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Shrunga BV: I am drawn to flawed characters like Adarsh in Chilli Chicken

Popular theatre actor Shrunga BV on his role in Chilli Chicken, why he isn't doing films often and more

Shrunga BV: I am drawn to flawed characters like Adarsh in Chilli Chicken
Shrunga BV plays a restaurant owner in Chilli Chicken

Last Updated: 04.24 PM, Jun 21, 2024

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BV Shrunga is a popular and busy name in theatre circles, a career trajectory he’s not been able to replicate in cinema, though. He does the occasional film, most of which have been in the art-house (award and film festival) category, whether it is Rama Rama Re, 19.20.21, Abracadabra or, Chilli Chicken, which is in theatres now. The latter is a lesser-known debut venture by director Prateek Prajosh, in which Shrunga plays the owner of a small-time Chinese restaurant, who employs migrant workers from the north east to run his establishment. Shrunga’s character, Adarsh, is a struggling entrepreneur, who dreams of stepping up the ladder in the F&B sector and running a fancy Chinese restaurant. He will do anything to keep operational costs low, and is smart enough to hire too many workers from the same place, lest they bandy together and throw him out. Adarsh is not perfect, but he isn’t necessarily bad, a human trait that Shrunga says he is drawn to when picking roles.

“I am most definitely drawn to characters who are flawed. And that comes from the influence of theatre, where we do portray different characters; human beings who are not perfect. Personally, I am drawn to stories in which characters have conflicts. Some sort of flaw, with shades of grey appeals to me; the philosophy being that we are victims of circumstances. We are not born bad. It is those circumstances that I want to talk about in my work – what are the things in this person’s environment that make him act/react a certain way. Even in 19.20.21, in which I played a tribal student, I got a compliment that I gave dignity to the victim. As far as I am concerned, being a victim is not about crying and making a fuss. I try to humanize the character as far as possible, within the limitations of the script. In fact, even if a character has been written as Mr Goody Two Shoes, I try to find a counterpoint within the framework of the story – that’s my process,” says Shrunga.

Shrunga (left) in a still from the Kannada film Chilli Chicken
Shrunga (left) in a still from the Kannada film Chilli Chicken

As for his limited filmography that leans heavily towards festival films, the actor says it is not conscious choice to only do such movies. “I have not been approached for anything else. Whenever I do get some offers my way, one thing I often hear is that I am not a marketable actor and that filmmakers are unsure about what kind of role to give me. And I don’t belong to that genre of alpha-male hero; in terms of my looks, my voice and how I think, so, I don’t sell,” he says. The guess, though, is that as a theatre professional, Shrunga is not hung up about being the protagonist in a tale. Why not explore supporting roles, then? “When I am not being offered anything, it’s difficult to answer that. I am just doing what is coming my way right now,” he states.

Shrunga adds, though, that he has not been aggressively pursuing films/roles, which he did at one point, only to realize that it doesn’t work for him. “I don’t have the vocabulary to market myself. If I am to network with people from the industry, I am like a fish out of water, but put me in rehearsal room, and I know what to do. The time one needs to invest in networking, I would rather use that more productively. I have done some amazing plays in these years; the kind of roles I have done in theatre and the name I have in that circle, it’s crazy. For instance, the play Boy with a Suitcase, an Indo-German collaboration with which we toured all of Germany and northern Europe between 2011 and 2019. Then there was Robinson and Crusoe about two fighter pilots from warring nations in the middle of the ocean on a floating roof. I am currently in two plays – Amma Mattu Suhail, a queer love story and Kaakadosha, an exploration of male toxicity, in which I am a rapist. These varied roles are popular in certain circles and I am happy doing this kind of work,” he says, adding that his driving force is and will always be finding good work and not popularity.

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