Naveen Shankar is on the mark of creating his own space in Kannada cinema, which began right in his first movie, Gultoo. Later, he played pivotal roles in Hondisi Bareyiri, and Darani Mandala Madhyadogala, and even acted as the bad guy in Hosyala. His next, Kshetrapati, has him playing a full-fledged hero. Naveen admits to being attracted to different and thought-provoking stories, and he likes switching between different roles. “Each character has a unique personality, and it’s exciting for me to fit in with them. Being an actor, I enjoy just becoming that character,” says Naveen.
The actor, who grew up listening to stories and watching legends, says reflected on his journey. “My teachers introduced me to various subjects that caught my attention for storytelling, which left a lasting impression on me. Reading recommended books and watching inspiring films and the dialogues delivered by various actors motivated says. Naveen, added, “Watching actors on screen made me realize the importance of being an actor and how people treat you. Despite age and experience, this art holds immense value and inspired me.”
While Naveen finds inspiration from on-screen personalities like Dr. Rajkumar, admiring his versatility and his ability to play a wide range of characters, he also looks up to Vishnuvardhan and considers actors like Anant Nag, and Sundarkrishna Urs as subtle and intriguing. However, a fascinating revelation comes when Naveen shares, “I added ‘Shankar’ to my name not as my father’s name, but as a tribute to the personality of Shankar Nag. It’s my way of honouring Shankar Nag Sir. He’s a huge inspiration. I even spoke to the seniors who worked with him and learned about their experiences. Having my name alongside Shankar’s ignites my motivation. His remarkable persona and achievements in a short time pushes me. That’s why I added Shankar to my name.” he says.
In his upcoming film, Kshetrapati, Naveen explores a village-based subject for the first time. He portrays a farmer, Basava with an engineering background. “I was waiting to do a film set in a village backdrop, especially in North Karnataka where I belong. If I hadn’t taken up this subject, I would have learnt direction, and pursued a project set in the North belt. We feel responsible for bringing our hometown to the forefront and contributing to our roots.”
Working with a director, Srikant Katagi, who has no previous experience, doesn’t worry Naveen. He believes, “As an actor, we should be able to carry the film. Experience doesn’t matter as long as they have skills. I saw that in director Srikant, and he managed to pull off the film.” he says.
In his role as Basava, an engineer leading a village life, Naveen faced challenges due to rural narratives. He explains, “I represent the middle-class family guy and their mindset, showing how much their dreams get hindered. The character goes through many tests and trials, requiring patience. We made sure to avoid clichés in portraying rural life and focused on a particular issue. In the process of preparing for the character, I learned to milk cows and make cow dung pans. I lived like Basava, and the character became very close to my heart.”
In general, Naveen draws examples from films like KGF and Kantara, the actor stresses the importance of balancing mainstream appeal with meaningful content. He says, “I always want to be part of thoughtful commercial cinema, which is the need of the hour. Entertainment should connect with people.” says Naveen.
Naveen is glad to be in the film industry at a time when there’s an opportunity to evolve as an actor. He reflects, “There was a time, cinema used to be categorised into art and commercial. Now, we have content that’s presented commercially, and that’s a positive evolution. When I started, I had a checklist. I wouldn’t do purely art films or mindless subjects. It’s not that I dislike the latter, but...”
Looking ahead, Naveen has a film called Kiriket 11 produced by KRG Studios. He also has Nodidavaru Enanthare in different stages of production. “I’ll also be teaming up again with Gultoo director Janardhan Chikanna for a completely commercial film.” he signs off.