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Exclusive | Raghavendra Stores actor Dattanna on working with Jaggesh, the "serious actor" tag & more

The veteran actor talks to OTTplay about his approach to humour in cinema and how he stumbled upon success in the comedy genre

Exclusive | Raghavendra Stores actor Dattanna on working with Jaggesh, the "serious actor" tag & more
H.G. Dattatreya or Dattanna

Last Updated: 02.56 PM, May 02, 2023


H.G. Dattatreya, fondly known as Dattanna, has got to be one of the most affable actors to ever grace the Kannada silver screen. Every time the veteran appears on the screen, one immediately grows endeared and ends up investing all their attention in the scene or sequence he is part of. He's got that special something that always manages to draw you in, be it the wisdom with which he imbues his characters or the subtle mischief/cheekiness that he brings to the table. Regardless, it is safe to say that Dattanna's mere presence adds an aura of respectability to any film he's a part of.

Another of his many qualities as an actor is his penchant to rediscover himself. As someone who forayed into the world of cinema on the back of a successful career in the Indian Air Force (retiring as a Wing Commander), Dattanna's initial recognition came in the form of a 'serious actor'. He was 44 years old when he made his film debut and his very Kannada film, Aasphota, fetched him a Karnataka State Film Award in the Best Supporting Actor category. Having now found tremendous success in the thriving 'parallel' moment of the Kannada cinema of the 1980s and '90s, Dattanna was a mainstay in the works of filmmakers like T.S. Nagabharana, Girish Kasaravalli and P. Sheshadri. He would also find opportunities in the slightly more commercial category of Kannada films with Nagathihalli Chandrashekar's America! America!! and Andaman being his best-known credits of that era. The turn of the century caused parallel cinema to wane away gradually but Dattanna continued attracting acting roles in films led by all the superstars of the new generation.

And yet, quite interestingly, the comic actor in Dattanna remained untapped for the longest time and he himself wonders why it took so long for him to gain that recognition. "I had always wished to do more comedy in cinema but for some reason, I never got the opportunity. Even in theatre, I don't recall performing many comical roles on the stage. I always knew that I have an inclination towards comedy but all the roles that were offered to me were quite serious in nature. There were a few exceptions along the way like Ulta Pulta but I suppose Neer Dose (2016) was the first film which had a full-fledged capacity for humour. It clicked somehow and I think it added a dimension to my acting," he says.

With Neer Dose emerged a hit on-screen pair of Dattanna and Jaggesh and since then, the two have acted together in multiple films including Premier Padmini, Thothapuri 1 & 2 and the very recent Hombale Films venture Raghavendra Stores. Dattanna tells us that another film is currently in the making. By all means, it is safe to say this pairing is an unusual or off-beat one but the industry and the audiences alike have taken a shine to the fusion of two completely contrasting personalities.

"We both are completely different actors when it comes to humour. Jaggesh has a flair for vivid facial expressions which he brings out quite deliberately, whereas I take a more restrained approach. It has worked for him over the years and the fans love him for that but since I am not a star, I needn't stick to one method. I have simply gone with what seemed natural and organic at that moment and tried to keep my brand of humour very understated. I have not taken the body-humour route. If you see comedy legends like Norman Wisdom, Jerry Lewis or even Peter Sellers, none of them is known for their physical comedy - even though I have never consciously followed these actors, my approach to humour is very straightforward, very poker-faced," adds the 81-year-old actor.

Is there a special equation that he shares with Jaggesh? Or has the camaraderie developed on its own without much intervention? The answer that Dattanna offers, however, suggests that it more often than not comes down to the kind of comedy that a film represents and not necessarily the actors that are executing it. "See, people are generally fond of comedy in cinema but you have to serve them the right kind. I am personally not too repelled by adult humour but you cannot go overboard with it. As far as my repartee with Jaggesh is concerned, there isn't much planning that goes into our scenes because, as I said, we are two completely different actors. But there is a lot of scope for improvisation and we play with that," adds Dattanna. 

Dattanna played the role of Jaggesh's father in Santhosh Ananddram's Raghavendra Stores, which also stars Shwetha Srivatsav, Achyuth Kumar, Ravishankar Gowda and others. The film is currently playing in theatres.

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