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Interview with Siddardh by Jeevi

Siddardh graduated from SP Jain Inst of Mgt, Mumbai and then joined the direction department of Mani Ratnam as an assistant. He made his debut as hero in Shankar's Boys. Then he acted in his mentor's film 'Yuva'. Siddardh became the latest heartthrob of Telugu girls with his adorable and gorgeous performance as 'Santosh' in NVNV. Here are the excerpts of an exclusive interview with Siddardh -

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Tell us about your background?
I was born in Chennai. My schooling was divided between mount St. Mary's Delhi, DAV Chennai and SPV delhi. I finished my B.Com (Hons.) in KMC, Delhi. I went on to complete my MBA from the S.P.Jain institute of Management in Mumbai.

How you got interested in films?
I have been fascinated with films for as long as I can remember. My parents were responsible for exposing me to excellent films when I was very young. I always wanted to know how films were made. Curiosity turned to passion, and I decided I wanted to write and direct movies. When I wanted to make a foray into films after school, my father rightly made me complete my graduation and my masters. He always believed the uncertainty in cinema warranted a solid backup plan. My education is my backbone. I will always cherish the fact that it has shaped me into who I am. I pursued amateur theater in Delhi, and that helped me get in touch with my creative facets. But I never intended to act in films at that stage. I was only looking at writing and directing.

How did you get a break as hero?
After the release of Kannathil Muthamittal (Amritha in Telugu), writer Sujatha Rangarajan wanted me to meet Shankar regarding Boys. I met Shankar, he auditioned me, and I got Boys. I wasn't sure if I wanted to act at that stage. I expressed my doubt to Mani Ratnam. He was instrumental in making me accept Boys. He felt the experience would be invaluable as I would get to see commercial filmmaking from close range.

You worked youth-oriented characters in all 3 films so far. And your body language suited them perfectly. Are you contemplating on doing different characters?
I have played three youngsters between the ages of 18 and 22. I refuse to believe that is not different. I would like to clarify here that acting is not always about transformation. In our country and indeed even in the holy 'oscars', acting is judged based on how much the actor physically transforms himself. This means that the best acting roles should involve handicaps, prosthetic make-up, and excessive shades of drama. I think it is equally challenging differentiating 3 youngsters, one who is middle cass, one who is upper middle class, and one who is an NRI. I don't see any similarity between my Munna, Arjun and Santosh. I am now doing a very exciting Hindi/English film called 'Rang De Basanti'. This is a very challenging role. I am still playing a youngster, but the challenge is in giving him an identity of his own.

You speak pretty good Telugu. How did you learn it? And what prompted you to dub your character yourself? Which other languages you are fluent at?
I think screen acting is difficult enough when you know the language. I can't even imagine how hard it would be if you don't. I learnt Telugu in a few weeks by talking to people and watching TV. I even dubbed Yuva in Telugu for practice. I think half of my performance in NVNV should be attributed to my dubbing. The response has been extraordinary. I am fluent with Hindi as well. My next film is a live sound film in Hindi and English. I am proud of my linguistic versatility. I would love to learn new languages and explore new regional films.

Are you satisfied being a hero? Or do you want to direct films in future?
My current mantra is that I am acting with an aim to direct one day. My pedigree is becoming enviable. Shankar, Mani Ratnam, MS Raju, Prabhu Deva and now Aamir Khan and Rakesh Mehra. I am learning something all the time, and as a student of cinema, this is very convenient. Make no mistake, direction is definitely on the anvil. When and how, is anybody's guess!

Other than films, what do you like? Any hobbies?
Music is my life. At any time in my life, music defines how I am feeling and what I am thinking. Other than that, test cricket is something I am very seriously in love with. Then there's video games; I am an addict.

What are your favorite films?
Considering the sheer number of films I have watched and continue to watch, I can never pick favorites. I have a new top ten every week. I think it's important to watch films without judging them, and exposure to as many films as possible is always a good thing.

