Why fit in when you can stand out? Naga Chaitanya seems to have understood this early in his career. He started to pick characters and scripts that resonated with people and their unspoken and unsolved riddles in life.
Quite like the layered characters he plays on screen, the actor, who believes in keeping it simple and easy off the big screen, is now also focusing on having a diverse filmography. Going by the recently released trailer of his upcoming film, Love Story is yet another step in that direction.
All about a love story
The Sekhar-Kammula directorial is about two small-town youngsters (played by Naga Chaitanya and Sai Pallavi) who migrate to the city to make it big.
“The beauty of this story is that it’s very rooted. “I’ve come across several people in my own friends’ circle [with such stories] and I’ve always felt these deeply rooted stories need to be told. I am glad that I got the opportunity,” he explains.
However, the actor had his share of trouble with the character. For one, transforming into a small-town guy was a challenge for Chaitanya. “That’s because so far I have been part of glamorous love stories. So to get into the shoes of a small-town guy was not easy for me; in fact, I had to unlearn and underplay myself for the part.”
Unlearning to learn again
Chay, as he is lovingly known, talks about how he’s used to a certain sort of acting. “Where I exhibit more than what’s required — but that’s how the texture of commercial cinema has been. So it took something from me to erase those lines and look natural,” he says as he articulates the challenges in his role in Love Story.
But he had help coming in from other quarters, for before the film went on the floors, the cast had three months of workshops for understanding their respective characters, rehearsing, picking up the Telangana slang, etc.
That being said, this was the first time Chay had a lot of grooving to do in the film, in which he plays a Zumba instructor. “Dance and music are an integral part of the film and I thoroughly enjoyed grooving to the beats,” Chay states, revealing that his co-star Sai Pallavi, whom he calls an amazing dancer, even helped him a few times to simplify his steps. “It was indeed a challenge to match up with her, and sometimes, I just stood there in wonder watching her swift dance moves.”
A blessed ride
It’s been 12 years since Chay debuted in films with the 2009-film Josh, which released on 05 September. His journey so far, he says, is one he considers blessed.
“I have to say I am fortunate and blessed. I’ve done films I am proud of and those in which I felt there was scope for improvement. But I learnt from both the experiences, have no regrets and I realise I must keep learning and trying to make better films,” says the actor, whose favourite genre is love stories.
And while he says he feels great to be in a profession that has brought in several positives, the showbiz life, believes Chay, hasn’t changed much in him. “However, I miss the small joys such as going out and having tea and or watching a film in a theatre,” he points out.
Choosing the challenge
That being said, with audiences exposed to world cinema, Chay admits it’s indeed challenging for actors and filmmakers to reinvent themselves every time, although according to him, it’s their responsibility to ensure they try new things.
“Audiences are watching amazing content on OTT and watching films from across the world. The dynamism of writing characters and storytelling is fast-changing. If we’ve to live up to the expectations of the audience, then we must push ourselves and push the envelope,” he adds.
Being the son of Nagarjuna and carrying the ‘Akkineni’ lineage probably comes with its own set of challenges, doesn’t it, we ask Chay. So does he still discuss scripts with his father?
“Initially, my father had been my mainstay, but as my journey moved on, he began letting go, reminding my brother Akhil and me that we’re grown-ups and have to start taking our own call and learn from our mistakes. But he’s always there for us as a guiding force,” Chay explains.
The organic Bollywood debut and a perfectionist called Aamir Khan
As life moved on, Chay found his mark with the makers of Aamir Khan’s forthcoming film, Laal Singh Chaddha, who officially welcomed him on board in July this year. However, the announcement did leave many surprised.
Was the move a planned one, we ask the actor. “I don’t think anyone can ever plan a film with Aamir Khan; it has to happen,” says Chay with a smile adding that his upcoming Hindi debut was a project that happened very organically. “I got a call from Aamir Khan. After discussing the initial modalities of the script, I went to Mumbai for final discussions and was quickly on board. It was like magic! Aamir said he’d watched some of my performances and trailers of my film and was very impressed and that he felt I’d be apt for the role.”
Having shot for his portions, Chay states that sharing the screen with Aamir Khan has been a pleasant experience. In fact, Chay tells us he’s amazed at Aamir’s excitement and energy levels through the years of making the film.
“Even on the last day of the shooting, he’d be like how he was on the first day,” expresses Chay. “Aamir is called a perfectionist for a reason. His attention to detail, his knowledge of various crafts and the versatility he brings to the table all make him a perfectionist.”
During the times Aamir Khan and Chay bonded (and greatly) on the sets of Laal Singh Chaddha, discussing various genres of films in India today, Aamir seemed to want to know about the latest happenings in Tollywood. “He’s a music lover and wanted me to play my ANR and NTR’s old classics, apart from current film songs,” reveals the actor.
Racing is liberating
As we wrap up our conservations, we point to Chay’s passion for hot wheels, something aptly clear through his Instagram account. In fact, recently, the actor was even spotted at a racing circuit in Chennai, hitting a top speed while driving on the track!
“Racing has always been liberating for me; it’s like meditation and a great escape for me — a stress buster. It’s one of those few things I like to constantly keep doing in my life,” he describes. “Whenever I want to cut away from my routine life, I’d certainly be at a racing circuit.”