Born into a ‘filmy ’family, there was no way Telugu actor Allu Sirish, who has also done Tamil, Kannada and Malayalam films, could have stayed away from the industry. Okka Kshanam, 1971 Beyond Borders and Kotha Janta are some of his movies. He shot this fashion shoot by himself and spoke to THE MAN over the phone
How are you coping with the lockdown?
Initially, it felt like a holiday, then it started to get to me. I’m an extrovert and like to be with people. I figured there’s no point in resisting it. I made peace with it and began to meditate and do yoga again — I used to do both earlier but had lost the habit.
On belonging to a film family, surrounded by films and talk of films...
It is a joy doing what you love. I used to sit in on Dad’s (Allu Aravind, a film producer) meetings since I was 14. My brother (Allu Arjun) is an actor, and so is my cousin (Ram Charan). I can’t say whether the idea was planted in me or if it was the environment I grew up in – but this is where I’ve always wanted to be. I may have flirted with the idea of being a filmmaker. I studied filmmaking at the New York Film Academy, and co-produced the Hindi version of Ghajini (played by Aamir Khan) with my dad. That was for the experience, to see what production was all about and to see what my dad does. I had acted as a child artist, I did Mass Comm, did production, then got into this (acting). It was an informed choice. At this stage of my career direction is not what I’d like to do for a profession.
What about sibling rivalry?
My brother Allu Arjun joined films in 2003, my cousin Ram Charan joined in 2007, I joined in 2013. They are almost a generation ahead of me, and had already achieved stardom by the time I joined. If we had started a year or so apart maybe there would have been an underlying element of rivalry. Rather than competition, their achievements are like a bench mark for me. Because they have done such a good job, I knew the path I needed to take. The challenge was to prove myself rather than compete.
What have you done that’s different?
No matter how good you are, if you come in second, you’ll always be seen as a copy. The saying is: never step into a great man’s shoes. And so, I keep away from what my brother does. In fact, that’s the advice that he himself gave me: don’t try to become a second version of me; after the initial reaction and comments, people will eventually get used to you and your style of acting.
How do you deal with a situation where you want to do a scene in a particular way and your director wants it done differently?
I learned from my brother that you can’t come with full prep. A glass is always half full and half empty. Water can be added only to a glass half empty. Even if you think you know how to play a scene better than the director, always listen, listen, listen. There will always be some aspect that has escaped you. When that happens, I play it the way the director wants. But, I also request another take where I play it my way so that there are two versions and the director can take a call and go with the better one.
Movies vs reality
There is a shift in society, and films are reflecting that change. There are girls who are caught between career and love. It’s not as if all girls have become like that, but there is a change in the women and they are more assertive about their choices. But in a relationship two alpha personalities may not work. This generation faces this conflict. I don’t have any inhibitions playing a beta character. My earlier films were a reflection of me — happy-go-lucky, chilled out. This (untitled movie)- role of a type B, a beta, introverted, innocent character, is different from who I am, and the roles I’ve played before. Getting into the skin of this role is difficult.
Is the homemaker slowly disappearing?
I don’t want to make a value judgement, but if everybody goes this way, the homemaker will be missed, for sure. Women have to be prepared to give so much more to their personal life and to their professional life. Rather than a commentary on good or bad, it’s the way things are and it’s a matter of accepting the changed reality. I’d like to accept the fact that the women have changed that they have a different mindset, are more independent, want equality with men, have professional ambitions, and are not looking for a knight in shining armour. I can’t expect to find someone like my mother; that was another generation. That would be unrealistic.
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With more time to reflect what have you learned in these days of lockdown?
From my life coach I have learned that the species who survived evolution were not the fittest or strongest or smartest, but those who were able to adapt. I’d like to be that person who adapts to the new reality whether it’s changed audience tastes in films or the changing woman.
What are the values you learned from your father?
He’s drilled into me that people can fail but systems won’t. Create systems. There’s burnout in the creative line, we are always running after something. For success you have to be disciplined and methodical. I’ve observed that he may have a personal preference for a genre, but when he wears his producer’s hat, he is able to view a film from the perspective of the audience of that genre.