He started his career as a villain in Pawan Kalyan’s Panjaa, and went on to work in star-studded projects like Balupu and Baahubali. But actor Adivi Sesh is only now getting the recognition he deserves with the forthcoming Telugu suspense drama, Kshanam, in which he plays the male lead. He has also co-written the script with Ravikanth Perepu, the film’s debutant director. Kshanam also features Adah Sharma, Anasuya Bharadwaj, Satyam Rajesh and Vennela Kishore in supporting roles. Slated to release on February 26. Kshanam is Sesh’s pet project, and close to his heart.
A small incident inspired him to turn an idea into a film.“One day I was driving down Jubilee Hills (in Hyderabad) when a 4-year-old girl stopped me, asking for a ride. She was accompanied by five more kids and they wanted to be dropped at their school. I picked them all up and dropped them, but it got me thinking: what if they had been taken away by some stranger? Their parents wouldn’t even have known. Just the thought gave me the creeps, and that became the seed of our story.” In the film, Sesh plays an investment banker, who comes to India from San Francisco in search of a missing girl, who happens to be the daughter of his ex-girlfriend (Adah). The suspense builds as he gets deeper into his investigation.
I asked Sesh why he didn’t direct the film himself, given his previous directorial experience, with Karma: Do You Believe? (2010) and Kiss (2013). “Acting is an emotional process while directing is a creative one. I didn’t want to do both together. The two usually don’t go hand in hand. So, most of the time, such attempts crash. I wanted to concentrate on writing, so I spent over a year on it. I shared the screenplay duty with Ravi.” Though the film seems like a thriller, Sesh says there’s a romantic flashback, with intermittent dark humour. “I’d like to call it a suspense drama with very realistic characters. Almost every actor in the film plays a totally different role from everything they’ve done so far in their careers. Satyam Rajesh, who is known for his comic roles, will play a serious circle inspector. Then, there’s Anasuya Bharadwaj, a television anchor essaying the role of a cop. Even Adah has attempted something very different”.
The film is produced by PVP Cinema. I couldn’t help but wonder how such a popular studio became associated with the project. Sesh says the producers decided to back the project purely on merit. “Mr. PVP and I work out in the same gym. I pitched the story idea. He liked it so much that he immediately set up a meeting with his team. In no time, we had a movie in hand. They were the first producers I spoke to and luckily for us, everything fell into place. Nobody else could’ve provided the kind of platform they gave to complete the project”.
About his young director, Sesh says, “It’s interesting how I met Ravi. He contacted me on Facebook while pursuing a course in Engineering. We kept in touch and once he graduated, we came together for this project. We complemented each other with our ideas. Though I’m generally an introvert, Ravi and I hit it off quite well.”
He also praised his co-star Adah, “She doesn’t just play a pretty face here. She has a substantial role. She finally got to flaunt her acting skills. Usually, heroines from Mumbai are perceived as playing it safe, with roles that don’t push them to take risks. But Adah has proved that notion wrong.”
For Sesh, working on this project has been extremely rewarding and extremely stressful. Shot on a tight budget, the film’s story shifts between Hyderabad, Vizag and San Francisco. “The challenging part was to shoot in popular places and yet not show audiences things they’ve already seen. Like how do you shoot in front of Golconda Fort, but not give them a glimpse of the building? How do you shoot in San Francisco when you’re working on a tight budget? Keeping all this in mind, how do you still manage to maintain a high standard in the output? How do you shoot a film for 90 days without going overboard on the budget? Thankfully, everything worked in our favour and it worked because everybody believed in us.”
He added that no previous role had demanded as much emotion from him, and that this project had taught him to be honest with himself and the audience. “You’re confident about some films even before their release. Kshanam is one such project. I hope people will like it”.