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From Koshy’s To Madras Café

“I'm a provincial guy. I love Bangalore - warts and all. I'm happy to belong here and be known in my small circles.”

Prakash Belawadi doesn’t consider himself much of an actor. Although appreciation from the audience and critical acclaim that he’s receiving for his role as the RAW officer, Bala in Madras Cafe may prove otherwise. Belawadi is a well-known figure in the Bangalore theatre circuit and he’s just about broadened his reach as an actor post the worldwide success of the film.

Well inclined towards films, he’s also the founder of Suchitra Film Society in Bangalore. With a number of courses, workshops and the short film festival set to take place soon (September 20th), Belawadi has his plate full. We asked him about his experience of working in a full-fledged Bollywood film, upcoming projects and whether we’ll see more of him on the big screen.

Let’s talk about your role in Madras Cafe? How did you end up doing it?

I can't tell you much about my role. It'll be a spoiler (for those who haven’t seen the film yet). It's realistic and complex. How I got into it, I can tell. There's a Bangalore boy, Arjun Chakradhar, who is an assistant director to Shoojit Sircar. He had been asking me, off and on, to act in commercials. I feel it's embarrassing to appear in advertisements. And, I'm not much of an actor, really. So I kept turning down these offers. But he stunned me with a written scene for this movie, with a character description. He said I should shoot the scene myself and send it to him as the audition. I was very impressed with what was sent to me. I asked my friends Divya Raghuram and Balaji Manohar to shoot it at Suchitra and asked Anand Varadaraj and Ajith Hande to be my co-actors. I sent that. They liked it. That clip is somewhere on Facebook.

How was the experience of working in this film?

It was an eye-opener. These guys - Shoojit Sircar and John Abraham - are serious professionals. I have never seen such an accomplished director. They understand their equipment and the new technology. They know filmmaking. They don't hide behind slogans.

Is this a step towards doing more Hindi/ Bollywood films?

I don't think so. My Hindi accent is atrocious. It will probably pass for this character.

Your role in Madras Café will give you tremendous visibility as an actor. Was that a significant reason behind doing this film?

Not at all. I don't need that kind of visibility for my work. I'm a provincial guy. I love Bangalore - warts and all. I'm happy to belong here and be known in my small circles. And, I repeat, I'm not much of an actor.

How’s the transition like for you from theatre to film?

I've always been riding alternative horses. No transition.

What’s next on the theatre scene?

Tagore's 'Gora' in Kannada at Kolkata and Shantiniketan on Sept. 27 and 28. A new play by Krishnan Rangaraju 'The Importance of Being Draupadi' will premiere at Chowdiah Hall on Oct 5. I'm also working on an adaptation of a short story called 'Investigation' by Bangalore-based writer Sriram Iyer.

Any other films in the pipeline?

A young director, with whom I had worked when he acted in my adaptation of UR Ananthamurthy's novel 'Avasthe' in 2003 for Ninasam Tirugata, has approached me to act in a role for a new independent film in Kannada. It’s in October. I've agreed.

What do you enjoy more-- Films or theatre? Why?

Theatre is my natural home. But I love filmmaking, as a narrative form. I never turn down teaching assignments when it comes to filmmaking. You must understand, I'm not a cineaste, studying films from different cultures. I am more interested in the making of the moving image. That's my zone of enjoyment.

In today’s time, can anyone make a proper living out of doing theatre?

Not even an improper living! The numbers do not work out. If you have an average audience size of 5,000, even for a major production, and there are 30 people working eight or ten weeks to make the show, make your calculation. It doesn't work out. If you had to depend on sponsorship and do stupid shows, why do our kind of theatre at all?

How has Bangalore contributed to your success?

It is India's best city. It has the potential to become a civilised, global metropolis. It is inclusive and unsentimental. I like that. It suits my temperament.