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“One who fights to prove his strength is a rowdy; One who fights for a strong cause is a warrior.” So opens the trailer of Kannada film ‘Pailwaan’.

And when the cause is led by Sudeep — an established performer in Kannada cinema and beyond — the message will ring loud and clear.

Set in a rural ambience, ‘Pailwaan’ follows the life of Krishna, an orphan raised by a veteran wrestler. Making the story interesting is Sunil Shetty, who makes his Kannada cinema debut with the film.

He plays Sarkar, a former wrestler and Krishna’s guardian and mentor.

Krishna's ambition is to fulfil Sarkar’s dream of becoming a national wrestling champion. When he is all set to enter the nationals, a turn of dramatic events force him to quit wrestling.

Rebuilding his life again, Krishna gets another opportunity to get back into sports. This time it’s boxing and Krishna champions the dreams of the less privileged

In an exclusive interview with Gulf News tabloid!, Sudeep talked about his preparation for ‘Pailwaan’, where he plays the lead.

Juggling between shoots in Mumbai for ‘Dabangg 3’ and promotional events in Bengaluru for his upcoming film ‘Pailwaan’ and with a chest congestion, it had not been an easy week for the actor.

When we finally catch up over the telephone, Sudeep looked back on that evening, two years ago, when director Krishna narrated the story of ‘Pailwaan.’

“I did not take it seriously initially and was hassled as I was in no shape to do the film,” recalled Sudeep who weighed 89kg then. “I rejected it first but a week later I called him to check how serious he was about doing it. The script was good and I thought sometimes we need to do certain experiments.”

A tough regimen lay ahead. Sudeep’s daily schedule meant waking up at four in the morning and hitting the gym for an hour-and-a-half.

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After a 10-minute power nap in the vanity van, he would report to work by 7am.

In the evenings after packing up, Sudeep headed to the swimming pool for 45 minutes of training. Hitting the bed by 8.30pm was easy.

This exercise plan coupled with a strict diet that said an absolute ‘no’ to salt and sugar helped bring down Sudeep’s weight to 77kg over the next four months.

“You must lose a lot of water,” added Sudeep, who still abides by the same regimen but takes small liberties with food. “I taste small portions or a bite of something. Workouts and exercise has become a habit now and I feel good.”

On the sets professional wrestlers trained him. Hollywood’s Larnel Stovall came down for the boxing sequences.

“It was strenuous being new to the sport and since I was starting from scratch. The training was to meet the requirements of the film and not for actual wrestling and boxing. I did not want my scenes to look amateurish on screen but must convince the audience,” the star recalls.

His character Krishna goes through two different arcs in ‘Pailwaan.’

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“It was not difficult to crack the emotions,” said Sudeep who has been in the industry for 23 years. “We are in touch with all kinds of emotions in life. Anything that comes innocently and spontaneously will connect with the audience.”

Once a film is done, he steps out of his character easily. I have never had any hangover of a role.”

Referring to Shetty as anna (older brother), Sudeep spoke of the close bond he shared with him.

“Anna commands respect and is disciplined, humble and genuine. Since we connect well in life, working on screen was easy,” he says.

Making movies, he says, always feels like home.

“It is just the way I love my family. No matter where we travel we love coming back home. That’s how I feel about cinema. I don’t know anything else apart from cinema. Acting excites me. Every morning I still wake up with great enthusiasm to work. The day that ceases, I have to rethink,” he said.

Don’t miss it!

‘Pailwaan’ releases in the UAE on September 12.

DID YOU KNOW?

After acting, cooking is Sudeep’s next big love.

“Every day I make something new. I don’t follow anyone’s recipes but my own that have evolved through trial and error,” he says. “One of my dreams is to open a small restaurant where I can cook. Once I think I am done with cinema, I will do that. On his visits abroad you will not find Sudeep in malls shopping for clothes and shoes but you could check out supermarkets. In all possibility, Sudeep will be there in the aisle picking condiments and ingredients for a new recipe.”


MEET KRISHNA, THE DIRECTOR BEHIND ‘PAILWAAN’

This is the third directorial venture of cinematographer turned director S Krishna. His last film was the highest grosser ‘Hebbuli’ — a mystery thriller featuring Sudeep in the lead.

What triggered off this story?

After ‘Hebbuli’ I wanted to work on a different genre. Sports is a universal story for people to connect. Not many stars are exploring this genre. Wrestling is part of our Karnataka culture. Wrestling competitions are held during Dussehra. In fact it is a common traditional sport in northern Karnataka. Wrestlers are much respected. ‘Pailwaan’ is the story of an underdog and conveys a social message. I believe that every talented person should get an opportunity.

Why did you decide on Suniel Shetty?

I wanted someone to play the age and be fit too. It’s a role that carries dignity and is performance oriented. He has action too. We met in Mumbai for a narration and he liked the content.

How was it working with him?

It was a smooth ride. Every actor found it comfortable working with Suniel sir. He is free from complications and great fun. His only hurdle was the Kannada language. He hails from Mangalore and speaks Tulu which is completely different.

How was it working with Sudeep?

We share 15 years of working relationship. I have known him from my days as a cinematographer. We have both worked in each other’s direction. When he commits to a role he completely gets into his character. He stands by the film. What amazed me is his perfection.

Boxing is more tough than wrestling. Wrestling is more about swag and attitude. We shot for the boxing scenes over twenty-eight days. Physically it’s most exhausting for anyone. He has put in 200 % and I was thrilled to see the outcome. The audience will enjoy the boxing scenes. Hollywood’s Larnell Stovall is the action choreographer for the boxing sequences. The other stunt masters are A. Vijay, duo Ram-Lakshman and Dr.K. Ravi Verma.

Between writing and filming, which was more challenging?

Once you connect with the story, writing is easy. I enjoy the process. There will be stumbling blocks but it’s the challenges of working around them that I like. We had discussions at every stage-at the scripting stage and then workshops for discussions. While on the sets, we improvised again. Sets were erected in Chennai, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bengaluru and Mysore.

Tell us about Aakanksha Singh’s role?

Akanksha plays Rukmani, Krishna’s lover. I was looking for a good performer. Both Krishna and Rukmani have two different shades in their character. Being a theatre actor, she has done a good job.