Satyadev -- A Long But Fruitful Journey Towards His Dreams
Rarely do you see actors who are as prolific and versatile as our guest today, Satyadev Kancharana. From playing supporting roles to antagonists to protagonists to ensembles, he has done everything. He is the kind of actor that does not differentiate between his characters, as long as he likes the role he is in and does justice to them. He has had consecutive hits from ‘Bluffmaster’ to ‘Brochevarevarura’ to ‘iSmart Shankar’. Now he is all set to make his debut in the webspace with the really anticipated Zee5 original ‘Gods Of Dharmapuri’ and is playing significant roles in films like ‘RRR’ and ‘Sarileru Neekevvaru’. We had the privilege to have a chat with him to learn a bit more about his journey and process. Here are a few excerpts from that conversation:
Right off the bat, we infer that you had a very interesting journey in your early days to the position you are in now. Can you tell us a little about that journey?
I have always wanted to be an actor and at some point, transition into film-making; that was the plan. I used to and still write stories that I want to tell the world through cinema. Acting has always been my first love. I moved here with all my dreams in my backpack. but not knowing people from here, there are always the obvious struggles. I am from Vizag and I am not from a very well to do family, so I had to support myself. So, I planned it out, the first thing I did was to find a job. My CSP background helped me with that. Now that I could support myself here, I started giving auditions. I auditioned for anyone and everyone. In fact, there was a point where I was working Bangalore but would travel back and forth just so that I don’t miss any opportunities. The first job I got was in ‘Mr.Perfect’ as the protagonist (Prabhas)’s friend and I was still in Bangalore then. Later on, the same team was working on SVSC, so they auditioned me again and I got selected again. By then it got really hectic, so I moved back to Hyderabad.
By this time, I started consistently getting roles and I was really happy. It was still hard due to the timings because shoots don’t exactly work according to schedules sometimes. For example, When I was doing ‘Jyothi Laxmi’, I used to have a window of two hours between my shift and the shoot in which I had to manage my sleep. I used to get home at 3 am but had to get up at 5 am and go to shoot. The funny thing about that particular shoot was that I used to get my dialogues ahead of time, so I used to sit in the IBM washroom and practice the lines. HAHA. But these are things you need to do to achieve your dreams man, you give some temporary pleasures to get to do what you really want to do. At a point, I got the confidence that I can fully support myself with my passion and I quit my job around two and a half years ago.
I see that you have directed some short films early in your career, can you tell us a little about that?
OH HAHA. So, the reason I had to be the filmmaker is due to the reason that no one else would cast me. I had to write, direct and cast myself in short films to put myself out there. I was making these shorts tracking back to 2001-02, no one was making even shorts back then. We had no idea how to do either. We used to rent out wedding cameras and all kinds of DIY stuff to do that. I mean we had to do that back then man, we had to get out of that box. At the time, films happened only in Hyderabad and it always felt like a far cry. So, with the resources I had, I did what I loved to do. In this process, I had to become a director.
But I loved that phase of my life, man. I made a lot of film making friends who are still friends and some of them become successful filmmakers too. Ravikanth Perepu of ‘Kshanam’ fame was my junior and Aditya Mandala who also worked on Kshanam is now debuting with his own film. Sreecharam Pakala (Music director) and Mallikram (Director) are also people that I met at that time. I cherish my time then, it was a beautiful, innocent and experimental time in my life.
You shot to fame when you were selected for Puri Jagannadh’s Jyothi Lakshmi over more than 500 entries. Could you talk a little about that and what kind of impact did Jyothi Lakshmi’s success have on your career?
So, for that, I need to give you a small anecdote, here it goes. I never really had a thing for becoming a lead actor, or industry terms, “a hero”. Again, I don’t like calling anyone a hero of a film. I always just wanted to be a good actor. Around that time, I was working with this actor called Ravi Varma on ‘Asura’. While having a conversation, he said its time for me to try for lead roles. He explained, saying that you are around 25-26 now and you want to become the Nana Patekar, Prakash Raj or whatever of the film industry. You will need at least 10 years to play the roles that they play because you look too young now. So, if you play a lead in films for some time. Firstly, your career is going to be more diversified and not become stale until you get there. Secondly, you won’t be called in for all kinds of roles, they will call you for only important or interesting roles. Then you can pick and choose the roles you want to do; you will have a real choice. That advice really changed my perception of my career and my choices.