What did you learn as assistant to Mani Ratnam?
The golden rule about aiming for a career in films as far as I am concerned is to keep your expectations very, very low. Only then will you be able to take the disappointments. You have to learn everything yourself. Nobody is going to spoon feed you. Mani Ratnam is a great teacher because he creates an atmosphere conducive to learning. I took as much as I could from him. As an assistant, the ideal learning is to know the process of filmmaking from start to finish. Once that is done, it's a matter of getting the confidence and the right script to make a start in direction.

How helpful is the experience you got from Mani Ratnam for you as an actor?
Not just Mani Ratnam, every director helps shape an actor. When I was assisting Mani Ratnam, I was trying to learn direction, so I didn't think as an actor. However, being an assistant meant that I knew the medium once I took up acting, so I understood technicalities better. That didn't always help though.

How helpful is your MBA from prestigious institute in your professional career?
I think any education is always beneficial as nothing shapes character like education. My post graduation was instrumental in shaping me. It will always be a part of everything I do. In filmmaking, it helps me be more systematic and organized in the way I work.

How is it like working with Trisha in two consecutive films?
Trisha is a good friend, and there is a very strong mutual trust between us as actors. This trust is crucial, because once actors trust each other and their instincts, spontaneous performances become possible. Trisha is an actress hitting the top of her game in terms of acceptance. I look forward to seeing her grow more and more as an actress in the coming years. Our work in the two films we have done is completely different. It is hard for me to pick a favorite among the two, because I feel we managed to pull both off in very different ways.

Being the latest heartthrob, you must be chased by women these days? Tell us about the sweetest and most embarrassing situation you faced with female fans.
I am a very private person, so the fanfare hasn't and in all probably will not ever get to me. I prefer people judging me as an actor, as opposed to as a person. The female attention is something I have only heard of, mostly in interviews. I am much happier hearing about it this way! Like I said, I haven't gotten used to the adulation. I know it's a good thing and I am thankful to them for it. I hope I can sustain interest with my future performances.

How NVNV happened to you. And who do you give the credit of this stupendous success?
This film owes its success to the fantastic teamwork of M.S.Raju and Prabhu Deva. The former is an ultra-passionate maker who has extraordinary instincts in commercial film making. The latter is one of the most unique minds we have in this country. I expect even greater things from both of them individually and as a team.

How did you come up with funky hair-do for your character in NVNV?
I styled myself on instinct. I wanted to make Santosh very unique, maybe even confusing. The 60's style haircut in the first half is very much in vogue in London right now. I felt it gave him a sense of mischief. It also made him look cute and alien at the same time.

The second half was about not styling. If a boy was in a village for 3 months, he would just get up, wet his hair and go to work. So I didn't cut it, I just grew it and styled it back. It made him look mature and more grounded. I am so thrilled the look worked, because I would have had nobody to blame except myself if it hadn't!

What is your involvement as an actor in filmmaking?
I am lazy unless I am passionate about something. I sign films that fuel my passion, and that's why I give 200%! As an actor, I am very proactive. I believe in homework, in rehearsals, and in following up with consistency. I am trying to get better with each film. I assure you, I honestly believe I have a long way to go as an actor!

How is it like working with Amir Khan?
Aamir Khan is an inspiration. We have just started working together, and one thing I have realized is, no matter who stops thinking about the film, you can rest assured Aamir would be thinking about it. He is a hands-on actor, and I am very comfortable with him. His achievements have strangely made him very humble and easy to work with, which is a boon!

How did you come to know about What is your opinion on it?
I found idle brain because my friends told me it had very detailed film reviews. I was taken aback because this is the only site that has said good things about me in the past. I like the detail and the passion in your reviews. Keep up the good work!

Any message to the visitors of
The great thing about an idlebrain such as this, is that it is anything but! The healthy nature of discussion the site encourages is a must for young film watchers. I hope to see more reactions to the blogs on the site. Keep it rocking, people!

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Interviewed by Jeevi
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