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Exclusive | Naveen Shankar on finally finding the breathing space, Gurudev Hoysala & more

OTTplay caught up with the actor during his birthday celebrations to discuss the rise in popularity, future projects and more

Exclusive | Naveen Shankar on finally finding the breathing space, Gurudev Hoysala & more
Naveen Shankar on the rise

Last Updated: 06.37 PM, May 28, 2023

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For Naveen Shankar, the critical success of Gurudev Hoysala means a great deal for more than just one reason. The most obvious one is the film offered him a breakthrough role of sorts that took his budding career to a new high. Almost every single review or response about that film mentioned Naveen in glowing light and his performance as the antagonist Bali became one of the main highlights for the audience. Alongside, Naveen also managed to foray into the more mainstream/commercial space in Kannada cinema and yet he did not have to compromise on the quality of the role. 

"To be honest, I have wanted to be part of films like Gurudev Hoysala right from the beginning. There is that prominent commercial quality to these films but at the same time, the content is rich and engaging. So, when you have a script that manages to tell an important story in the pitch and tone of a film that is readily accessible to all kinds of audiences, nothing like it. No point in making a film for intellectuals alone," says Naveen.

Life, including his acting career, has only changed for the better for Naveen Shankar who feels a lot more secure and at ease about his craft and also his position in the film industry. One instance of the rise in popularity is the outpour of love and adoration that he received on his birthday on May 27. Fans from across Karnataka, mainly in places such as Gadag, Bagalkot, Raichur, Ilkal and of course, Bengaluru, erected large banners of the actor and celebrated his birthday completely of their own accord. They would cut cakes, burst crackers, and embellish the banners with garlands and whatnot, while wishing him success ahead. Although Naveen could not personally visit these places and participate, he would still get in touch with each of the fan groups to thank them personally for the overwhelming gesture.

And what does he attribute this slow-but-sure ascent to? Consistency, he says, is the operative word and will remain so. "I suppose you cannot credit the rise in fame or popularity to one gig like Gurudev Hoysala. The audience has seen me around for more than 5 years but the recent bout of consistency has certainly helped my cause. Gultoo was a commercial success but that was like 4 years ago and I wasn't back on the big screen until the end of 2022 when Dharani Mandala Madhyadholage released. That film, though did not live up to its potential at the box office, was appreciated widely and my performance as Adi became a highlight. And then, I had Hondisi Bareyari out in theatres within a cap of a few weeks and the character Ranjith I played in that film, too, worked its charm. In fact, when I visit colleges today, students tell me that Ranjith resonated with them a lot. And when Hondisi Bareyari was still in theatres, Gurudev Hoysala released and soon after the former came out on OTT. I am told that Hondisi Bareyari has over 12 lakh views to its name already on Amazon Prime Video, which is supposed to be the most for a Kannada film this year.

Of course, you cannot undermine the value that a film like Gurudev Hoysala brings to the table because even though that film ended up being an 'average hit' at the box office, more than 6 lakh people watched it. Since I had multiple films to offer and that too in a short span of time, the audience has grown to appreciate me and also keep their faith in me," adds Naveen Shankar.

Naveen shares that his recent visits to a couple of engineering colleges in Bengaluru sprung pleasant surprises on him when he saw the turnout of fans to meet and greet him. "Before, people would see me and say hi from far but now they come up to me, stop me if I am in a car to speak to me. It took me nearly 20 minutes to get out of the crowd recently," he says.

Speaking of faith, Naveen Shankar says the aspect of trust or reliability is important for an actor, especially when a majority of Kannada films are failing to impress the audience. And perhaps that is why he does not feel any rush to accept any offer that comes his way and instead, he is giving himself the time and liberty to wade through the mediocre stuff. 

"I have been around for 5 years but after Gultoo released, I lost almost two years waiting for two scripts to materialize. I even underwent a physical transformation for these scripts but they got shelved before even going on floors. I don't mean to complain because it happens to everyone. But after Gurudev Hoysala, which has accelerated my career a bit, I have found that I can take that breathing space to figure out the best scripts from the lot and proceed. I thought I would have only villain roles coming my way but that isn't the case - barring one or two, I have been offered mostly the hero or the protagonist. I want to take the liberty to spend time fine-tuning the worthy scripts and maybe contribute a little to the changes. The next goal is to create a niche or what you call a 'market' for myself," he adds before signing off.

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