|Sumanth at the announcement of the making of 'Golconda High School'|
It is a delicate role I always felt, and needed someone who can subtly portray the battle within and without, someone who carries on against stiff odds despite doubts about himself. Someone whose belief in the good of the boys is so strong that he stakes everything to back them up to the hilt. He never takes credit for their achievement, for their work, and merely guides their energies as they allow themselves to flow - a task as delicate as any, and fraught with as many uncertainties as one can imagine. It is a task that is not for the faint hearted, not for someone who does not know love - whether it is for the kids or for their honest chase of their dream, for the school or for the Principal's steadfast belief in the system of values he wants to impart. Sampath treads a fine line, always strong to the boys but hiding his doubts and fears, always believing in his values when it was easier to believe otherwise.
And Sumanth to me, handsome, athletic, well mannered, soft and someone who has an unfathomable depth - fit this role perfectly.
|Sumanth reading a passage from my book 'If You Love Someone...' at its launch|
I had watched his earlier movies and was greatly impressed by what I saw in 'Madhumasam' and 'Godavari'. Not for him excessive body language, loud behavior, typical to our heroes, not even in his eyes. I think it is so because of the respect he has for his environment, for life - he respects his profession, he respects people and that is something that comes across so well in his manner, in the way he uses things, in the way he sits and stands - there is no violence in any act. Even in his most violent scene, I am sure, Sumanth will be gentle. His eyes betray a vulnerability that is perhaps the reason why his female fan base is so solid (a fact reaffirmed for by Pavan and Suri who say that the females in their households are die-hard Sumanth fans). And popular he is as one can see from the huge stream of followers and fans who badger him constantly for autographs. Sumanth being what he is, obliges as many of them as he can, again respectfully, gently.
He is a very patient man. I have not seen Sumanth look hassled even once on the set, have not heard a word uttered in anger. He is so gentle with his staff that I really wonder how he gets them to work. No celebrity tantrums for him for him, no sharp words, no ultimatums. Change of costume, longer wait, shoot in 45 degree heat, crowds of fans, change of costume - 'it's okay' he says and gets on with the job. The consummate professional. Somehow this kind of a work ethic by the lead star, I would assume, gives so much freedom for the rest of the crew to work creatively and do their best.
|Sumanth, Swathi and director Mohana Krishna Ingraganti at the launch|
As for his cricket, Sumanth is one of the most stylish cricketers I have seen. That made everything so easy. You can teach a person how to play but you cannot teach them style. Luckily we did not have to bother about both - technique and style - in the coaching stint. As especially a batsman, Sumanth looks so elegant, that we were all amazed while shooting his batting for the movie. And it's not just the looks, he is very effective with the bat as well. In the indoor matches that we played, Sumanth was our mainstay in batting and it was his partnerships that helped us win. The match that he missed, we lost. He plays within his limitations, plays late and is a good judge of the situation and the run. The result - few dismissals, more runs. Baig saab always gushed when he saw Sumanth bat - 'He is so good, we can make a video and show it to kids'. He grew very fond of Sumanth in the days that he coached him before the movie - obvious in the way he got one of his magic balms and applied it to Sumanth's injured leg himself. As his ward Sumanth was a hardworking student who quickly learnt the new skills he was taught and practised them.
Sumanth is an an avid sports buff and follows cricket and soccer religiously. World Cup, IPL, Test matches, EFL, NFL, Tour de France...he knows. I am sure he follows all other sports as well since he is almost always updated on sports news. 'I don't read,' he laughs when talk veers to fiction or books. 'If the story is good it will be made into a movie anyway and I can watch it.' But he did read 'The Men Within' he said and he also did read 'If You Love Someone...' from which he read a passage at its launch in Hyderabad. 'This Aditya is quite a character,' he told me. He is a bit like Aditya in some ways, likes his privacy but goes about doing what he likes, quietly. He loves and knows his music and several times our conversations revolved around music, movies and sports. We were struggling to find the name of a particular album by Pink Floyd one day and he searched googled it then and there - 'Momentary Lapse of Reason' he declared, once the result was out. And of course Sumanth really enjoys a laugh just as much as he enjoys a good discussion on movies (or anything else).
He is also someone who remembers the promises he has made, as I discovered - we discussed some books one day and he promised to give me one book written by Lance Armstrong the legendary biker. I'd clean forgotten about it, until one day Ram gave me three books and said Sumanth had sent them for me. Now that is a trait you don't often see in people - successful or otherwise - and it is these little things that give him away as someone who is different, who does not mind doing things he needn't do.
When he talks of his family - be it his legendary grandfather, his illustrious uncles, his cousins who compete with him - you can't miss the great love he has for his family. He speaks very respectfully of his colleagues, his fans and I have never heard him badmouth anyone - even a hint of it. At best, an 'I don't agree' or a 'it's different' perhaps, kind of a look. I have no idea how he prepares for his roles in movies (must ask him that) but I suspect he does put in considerable preparation because he carries an air of being prepared with him. In this movie, they say he has really given a performance to watch out for and I am looking out for it. I know for sure that he has worked as hard as anyone else and I do hope it pays off for him as much as it does for all else involved in this project.
'I am too politically correct,' he smiles when I tell him that he tweets well. 'Boring.' I don't think so. I think he tweets well and responsibly. I ask him about movie making and how he sees his progression. Acting would take up much focus until he slips into direction, something he has trained for in the US, along with screenplay writing. I tell him that I find this whole movie making business very tough and he smiles. 'You must see the fight and dance sequences then,' he says. 'Those are really tough.'
Interestingly I find that he is also in an era of highly talented film makers and technicians, Mohan and Senthil, to name a couple straightaway, and I see him doing a greater range of interesting roles in the future. I do think he will evolve into an actor whose range and variety will be talked about in the same breath as some of the all time greats and will be critically acclaimed in the future, in a genre that will be all is own. He has the intelligence, the talent and the preparation.
He is a fine one, this Sumanth, and I do like him, his sense of humour, his sensibility. All the best Sumanth, and like I always said, you will be the perfect Sampath whichever way I look at it and I am really glad you did this role. Good luck in all that you do. I will be watching and wishing you well through your career and your journey!