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Nani’s fans are losing sleep.

The tagline of his upcoming film, Gentleman, comes with a question: ‘Hero or Villain?’.

This is Nani’s second film with Telugu director Mohana Krishna Indraganti, who made an impressive debut with Grahanam, a film that won several awards including the Indian National Award in 2004. Nani made his cinema debut with Indraganti’s Ashta Chamma, a romantic comedy.

Gentleman, based on a story written by David Nathan, is a romantic thriller, says the director, who tries a new genre with every film. “It’s something that I have not attempted before and a new genre for Telugu cinema.”

Gentleman has a Hitchcockian element and romance.

While Nani plays the lead, there are two heroines, played by Nivetha Thomas and Surabhi, romancing him on-screen.

While one love story is flamboyant and cinematic, the other is romantic and believable, says Indraganti. Malayali actress Thomas marks her entry into Telugu cinema as Katherine, a visual effects artist.

Surabhi, who debuted with the Tamil thriller Ivan Vera Mathiri, was last seen in Pugazh (in Tamil.) This is her fourth Telugu film and she plays Aishwarya, an entrepreneur, a pivotal character.

“Aishwarya is a sensitive and strong-willed woman. Sophisticated and classy, she is like a tender coconut, hard on the exterior but soft within.”

Indraganti emphasises that the two actresses are not mere eye candy.

“Both Katherine and Aishwarya have a clear perspective of their lives and their life partners. Their characters drive the story ahead.”

The second half of Gentleman is a tribute to filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock.

So is Nani playing a dual role, that of a hero and a villain?

“That’s for viewers to find out,” says Indraganti, who believes that films should be an interactive process for the audience.

“The last twenty minutes of the film will be interesting and keep them guessing.”

Gentleman does not have a conventional villain, one who is completely bad.

“Everyone has a good and bad side to them. It’s the complex situations of life that bring out the evil in a human being. This story explores human frailties.”

Other members of the cast include Tanikella Bharani, Srinivas Avasarala, Vennela Kishore and Rohini. Manisharma has scored music. P.G. Vinda has handled the cinematography.

“The visuals will be a treat as we have experimented with a different colour palette,” adds Indraganti, who plans to adapt a Shakespearean work into a film.

Now that would be a novelty in Telugu cinema.

Gentleman, produced by Sridevi Movies, releases in UAE on June 16.