South Indian superstar Nagarjuna will wage a war on terror in his latest action thriller ‘Wild Dog’, releasing in UAE cinemas on April 2.
In the movie directed by Ahishor Solomon, Nagarjuna will play the fictional head of India’s counter-terrorist task force National Investigation Agency (NIA), which is trying to find the people behind the twin blasts in Hyderabad in 2013. The film is based on real events and will re-create the anti-terror squad’s investigations leading up to the arrest of the criminals responsible for the Dilsukhnagar explosions that killed dozens and injured many others.
The explosions were carried out 10 minutes apart and brought the city to a standstill. But the NIA famously swung into action and traced the terrorists — five members of the Indian Mujahideen, including the group’s co-founder Yasin Bhatkal. It was a significant milestone as it was one of the rare times that members of an extremist group were convicted and sentenced by an Indian court. But the movie isn’t about the devastation of the attack, claims the lead actor.
“Fortunately, we didn’t get into showing the carnage following a terrorist blast. We don’t see dead bodies lying around or limbs severed. Our film begins after four or five days after the blasts. The NIA is on call to trace the clues that led to the blasts. But it brought back memories. I am from Hyderabad and I remember the twin blasts. It shook the whole city up.
"So many people died during that time and it was a traumatic and stressful time. The movie brought back those unpleasant memories. But this movie will not evoke unpleasant memories because we wanted to be sensitive and didn’t want to disturb viewers,” said Nagarjuna in an exclusive interview over Zoom.
The seasoned actor, who is one of South India’s long-enduring matinee idols, believes that his latest film will evoke a sense of nationalistic pride.
“This movie is more about how the NIA conducts such investigations and their service to their own country. This movie will stoke a sense of pride in your own nation in an uplifting way, without being jingoistic. If you have seen the original ‘24’, it’s like watching one of those episodes and fills you with an adrenalin rush,” said Nagarjuna.
Excerpts from our interview with the South Indian superstar as we talk about his long innings in cinema, his life-lessons from COVID-19 and more ...
Tell us more about your new film ‘Wild Dog’.
‘Wild Dog’ is based on NIA in India and their activities during the twin blasts that happened in Hyderabad. Remember the twin blasts in Hyderabad and that Germany Bakery Blast. We took it from there. But it’s not about the blasts per se, but it’s about the investigations after that blast and how they apprehended the outfit leader and brought him back to India.
Its trailer looks slick. Is this action thriller different from your other commercial films?
Yes, absolutely. It’s a new genre which I have never done before. I have done action roles before in my career, but this is a new kind of action. It’s an action genre based on true facts and real events. ‘Wild Dog’ is not your regular commercial action. It was interesting getting trained in my role.
Did you train to sport a poker face and that stoic body language?
Having a poker face was taught to me. But I am an actor from the commercial film realm and my expressions just tumble out, so my director had to stop and remind me to have a cold expression. But let me tell you that ‘Wild Dog’ is an out-and-out commercial film, but it’s a new-age commercial feature. It’s a film that moves away from the regular formula from those conventional films. So, I had to rewire myself a bit to get into this role.
You are one of the most versatile actors in South India who is also known in Bollywood circles. How have you managed to stay relevant?
Being versatile wasn’t a deliberate choice. But I get bored easily of playing the same old roles. I don’t look at acting as changing my clothes where you feel that you are playing a character that’s similar to the ones you played a couple of films ago. I deliberately try to switch things up and I am always keen to try new genres in films. My success — if you can call me a successful actor — stemmed from my decision to act in different genres … Even today, I get nervous before the shoot of any film. I need to get comfortable with the director and other actors around me. But once I cross that phase, there’s no looking back.
But let me tell you after I returned to shoot after this lock down [COVID-19] I was filled with an incredible feeling. And that’s the time when I realised how much I value my work. I felt so blessed.
Was the COVID-19 pandemic the biggest leveller in your life, considering you are so privileged? And did it teach you to slow down/take it easy and make you realise that being alive is all that matters?
I didn’t think like that [laughs]! It just made me value my work so much. I also learned not to take my life for granted either. An unseen virus — we don’t even know what it looks like — made the whole world come to a screeching halt. It was the world’s way of saying: ‘You are not a big deal, buddy. Don’t think too much of yourself.’
This virus made me value the things that are around me in my life. It was a life-changer.
‘Wild Dog’ is a highly anticipated Telugu film release that has opted for a traditional theatrical release. Do you feel an onus to bring back movie fans into the cinemas again?
Not really. Maybe, I played it a little safe too. I waited for a few movies to release first and then decided to release ‘Wild Dog’. If a film is good, people will come to the theatres. Just wear a mask and stay safe … I look at COVID-19 as this booster shot or that injection for OTT [over-the-top] content. Films that would never be released in theatres now have a place to go now, thanks to social media or YouTube. Somewhere along the line, COVID-19 taught us that you can watch the film on any platform. Having said that, I really hope that my film ‘Wild Dog’ brings people back to the cinemas and theatres.
Don’t miss it!
‘Wild Dog’ is out in UAE cinemas on April 2.