known them for quite some time, our relationship has surpassed the filmy motives. Uncle and aunty have enriched my life. I would’ve been poorer had I not known them.
Does playing a real-life character mean an added responsibility for the actor?
It is for me! This is the first time I will be playing a real-life character, and that too someone who is taught as a subject in numerous textbooks in South India. It is a responsibility — one that I am taking very seriously. I am writing the film myself.
Why aren’t you directing it?
It won’t be possible for me to play the Major, write the film, and also direct it. I trust director Sashikiran Tikka completely. He directed me in Goodachari. I like working with a closely-knit team. The process of creativity becomes so much easier when you are working with the people you trust.
Of late films based on national heroes and patriotism have almost become a formula. Isn’t that a dangerous development?
Cinema is a reflection of society at large. I am a proud Indian and happy to see a surge of patriotism in our movies. What’s really important is to stay on the right side of the line dividing patriotism from jingoism.