Ask anyone who has interacted with Allu Sirish, son of producer Allu Arvind, over the years, you are bound to come across the same question lurking in their mind – “We thought he will turn producer just like his father. Why did he choose to be an actor?”
His own elder brother Allu Arjun; cousins – Ram Charan, Varun Tej, Sai Dharam Tej and Niharika; uncles – Chiranjeevi, Pawan Kalyan, Naga Babu are all popular actors in Telugu film industry. There’s a running joke that there are enough actors from the ‘Mega’ family to form a cricket team.
It’s been four years since Allu Sirish made his foray into acting with Radha Mohan’s Gouravam, and he has seen his share of ups and downs since then. It might seem like everyone in his family is competing for the same pie, although at different levels, but, right now, Allu Sirish has other things in mind.
Just ahead of the release of his upcoming film Okka Kshanam, we catch up with him on the sets of the film. So far, he comes across as an actor who hasn’t figured out what he is good at and every film in the past three years has been some sort of an experiment to gauge where he stands. “That’s a fair assessment. To be honest, Gouravam’s failure was such a huge setback for me that I lost faith in my judgement. I didn’t know what would work at the box-office. After that film, I collaborated with Maruthi for a romantic comedy, and later I did Srirasthu Subhamasthu. To some extent, Srirasthu Subhamasthu showed what I was capable of doing, and it earned me a lead role in Vi Anand’s Okka Kshanam. It’s been a steep learning curve for me. When Anand saw my previous film, he thought that I would fit the role of an youngster with whom the audience too will sympathise,” Allu Sirish says.
Okka Kshanam, directed by Vi Anand, is based on the concept of parallel life, and it follows the life of Jeeva, played by Sirish, who must fight against destiny to save the life of his girlfriend. From the trailer, it’s evident that incidents which occur in the life of a couple (Srinivas Avasarala and Seerat Kapoor) happen in Sirish and Surbhi’s life too to the T.
“Their present is your future,” Jayprakash tells Sirish in one of the scenes, which triggers a series of incidents that lead Sirish to stop an impending danger. “The film toys around with the idea – Is your destiny prefixed or can human will rewrite it? I was thrilled when Anand told me the story. Prior to his debut as a director, he had worked with AR Murugadoss. I know that anyone who comes from that school of thought would pick a high concept and simplify it that it reaches the widest possible audience. For most of our Indian films, you don’t have to spoon feed to the urban audiences; however, not everyone is that sharp. We didn’t want to dumb down the film. We just wanted the largest possible audience to understand the film. We explained everything in a very simplistic way. There’s nothing fancy or hard to understand about it,” Sirish explains.
The genre of the film is such that, at times, it doesn’t really matter who’s playing the lead role because the narrative gets highlighted more than everything else. Ask him if he felt that it was a risky move to dabble with such a subject so early in his career, Sirish recalls the advice which his brother Allu Arjun, fondly known as Bunny, once shared with him.
“Bunny once told me that if you start looking at the length and screen-time of your role, sometimes you end up losing out on good films. He did films like Vedam and Rudhramadevi which made him a well-rounded actor. There are other characters in Okka Kshanam which have a lot of footage, and frankly, you won’t even see me in the film for about 30 minutes, but the film ends with me fighting for my love. The story is written in such a way. I’m not very finicky about all these things. I’ve already played a second lead to a superstar like Mohanlal, so, I’m kind of used to all this. Truth be told, I really want to share screen space with young actors of my age and be part of films like Bangalore Days, if they are open to the idea.”
Few days ago, the film was in news when a section of media alleged that Okka Kshanam was inspired from a Korean film Parallel Life; however, Sirish vehemently denies these allegations.
“I did see parts of the Korean film after the allegations were made. But it’s a completely different film. I follow world cinema to a fair extent, and the moment Anand told me story, I asked him if he got inspired from another film, and he said no. In fact, the whole plot originated from a simple incident – what if a boy and a girl meet in the parking lot of a shopping mall? My conscience is clear that we have made an original film. We are trying to dub the film in other languages too. I really feel that the film has a potential to be remade in other foreign languages too, like how 3 Idiots and Munnabhai MBBS travelled to the West,” he opines.
Interestingly, Anil Sunkara, who produced 2 Memiddaram, the official remake of ‘Parallel Life’, gave a clean chit to Okka Kshanam and announced that there are absolutely no similarities between the two films.
In the past four years, with five films to his credit, Sirish has had a bumpy ride, although he’s slowly finding his feet on the ground.
When he was 21, he played an active role in film production and marketing, along with his father Allu Arvind who heads Geetha Arts, one of the most successful production houses in the country. It was around this time that a lot of people began asking him if he’s going to make his debut as an actor. “My dad was pleased with what I had done and thought I can give acting a shot; however, he was clear that he didn’t want to nudge me if I wasn’t ready. It took me a while to convince myself that I really wanted to do this,” he recalls.
The actor has had to face his share of criticism over the years, and at one point of time, the incessant trolling on social media seemed too much to handle. “The memes are quite funny, at times, though,” he laughs, adding, “I’m open to constructive criticism and I do take suggestions like I need to be more energetic on screen, seriously. But if people think that by trolling me they are showing their loyalty to their favourite actor, then there’s nothing much I can do about it. I have other things on my mind to deal with.”
So far, Sirish didn’t have to face a situation where he had to compete with members of his own family for good scripts. In fact, he confesses that he exchange notes on scripts that come his way with Varun or Sai Dharam Tej. Ask him what’s his biggest challenge, considering that he hails from a family that’s filled with actors, he broods over it for a minute and says, “All of us have some influence of Megastar Chiranjeevi garu since we grew up watching his films. The biggest challenge is trying to be original. If we try to imitate him too much, then people will get bored of it.”
For now, he is confident that Okka Kshanam will change people’s perception about what he can do onscreen and also encourage people to write scripts for him. “I’m really keen to see how Okka Kshanam performs at the box-office because it’s a great marriage between a high concept and a commercial narration,” Sirish signs off.
Vi Anand’s Okka Kshanam, starring Allu Sirish, Surbhi, Seerat Kapoor, and Srinivas Avasarala, is slated for release on December 28.