That day, I started to think that I wanted to be a lead actor and within seven days I got a call from Puri sir’s office. I believe that only when you are prepared for it, the universe will give you the opportunity, I am a big believer in that kind of thing. I got a call from Pradeep Maddali, who later directed the film ’47 Days’. He said that there was this audition for the next Puri Jagannath film and asked if I was interested. I obviously would not just let it go without a try at least, so I went. There were already 500 people there for the same role. I was a little hefty then and I was doing a negative role in ‘Asura’. So, I was under the assumption that they were looking for a negative role and that’s how I gave my audition too. About a week or so later, I get a call saying that Puri sir wanted to talk to me. I went in there still not thinking too much of it. He sat me down, told me he liked the audition but wanted me to cut down on my weight. I worked on myself for two months and somehow got down from 91 to 74 kgs. That is when I was told that I was the lead, I had no clue till then. I was elated, I could not stop smiling for days after that, the rest is history. Everything, I mean everything changed after that. I got so many offers after that, I credit all my film chances after that to ‘Jyothi Lakshmi’.
If you actually see, Ravi Varma’s advice came true. Form Jyothi Lakshmi, I was part of films where my character had prominence. For example, ‘Anthariksham’, ‘Ishmart’, ‘RRR’, ‘Sarileru Neekevvaru’, etc. In all these films my story arc is very well pronounced and my character affects the plot in interesting ways.
This year has been particularly eventful for you with two major hits, Brochevarevarura and iSmart. Two very different projects. So, what makes you pick up a role now after these two successes.
See, I am clear in my head about what I want to do with my career. I want to be a bridge between lead roles, supporting role and antagonist roles. I want to be known as the actor with enough range that he can be approached for any kind of character. That is something that is rare here, in our industry. There is a kind of typecasting that happens regarding the characters you can play, if you play a lead then you can only play those, if you play a supporting role then you can play only those. I want to break that unwritten rule. Take Vijay Sethupathi from Tamil or Vicky Kaushal from Hindi or Fahadh Faasil from Malayalam, these people are actually doing that. That is the kind of actor I want to be and I will make choices keeping that in mind.
Also, we have heard that you are a part of a web series called ‘Gods of Dharmapuri’. Could you tell us more about the project and how you came to be associated with it? And more specifically, what are your thoughts on the new age OTT market in terms of Acting and exposure.
First of all, I do not differentiate between OTTs or Feature or shorts. If it excites me, I will just do it. There is a stigma in the industry about such things, but it is going to die out soon, anyway. It is inevitable. I am actually working projects at various levels on Zee5, Amazon and Netflix, I am covering all the stalwarts in that space. Coming back to GOD, it’s being directed by Anish Kuruvilla and produced by Radhika Lavu. The trailer is out now, and I don’t want to really get into the plot, but it is a really exciting project. I saw some of the rushes and it looks brilliant. Again, I look very different from all my other characters in that show. It is out on October 23rd. I can’t wait for it to come out and hope everyone watches it.
Coming from a non-filmy background, what do you consider is your strengths as an actor after all these many years. And in hindsight, is there something in your journey that you could’ve done differently.
There is this quote that I have always loved, it goes, “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth overdoing”. That is how I approach most things in my life. If I love something, I give it my 110 percent. At the same time, I also believe that the only place an actor should not act is in front of a camera, everywhere else we are acting anyway. In front of the camera, you shouldn’t act, you should just be; be the character. Also, I don’t look like a model or something, I believe I look like a guy you meet down the street. That allows me to slip into any character I want to, which I think is my biggest strength.
Your choices being very different from characters to directors. I had a question about your preparation for any given character and does it change from film to film?
My prep mainly consists of reading the scripts multiple times. By the third or fourth time, you get an understanding of your character and his purpose in the movie’s universe, you form a skeletal version of the character. Then the director comes in, he/she puts the flesh on top of it. They explain their perspective of the character, and I create an amalgamation. That is the performance you see on the screen. It is always going to be 50-50 kind of thing, where you build a little of it and the director comes in and fills it in to make it whole. I can do all kinds of homework and prep, but it’s always the director who does the final touches.
Since you had previously written and directed your short films and stuff, do you think of getting back to that avenue anytime soon?
I would love to at some point man. I love writing stories and I want to tell the world. Right now, I am pitching them to a few directors. If they like it, they might do it. If they don’t pick it up, the plan is to do them myself 10-15 years down the lane.
If so, what kind of movies/genres would interest you as a filmmaker?
I am not really genre kind of person. Most of my films come from an emotion that I feel at the moment of writing them. They belong to most genres, I have ideas for thrillers, comedies, dramas, etc. I don’t restrict myself that way. Again, don’t get me wrong, these are not bound scripts. They are just ideas I wish to pursue at some point in my life.
On a side topic, five performance have had a great amount of influence in your career? Also, what are the five films you would recommend to any aspiring actors to enhance their skills?
Chiranjeevi from Apadbandhavudu
Daniel Day-Lewis from There Will Be Blood
Prakash Raj from Kanchivaram
Kamal Hassan from Nayagan
Joaquin Phoenix from The Master
So that was the inspirational story of Satyadev. We wish him all the best and until next time, Ciao!