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Exclusive! Yes, Nayeem was a notorious criminal, but he was a victim of circumstances: Vasishta N Simha

The actor plays the slain Naxalite in the Telugu-Kannada biopic, Nayeem Diaries (Gangster).

Prathibha Joy
Nov 18, 2021
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Vasishta N Simha

Vasishta N Simha has been MIA from Kannada film circles for a while and that, he says, is because he’s been spending more time in Hyderabad these days, and is already on his fourth project in Tollywood. The media shy actor, who has been trying to let his work do the talking, spoke to OTTplay following the launch of the trailer of his debut film as hero in Telugu movies – Nayeem Diaries. The film is a biopic of slain Naxalite Mohammed Nayeemuddin, the circumstances of whose death are shrouded in mystery. Vasishta is in the title role of Nayeem Diaries, in the film that explores the late Naxalite-turned-anti-Naxalite activist’s life from childhood to his death.

Vasishta in Nayeem Diaries

“Nayeem Diaries, which will be released in Kannada as Gangster, is a film that we consciously kept out of the media and public eye during its making, because of the controversial nature of the subject. Nayeem is not an ‘ordinary’ character, it was planned that we will not talk about it until we put some content out. Since I was playing the lead role, the makers decided to make it in Kannada too, instead of just dubbing it, so, I had to shoot the film twice over,” says Vasishta. The actor reckons that the film will come across more like fiction for Kannada audiences, because Nayeem was a known name only in the neighbouring state. “Also, Naxalism is not a very popular subject for Kannadigas, so, they may not be able to relate to the events in the film,” he reasons.

Considering the sensitivity of the subject of Nayeem Diaries, one wonders what played in Vasishta’s mind while taking up the role? “When I was approached the film, I had no idea about Nayeem, but started researching about him thereafter. As per the narration, one thing that struck me is that Nayeem was a prime example of being victim of circumstances and how you respond to the situations that occur in your life. Nayeem was a vibrant, young, family-oriented guy, who was also a little hot-headed, and, hence, got introduced to the Naxal movement as potential leadership material. The Naxal movement was so strong back then that maybe half of Andhra Pradesh was sympathizers. Over the years, Nayeem became a top brass Naxal leader; even killing a cop who was a nightmare for their movement and then going to jail. Strangely, Nayeem comes out as an anti-Naxalite and all these incidents are the highlights of the film. When I got the narration, I must admit that I sympathized with Nayeem; no doubt, he was a notorious criminal who has killed, say, 800-900 people and was a kingpin for the land mafia. Except for those who suffered because of him, most people heard about Nayeem only after he died,” he explains.

Vasishta N Simha

Going back a little, early last year, just before the pandemic struck is when Vasishta had his last release in Kannada with Mayabazar 2016, produced by the late Puneeth Rajkumar’s banner. His first film since then was in Telugu, the Venkatesh starrer Narappa, in which he had a supporting role. “Since the first unlock phase, I have mostly been in Hyderabad; even the Kannada remake of Evaru is being done here. In fact, in the last 2-3 months I have been shuttling between sets of a Telugu film and the Evaru remake in Hyderabad,” says the actor.

Things appear to be looking up for Vasishta in Tollywood. “Yeah, I have two films as the leading man ready for release – Nayeem Diaries and Odella Railway Station; the latter is also based on a true story that happened in Odella, which is in Karimnagar. Odella Railway Station was initially planned as a lockdown production for an OTT platform, but the makers are now considering a theatrical release. I am currently shooting for Simbaa – The Forest Man, a murder mystery, the soul of which is about conversation of nature. I am shooting for the last schedule of this film,” says the actor.

With so much happening in Tollywood, it isn’t goodbye to Kannada films. “In between all of this I have been shooting for my portions for Dhananjaya’s Head Bush; I’ve completed half of my sequences and should wrap that soon.

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