In the frame with Superstars
It is not often that an actor gets to act with the superstars in the beginning of his career. Ganesh Venkatraman is one who has been fortunate to have...
It is not often that an actor gets to act with the superstars in the beginning of his career. Ganesh Venkatraman is one who has been fortunate to have shared space with some of the big names in the film industry like Amitabh Bachchan, Kamal Haasan, Mohan Lal, Venkatesh, Nagarjuna and Prakash Raj ever since he turned actor. Within a short span, the former model turned actor not just acted with the big guns in filmdom but also in the four languages namely Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada. In this one-on-one, Ganesh shares notes of his experience with the superstars: Nagarjuna (Damarukam � Telugu) I had first met Nagarjuna during 'Akasamantha' (the Telugu version of the Tamil film 'Abhiyum Naanum') through a common friend. He told me I was doing the right thing then as I was working with Dil Raju, the producer. Then while shooting for 'Damarukam' I got to work with him. He is very encouraging. He is so well informed on every aspect � be it Steve Jobs, native tribes, ancient civilisations. He is well balanced and so fit. He gave me good advice on how to avoid injuries to the knees and shoulders. 'Damarukam' had a lot of CG work and so it was shot against green mat and it required him to be on pulley and harness also. He was getting thrown around, yet he was patient and waiting for instructions. Never did one feel he was a superstar. He is young at heart. When 'Damarukam' released he was the first to call me and tell me people are asking who this person (I) is. I used to be in awe of his film Shiva. I used to carry a cycle chain in my bag so that I could use it if something goes wrong! Kamal Haasan (Unaipol Oruvan �Tamil; Eenadu � Telugu) I am in total awe of Kamal sir. I see him as an institution. He has excelled in every department of filmmaking � be it dance, music, prosthetic make-up , technology (he was the first to shoot in digital format). It was a dream come true working with him. I listen to him and talk only when needed. Even now I tell Shruti that I get tongue tied when I meet Kamal sir! He loves working with young actors and all are treated well. While doing 'Unaipol Oruvan,' we went through a reading from the first scene to the last at Ramoji Film City with all the young actors, Chakri Toleti (director) and Kamal sir who would tell us how our body language should be, how we should hold the gun, how our state of mind should be � everything in fact. So when we began to shoot everyone knew the larger canvas. When I shot the first scene, Kamal sir's presence was not necessary. Yet, he was there. He gave me ideas. He was like a mentor. It was lovely being with him. He is an affable person and a stickler for excellence. He would reprimand if people do not work well. He made sure everything is authentic. For example, a bullet proof jacket was changed thrice as it was not okay. Then he ordered a real one and the designer was asked to make it accordingly and only then did he shoot! I shot for about 30-35 days. It was such a career changing film. The first day the first show the whole of Tamil Nadu had seen the film! Prakash Raj(Abhiyum Naanum - Tamil) I had a key role in the film. I shared an interesting equation with Prakash sir as he played my father-in-law. It was nice working with him. He was a collaborative co-actor and went out of his way to see that my character stood out in the film. He was a huge inspiration as he was a multi-linguist also. He is very passionate about cinema and food. All the superstars have a common trait. They are modest, professional and focused on work. They have respect for every person on the set from the spot boy onwards. Their success lies in the way they handle people. They will be chatting with young people. They are collaborators. And they leave a mark on you! Amitabh Bachchan (Kandahar � Malayalam) This film, directed by Major Ravi, had an interesting subject. I played his son and the father-son relationship was the driving force of the film. Amitabh sir played a retired headmaster who is a respected person in society. I've grown up on staple diet of Amitabh sir's films - be it as the angry young man, his flair for comedy, the romance or his baritone. Even when he cries on screen, he does with dignity. One has learnt so much. He is the epitome of manhood. He has aged so gracefully. He has a fatherly countenance about him and playing son to him was so easy. He is so humble and modest and addresses you by the first name. We shot the first scene in Ooty. He casually said over coffee "Main tumhara baap hoon" (I am your father). He was so warm. He improvised the dialogues as they were in English and Malayalam. Working with him was fun. He is a giving actor. He would give suggestions. He has a great sense of humour and used to crack jokes on the sets. Ravi Varman, the cinematographer while doing the lighting, would signal to me with the eyes as he didn't want to trouble Amitabh sir (both of us were of the same height). Once while sitting on the couch, he noticed the eye contact and stood up and said "nahin nahin Ganesh role bhi karega" (no, no Ganesh will do the role also) with a straight face! We shot for about six days together. Amitabh sir is a gentle person and a thorough professional who is punctual and disciplined. Even if he did not have to shoot he would be there on the set. He is chilled out and easy to talk to. I asked him so many questions about scenes from his films which he may have answered to others also million times. Yet, he answered them to me as well. He is abreast of technological changes. He was on Twitter and was even checking out the bike I rode! He is like a student and curious to know. Mohan Lal (Unaipol Oruvan- Tamil; Kandahar � Malayalam) It was a delight to work with him. Lal sir is such a friendly person. When we shot in Madras Regimental Centre, Ooty, a car was sent for Lal sir and he called me to come in the same car. I spent a lot of time with him discussing what he watches, his acting, what kind of research he does. It is amazing how he approaches his work. He switches on and off according to the camera. It is remarkable how he internalises his lines and when mouths them he takes ownership of them. He has years of experience. He is good in action too. So it was a learning lesion also to watch him do action - when to face the camera, or show the back, when to punch. He loves cricket, watches a lot of world cinema and reads a lot. He is very hard working. On 'Unaipol Oruvan,' I was with him for 20 days and we shot Kandahar together for a month. Venkatesh (Eenadu- Telugu) He used to discuss spirituality and philosophy. He had a different approach to the role. I saw how Lal sir and Venky sir did the same role in different languages. Venky sir fit the role � he was tall, well built and intelligent. I shot 'Eenadu' with him for about 10-12 days He was simple and down to earth. He was friendly also and would share his diet and fitness tips. After the shoot we would head to the gym together at Ramoji Film City. - As told to Radhika Rajamani