VISHNUVARDHAN The super star at 50
Last years hat-trick hero, superstar Vishnuvardhan, is a cult figure
in Karnataka. At 50, his films still go on to become mega hits, as
Veerappanayaka, Habba and Suryavamsha did in 1999. And, despite the
poor showing of his Premotsava, last year, the sensible, evergreen
hero is in an upbeat mood. SCREEN met the hero on the sets of the
forthcoming movie, Soorappa, in Mysore...
Did the three hits you had, last year, make you dizzy with excitement?
No. Im seldom moved by such developments in my career. Success and
failure are as common as day and night. I know, too, that success is a
public affair and failure, a private funeral.
By what yardstick, then, is a hero selected?
Selecting a hero is always a bit like betting on a race horse. Success
is often taken as a yardstick, but success alone, isnt always the
How do you react to the state awards announced for 1998-99?
I dont believe in winning awards. I may have won awards, myself,
but frankly, theyve ceased to mean much to me. Im sick to
death of people, who, after selecting me for an award, walk up to me and
say theyd argued in my favour. It is so sickening. The peoples
award, success at the box-office, is the one thing that really matters.
Have you had bad experiences with regard to awards?
Ive had several. A prestigious South Indian award was once given
to me, a few years ago. But I was stumped when the organisers later called
up to tell me they were sending some people over to meet me, and Id
have to take care of all arrangements. Did they think that by giving me
the award, theyd done me a favour, that I was obliged to play host
to them in return?
Again, take the case of the recent state awards. Actress Shruthi may have
come up with an extraordinary performance in Veerappanayaka. But more
than me or her, I feel its director deserved an award more, for highlighting
patriotism so effectively. I wouldnt have complained if I didnt
get the award, myself, so long as the director got one.
After one successful remake, youre working in a remake again...
So whats wrong with that? Remakes do help the industry, you know.
Look at the thousands of workers whore given opportunities to work,
thanks to the remakes. Suryavamsha has shown that remakes can do business
worth crores in Kannada, too. The approach is what counts.
Dont you feel that in Soorappa, youre playing the same old, cliched character?
The story is different, here. Neither am I playing a role thats
inspired by either Veerappanayaka or Suryavamsha. Soorappa hopes to correct
the wrong impressions most urbanites have of life in the villages. I play
the chieftain of a cluster of 40 odd villages. Unity, culture and love
are qualities that are still alive and well in villages.
Do you find similarities between your screen persona and the many roles you play in real life?
Of course, I do. Art, after all, mirrors reality, doesnt it?
When incidents we see around us are reflected in cinema, whats the
Do you study the original closely while working on a remake?
Normally, I dont. Id rather not let my inner feelings and
reactions be shaped by the originals, entirely. It may be only a remake,
but I prefer to work on it as an original.
In your long career, have you achieved everything youve wanted?
Ones wants are always unlimited. In my 28-year career, I may have
played many roles, but the urge to do a completely satisfactory role is
yet to be fulfilled. I have worked in 175 films, but I feel my talent
is still largely untapped. Youve only seen the tip of the iceberg,
Have you completed your role in Kamal Haasans Mrudanayagam?
A few days work is still left. I have worked only for seven days,
so far. Only about 30 per cent of the shoot is over. Fortunately, it does
seem the project is about to be revived again.
Does it irkyou when others take credit for your success?
It does. Ive met people who make the kind of claims even my parents
dont make. Theyre the sort who get unholy joy out of puncturing
your happiness at every available opportunity.
Why is it that Kannada cinemas still in the dumps?
The prospect for growth does seem bright to me. At least half a dozen
films did wonderful business, last year, didnt they? Suryavamsha,
Im told, did a total business of Rs 15 crore.
People feel you ought to have won a national award early in your career?
Today, even the national awards have lost their sanctity, and they can
be had like goods in the market. When their significance and sanctity
is lost, whats the fun and the meaning in receiving these awards?
The national awards committee, Im told, did not even bother to open
the Veerappanayaka cans. Such carelessness is intolerable, at a time when
patriotism is in such short supply.
The audience, of late, has changed its way of looking at films...
Thats the way it should be. When a dish is served, what went wrong
inside the kitchen is not important. The food should be tasty, regardless.
Likewise, whatever happens while a film is being made is not important
to the audience, as long as the product isnt good in itself.