Siddhu Jonalagadda has come a long way. He got his first breakthrough Praveen Sattaru and the same director gave him a push with Guntur Talkies that made cine-goers sit up and notice but did it take him to that next level he was waiting for this long? “Firstly Guntur Talkies didn’t do what Kshanam did for Sesh Adivi and Pelli Chupulu did to Vijay Devarakonda. Maybe it was the genre, it could have been ahead of its time. I didn’t understand and began thinking as to where I had gone wrong in calculating its prospects. It was a bold move but it also made a lot of money. An established distributor said it made 17 to 18 crore and the sad part is it didn’t do the magic it was desired from many. I wanted to take a break and reanalyse the whole thing. I knew what it takes to make a film work but this keeps changing,” says Siddhu as a matter of fact in a chat with Klapboardpost.com. True, after Arjun Reddy’s release, people’s immunity for cuss words increased but that wasn’t the case with Guntur Talkies. What was termed shock value at that time is normal now.
After Guntur talkies, Siddhu had a couple of projects rolling but it went on for a longer period than expected. Krishna And His Leela’s basic idea came from director Ravikanth Perepu. It is the story of a boy falling in love with multiple women. The duo wrote the entire screenplay and dialogue, shot and edited it together. This film took four years in the making. Ask him if the timing of the release couldn’t have been more right, he concurs, “You don’t get too many opportunities being an outsider, the one or two you get… you should shine in them. If you do too many films you are old, they have seen you too much and you are not fresh. If you work in a mediocre film then you are a mediocre actor and every tag is associated with you, so I decided not to give into the time gain. No one was waiting for my film and when it releases, it will be noticed and be worth their time. I had that advantage and wanted to use it wisely. Ravikanth had done Kshanam by then and he wanted to do multiple things. We decided we shall do a film together, wrote it together and also sorted the producers for the film.”
In the film, the hero is apparently not a Casanova, he is every other boy and there is so much in the film and a lot of guys and girls in that age group will connect with it. Once you watch the film, you will look back at the relationships at least with a slightly different perspective, says Siddhu. He further says, “We call it your ‘Ex’. The ex for whom you have feelings for. It is a long journey, it has a lot of me and Ravi in the film. We invested a lot of personal experiences in the film. It is very close to my heart which I hope will resonate with that age group. Seerat Kapoor, Shraddha Srinath and Shalini are the heroines; The hero’s journey with these three girls, how he discovered what it means to be in love with someone and how he failed to adhere to what society constantly told him to do is what this story is all about. Who will end up with him, what is his Leela.”
What has he done during the lockdown? “Everything has its advantages and disadvantages. It is a huge pandemic and the economy, lives are affected. There is very little we can do in this situation except avoid gatherings and follow government guidelines. I don’t think anyone has ever got this kind of time ever before in their lives. I used it wisely, spent time with my family. It was tough initially but slowly I turned it into productive time.” Tell Siddhu to give his perspective about OTT and theatre; he says it is essentially about producers. It is to each their own. The numbers have to work out and the OTT is not buying big buck films but producers have invested big amounts.
He adds, “The producer is not able to sell big films to OTT as it is a budget based thing, it has an individual perspective to it. The biggest of films are releasing on OTT as well. About internet viewing? I spent a lot of time on many platform accounts. My parents would never touch a fire stick remote but today they do it on their own. It means all sections are spending time on it. Nine lakh views are what we got for our film teaser and I think there should be a balance between creativity and conformity. It must work out monetarily too. At the end of the day, cinema is a business.”
As an artiste Siddhu is in two minds, nothing beats a theatrical experience he opines. Even if you watch a film from home, nothing can beat what you see on the big screen. What is happening with OTT is working out well, it is a bonus if we see it wisely but in the long run, theatres will be back and has to be back he states. Finally, ask him if he has been underrated as an actor? “Lot of people are getting many opportunities now. I kept trying all along and never gave up any point of time. I will never give up even if it takes another ten years. It can be misconstrued as arrogance, but arrogance never got anyone anywhere. I am confident I can work in and do good cinema.”