Exclusive : Naveen Chandra Interview

Naveen Chandra stands out as a lead albeit in a negative role in Ammu (A Karthik Subbaraj Production) that is streaming on Amazon Prime as an original. One can’t stop admiring his earnestness and intensity with which he carried his role. In a chat with Y.Sunita Chowdhary of Klapboardpost.com, Naveen Chandra says such roles fall on an artiste’s lap rarely and all they can do is a balancing act of picking mainstream cinema and some stories meant for the soul. Ask him if such a strong character affected him and if he had a hangover, he says, “I am very close to my sister, mother. I love the women in my family and when I was given a narration I decided to do it and take it to people. I didn’t do rehearsals, because it will stay in your thought process. The more you do, it will remain with you and also I am a kind of person who’ll go deep into the character. So the best way to approach it I thought would deal with it differently. Discussions, references, suggestions happened only through phone calls and video calls. I got to know the situations of abused people and their cases but every day after the shooting I would be uncomfortable. I would tell myself that I am not this person. …there is a person inside me which I am just playing out. I will have to make the woman win in this story.” Naveen states that sadists don’t show their ugly side to one and all but only to a weaker person who doesn’t retaliate. He reminds us of the first scene in the film, where a small girl reaches out to Ammu and asks her as to why she is marrying Ravi uncle and that she gets scared every time she sees his eyes. Children know whom to talk and whom to play with and whom to avoid, they get all the vibes…good and bad. They understand who’s being good and bad quickly.

This is how Naveen bagged the role. The director’s wife apparently loved Naveen Chandra’s work in Andala Rakshasi and is a huge fan of his. The director had his own fears and thought he might not do this role in Telugu. Nevertheless, he inquired hesitatingly if Naveen would be interested in the role and he got an affirmative response immediately. Naveen shares, “I told him to narrate it and I liked the plot immensely. We don’t know if people will change or not but atleast the conversation is sure to begin. There is a film titled Darlings starring Alia Bhatt. Alia gets abused by the hubby and later the women in the house abuse him. Abuse is equal for women and men. Pain knows no gender actually. Here, Ammu doesn’t become like Ravi. she doesn’t retaliate till a long time, she gives him a long rope.”

He tells us exactly when his real character surfaces in the story, “It is a personality disorder. A constable in the police station tells Ravi that his wife Ammu loves him a lot which is why she carries lunch for him. He also adds that in his career, he had never seen a woman carry lunch for her husband. The following day Ammu doesn’t bring lunch and that triggers madness in him. His chauvinism is on full display and begins his abusive behaviour. The reason why this film worked is due to one situation in the story…that is when Ammu gets cornered by an alpha male. Ravi is a nice guy to the world but when no one is watching, he turns into a psycho and his ego reaches a peak.” The team had an appropriate casting, they roped in Aishwarya Lakshmi from Kerala, Naveen Chandra from Telugu States and Bobby Simha from Chennai. They initially wanted it as a Tamil original but later decided to make it a Telugu original. It is Prime’s first original in Telugu. The team were surprised that Naveen Chandra gave the green signal immediately and set the ball rolling. For Naveen, the project left him with a lot of satisfaction.

Naveen Chandra shares the response he got post the streaming on the streaming portal. “I got many messages. Every person who texted or called me said there was a Ravi in them and they felt guilty after seeing the story. They forgot that there was an actor called Naveen Chandra and just saw an abusive husband. They hated themselves for behaving like that with their spouses. Domestic abuse happens to almost every woman, especially mothers. I am reminded of so many people when I see the conversation between Ammu and her mother Parvathi. That is my favourite scene in the story when the mother advises her daughter not to ape her but to follow her heart because tomorrow she will be answerable to her daughter.”

What did Naveen do about his appearance? He says, “I made sure I looked very different. I didn’t want the man to look huge but the intention should be large and strong. There were intimate scenes coordinator and psychological scenes coordinator on the sets to guide us and bring a balance to the relationship and character. It helped me a great deal; I knew exactly how moderate or abusive I should be in a particular situation. There is verbal abuse as well, using profane language to cause mental trauma. The wife has a weakness for parents, for love for husband etc…so the husband capitalises on it and shows all his might and domination on her. Cinematographer of Cinema Bandi..Apoorva and editor Radha added value to the project. There were four assistant directors and all of them were women. The gender ratio ensured we don’t get affected by the roles as there was every possibility that both the sexes could get influenced. Bobby Simha is an ally to help Ammu out of the situation; When he suddenly comes to the police station in some case, he gets interlinked to this case.” Director Charukesh Shekar had written this story during the lockdown. He read articles of abuse and violence in the newspapers which were rampant at that time.The director is an associate of Kartik Subbaraj for the latter’s projects. Naveen is all praise for both Charukesh and Srikanth Nagoti who understood and narrated the stories from the perspective of women.

The actor lived his role. He took advantage of the script and dialogues handed over to him in advance and studied them thoroughly but approached it in his own inimitable style. The film was shot in Chennai and Tirupati for 33 days. He says as an actor, finding good scripts is a huge task. While doing template cinema, one should also pick up subjects such as this. “I like stories that give out an earthy feel, deal with human relationships and stories of a known person. My next film Month Of Madhu is a known story…set in Vizag. It is about youngsters who make wrong choices, get married and struggle. I can’t talk about it much but the story germinated from Vizag. I can’t reveal why it is called Month Of Madhu, that is our trump card. You will have to wait for the trailer. There is a Tamil film as well which is a reverse of Ammu…where I’ll be harassed by the woman.”

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