Exclusive: The rising star from Siddipet

Naveen Kumar Bethiganti plays Ram Chander in Pitta Kathalu directed by Tharun Bhascker and this is touted to be his first big break after his debut in Bommalaramaram. The actor from Siddipet had trained for two years at the Nishumbita Theatre Group and as he did that, he gave auditions for various production houses. Bommalaramaram, was his first project, an independent cinema and in this course met Priyadarshi, a fellow actor. He says on the eve of the release on the streaming platform Netflix, “Bommalaramaram was being delayed and I did small films for Youtube and one of my works got popular. I had given a lip sync to a two to three minutes dialogue and that dub smash was noticed by director Puri Jagan too. Priyadarshi was watching me for a long time and he thought I had it in me to make it good in the movies, so he recommended me for a character in Pelli Chupulu directed by Tharun Bhascker.”

The actor was very fond of math and enrolled for a B.Tech degree, sure of being a math lecturer. He hated computers which was a mandatory subject and lost interest in studies and to divert his mind, got into extra-curricular stuff like theatre. He began liking it and in between he worked in a bank for a brief period and left that too. He sought admission in a film school to do an animation course and dropped out unable to pay the full fee. It was then he learnt about Nishumbita and took to acting very seriously. His affair with the camera had begun. About the training ground for actors and the change happening in theatre, he says, “There are at least twenty to thirty groups in Hyderabad but we need to use our discretion and join the right one; there are many which focus on entertainment but that doesn’t help in the long run.

I believe acting is reacting to the situation and don’t believe much in method acting. In theatre, you get command over the voice, grip on the audience and you tend to improve focus. Also you learn to stand in certain places in front of lighting so that you will be visible to the audience and the personality develops in the process. Acting is not about screaming, but we are required to be loud. The actor learns to increase or decrease his pitch according to the space he stands in. We have collared mikes these days and subtle acting has set in. People have learnt to be natural on the stage too.” Naveen says that he has done 10 to 12 movies but all of them are inconspicuous. Tarun saw an actor in him in Pelli Chupulu but because of the small character he played, he was typecast and hardly had anything to do in the films he featured in. Later he worked in B.Tech, a web series and another one. He has now resolved to stop taking up secondary characters post his role in Pitta Kathalu which is indeed a right move.

He agrees that there is enough talent in Hyderabad, all they need to do is, be in the right place at the right time. Luckily we have OTT and people are forced to do small budget projects which in turn is possible by roping in fresh talent only. Exploring talent has begun and hopefully people should stop asking for experience to give opportunities in films. He adds, “I am directing Ramanna Youth which is about four friends who hail from a village. It has a novel concept and is laced with sarcasm and humour and begins soon. I am doing a serious and negative character and I have four more films. Hopefully after the release of Ramula, I should be getting interesting offers.”

Ask him how he bagged the role in Pitta Kathalu, he says, “I would be asking Tarun for offers and he would say he is planning it with newcomers but when I was adamant, he asked me to audition for Ramula. The moment he saw my work, he decided I would be the lead and began looking for the Ramula character. When a wannabe actor auditions, Tarun notices his capacity to excel and his bandwidth. Saanve came to do another role but was picked for the primary character. The director is doing a film after a couple of years and I was given a narration of the story only after I was okayed. My character Ram Chander is someone who makes people laugh and you will find such in many numbers in the villages. He is an immature and an innocent fellow and thinks he is a super star. There is a lot of connectivity in it. Lakshmi Manchu told me that her father liked my work and he would in all probability give me a role in his film soon.

I have been waiting for a long time for recognition. I couldn’t figure out what was going wrong with my characters or performances despite I putting in 100 percent. Ram Chander likes the girl but he is scared of expressing this to his father and she too likes him but thinks he doesn’t care for her. They have a fight and he tells her that he doesn’t need her anymore and is ready to marry the girl of his father’s choice. Ramula, the role that Saanve Megghana plays is always hitting him. He is scared of her and also scared of his father and is bugged with both of them. Lakshmi Manchu gives support to the girl and then the story changes. Tarun believes a film is like a circle and has re-created Sainma in a different way, with new names. The new character is Swaroopakka (Lakshmi Manchu). If you notice Ee Nagaraniki Emaindi, it also has some similarities with Pelli Chupulu towards the end. It is about how power takes over and lust is involved in it. Ramulu is based on a real story, from a line narrated by Venu Udugula to Tarun Bhasckar. The latter developed it. Tarun wanted to show rural Telangana and its culture and hopes it will go global.”

The rest of the stories are modernised, this one is based in a village. The shoot was for ten days and Naveen Kumar shot for six days in Vikarabad in January. Naveen is of the opinion that people have begun liking short films and Youtube content. Earlier it wasn’t the case. After seeing web series, the perspective of watching short films has changed. He adds, “We were shown Lakshmi Manchu’s footage and Tarun said her performance was outstanding and we have to give more than our best to match her work. So I did changes in look and my mannerism and all of them liked it. Lakshmi Manchu is a sort of a leader. The music is beautiful, and without doubt it elevated the story. Vivek Sagar is known for soft tunes and the stories he worked on are all such types but this is a complete contrast.  The village lifestyle is shown well with its strong content and sub layers. The incident that happens in Ramula happens every day and it is a real story because of which the impact will be more.”

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