Bellamkonda Sreenivas is gearing up for the release of his Telugu film Saakshyam. In conversation with Padma Iyer, the young actor talks about the film, his passion for cinema, his future projects and more.
How did you make your debut in films?
I was fascinated with films ever since I was a child. My father is a producer. When he made his first blockbuster, I was excited by the lifestyle that success had brought, travelling to different locations to shoot a film… But I never thought I would be an actor. But when I started watching films and thinking about my career, I started giving it some serious thought.
It was also during this time that I worked on myself and lost weight when I was in college. Director VV Vinayak saw me when he visited our home once. He was surprised by my transformation and suggested that I act. I jokingly said if he would launch me, I would. To my surprise, he agreed. He said if I was prepared to learn everything that was needed to become a leading man, he would direct me – and he did. My first film Alludu Seenu was directed by Vinayak sir.
How did you prepare yourself for a career in films?
I do not come from a typical film family. My grandfather was in the police force. My dad started his journey in films as a production manager. He worked very hard to get where he is today and it would have taken just one wrong move on my part to wreck everything he had built. Since I have grown up in this environment, I know that it takes just a moment for success to crash and burn. But I have learnt this – if you are a director’s actor and a producer’s actor, if you are professional and sincere to your craft, everything will fall into place.
Tell us about Saakshyam. The trailer is intriguing and the story seems different.
Saakshyam means ‘witnesses’. The film is about the pancha bhoota, the five elements of nature that are witness to our actions. It is a unique concept that has not been done before. I would say it is a new kind of genre in terms of story, but it is not a socio-scientific or a fantasy film. It is an out-and-out commercial film but with a different and never-before-told concept. It is inherently a revenge story, just that the protagonist, unknown to him, is helped by the five elements of nature to fulfil his mission.
How was it working on this film? What was the experience like?
I am very grateful and lucky to have found a script like this. My father too loved it, he would have loved to launch me in a film like this. We shot this film in a wide variety of locations, from Pollachi, Varanasi and Bellary in India and Dubai to the Grand Canyon and Utah in the USA. We had an extensive 25-day shoot in the US. We also shot in the mines of Bellary. It was challenging to shoot there, especially with mining explosions and all. We used drones to shoot some of the high-profile scenes.
I have worked very hard on this film. For the Dubai schedule, I had to do some fly-boarding and desert biking. I went ten days before the shoot started so that I could learn all of it and do the stunts myself.
You have an amazing team for this film. How did everyone come on board?
It was the script. Everyone who came on board was impressed with the story and agreed immediately. The action is by Peter Hein, who had worked on Baahubali. The rest of the cast is also amazing. Jagapathi Babu, Ashutosh Rana, Ravi Kishan and Madhu Guruswamy – he is a well-known Kannada actor. Each one of them was drawn to the unique concept of the film. Since the film is about the pancha bhoota, we have five villains and hence five climaxes.
You mentioned that you wanted to do the stunts by yourself. What was the motivation?
I am just 24 years old. I am a very adventurous person and I knew I would enjoy myself while doing these stunts. I did not want to use a body double and so I made it a point to learn everything and work hard. I refer to myself as a ‘frustrated actor’. I am always keen to try new things and do stuff that has not been done before.
How was the dynamic on the sets like, especially with such a large star cast?
It was a great experience. I like that there are so many actors in this film. You get to learn something from everyone. I have always had the chance to work with big names. In my first film, I shared screen space with Samantha (Akkineni) and Prakash Raj. It is good to have established actors around you. It enhances your performance and you are able to do better.
What should the audience expect from Saakshyam?
Saakshyam is a film to be watched in the theatre as it is the kind of film that will give the audience a memorable theatrical experience. It is not a regular film but it has all the elements that will entertain. The action is real and will have an impact on the audience. The love story between Pooja Hegde and my character has been beautifully written. I play a video game designer in the film and that too is intrinsic to the story. So the audience will get a feel of everything – action, romance, comedy, drama and music.
What are your future projects?
I have started shooting for my next two films. In both films, Kajal Aggarwal is the heroine. I play a cop in one film. In the other film, directed by Teja, I play an intense character. As an actor, I want to explore different genres. I want to give the audience a variety of films. I want to challenge myself. I want to make films that I will enjoy not just making but watching as well. As an actor, I feel that I too should have a good time.