Suniel back in action mode with Pailwaan
The actor hopes to transcend boundaries of language and appeal to a cross section of audiences with the wrestling drama releasing today
The Prabhas-Shraddha Kapoor starrer Saaho may have not have been a hit with critics, but there's no denying, or stopping, its box office takeover. The action saga, shot simultaneously in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu, has so far collected over Rs400 crores worldwide. Impressed? So is actor, producer and entrepreneur Suniel Shetty, who is gearing up for the release of his own South Indian crossover film, Pailwaan, a wrestling drama which also stars Kannada superstar Kichcha Sudeep.
While Pailwaan marks Suniel Shetty's debut in Kannada cinema, the film will have a broader appeal, reveals Suniel in a chat over the phone with City Times.
"It's been dubbed in five languages - Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada, and it's going to be releasing simultaneously in all of them, because each state has its own audience and prefers films in their language. Today, it's one India, one cinema. It's changed so much. We have a film like Saaho doing over Rs400 crores of business. I'm looking forward to Pailwaan being accepted in all other languages too."
The Dhadkan actor elaborated on his role in the film, which releases today in the UAE. "I play a mentor to Kichcha Sudeep's character, as far as guru-shishya (teacher-student) and wrestling goes. I play a wrestling coach and a father figure, a brother figure to him; someone who picks him up from the streets and trains him to be one of the best fighters there is in the country. It's a relationship that explores the turmoil between the coach and his mentee; then there's a romance that also becomes a problem. So it's a very beautiful, relationship-based film."
'We get along beautifully'
Kichcha Sudeep, award-winning star of films like Sparsha, Kempe Gowda and Eega, has showered a lot of praise on his co-star on social media. We asked Suniel what it was like working with Sudeep.
"I think as far as work ethics go, because we belong to the South, somewhere down the line we all believe in 'work is worship'; everything is planned out. Sudeep himself is extremely passionate so I absolutely enjoyed working with him. My relationship with him started with the Celebrity Cricket League, we all got to know each other and he's very respectful and very passionate - one of the best traits that he has. And I guess that's the reason that he's always showering praise and saying good things because we get along beautifully."
Suniel, who hails from Karnataka, has made a name for himself in Bollywood as an action-comedy star ever since his debut in the 1992 film Balwaan. However, Pailwaan is his first Kannada film, and he says it's a 'great feeling'.
"My karmabhoomi (the land where one works) is Mumbai and my janmabhoomi (my place of birth) is Karnataka! So, it's a great feeling. I hope that Pailwaan is appreciated and if it works and one is accepted then one can think about what to do next. What had happened is after a four-year sabbatical, I had decided I would do one film at a time, but I've got myself into a position where I'm shooting 360 days of this year, which is a good position to be in but something that I had not expected. Because I was totally confused as to how do I start again, do I start again, have I forgotten my craft, does the audience remember me. So there were a whole lot of questions on my mind, but now I've ended up just signing films that I am happy doing and also where I am playing my age and doing justice to the characters that I play."
Suniel says that language doesn't matter as much as content nowadays; the evolution of cinema in the last couple of decades means the pan-Asian appeal of South Indian films has increased tremendously.
"It's exciting. Cinema has evolved. The market is so much bigger. And it's a hundred times bigger, yet unfortunately we have only 4-5000 theatres whereas our requirement is 50,000 theatres, because of the kind of films we make. I'm excited that there's cross-pollination, I'm excited that language doesn't matter anymore, content matters. South cinema has been accepted in a very, very big way - it's being consumed like Hindi films are not being consumed. So I'm happy, excited and glad that I caught the wave at the right time!"
Speaking of a wave, web series are all the rage right now. Would we ever see him in one? "I have people talking to me about it. For me the platform will matter a lot. I'd want an international platform. Scripts have been narrated to me, there's a lot that I've said no to, because of the platforms, but there's a lot that I'm also looking at, and if it works out, great!"
'Interesting year, diverse roles'
We asked Suniel about his future projects. "I've got Sarkar, that I've completed with Priyadarshan. Darbar that I'm doing with Rajinikanth. I've got some other amazing films that I'm working on but I'd rather have the producers announce those, because that's the way it should be, but, it's an interesting year, with diverse roles and different characters; I'm playing my age, which is what I'm excited about, that characters are being etched out and written keeping me in mind even though there's a certain age that I've reached."