Credited as ‘Jagga’ in his debut feature film in Guru Deshpande’s comedy drama, ‘Raja Huli’, Vasishta N Simha has spent very few years since the upward journey towards the pinnacle of success began. If he has become one of the most-sought-after villains in the Kannada film industry, it is not surprising. Though it’s not far-fetched to assume he’d fulfill the role handily, Vasishta’s famous acclaim hasn’t come by way of him playing what would be considered the conventional bad man’s character.
His versatility is just as much a force to reckon with as the characters he plays. However, entrenched in the make-believe world those roles may be his relatable portrayal of imperfection and vulnerability has helped the actor gain a great deal of well-deserved accolades, with this year proving to be the most successful one, thanks to his role Ranga in the latest flick Godhi Banna Sadharana Mykattu, a Mysurean, studied in Sharada Vilas School and Sadvidhya School. Grabbing an opportunity to work with the music legend, Hamsalekha, he shifted base to Bengaluru and completed his graduation from National College, Jayanagar. A theatre artist by choice, he always wanted to become a singer but destiny had different plans for him. His captivating voice is something which leaves everyone mesmerized.
‘Ranga’ (character played in GBSM) isn’t a conventional “bad guy”. There’s an understanding given because of the environment and his survivalist instinct. Was that something you saw in the character as well?
Yes. I never go into playing a character thinking, “Oh, this is a good guy or a bad guy,” even if I am written as the villain in the film. There’s got to be something likable about whoever I’m playing. If I’m going to play an armchair defence lawyer for the benefit of playing a character, it’s my job to support every single one of his attributes and find an explanatory circumstance to justify in an environment which is artistic and creative. So it’s never a question of, “Is this a bad or evil guy?” I find things more fascinating when they’re grey.
Did you see much of yourself in playing Ranga from that standpoint of a human instinct to survive?
Not really. I use my imagination. I think it would be foolish to say I see myself in a character, because they’re make-believe. You’re breathing life into a fantasy to help a story. So I draw from my imagination. Some things I do by retrospection. But would I find myself in that situation? Unlikely. I don’t think I would put myself out there like Ranga or Jagga. I’m not that guy. I had to justify the characters given to me. In hindsight, I can understand some of these fictitious characters’ points of view. Why would they do, what they do? What are the mitigating circumstances or what’s the human element to it? The fact that no one is really born bad is kind of interesting, isn’t it?
Working for a project like GBSM which is written for an actor like Anant Nag, takes a lot of preparations.
Trying to logistically mount this hugely ambitious and epic film that Hemanth Rao has beautifully captured over months, I don’t even know how to describe it. It was a complete package of hard work and ease. You don’t really see independent, big movies like this being made often for a reason, and it was just wonderful to see something so ambitious and an expedition being made in such a grand way by such talented artists. The elements were what they were and we tried to make a movie within them.
I’m a least prepared actor
Look at these characters you’ve played are antagonists. They’re not troubled, necessarily…
They’re all morally corrupt, my characters, but ethically they’re amazingly sound.
How much of inequality is there for you, though, in bringing those characters to life instead of staying safe in the bad guy trope confines?
I like grey shaded characters. The black and white thing is not interesting to me. There are huge variations between every single character, and then there’s the whole thing of being a classic study in being typecast where if you dump all these characters in the vagrant, miscreant, box of evil, you’re missing out. I just don’t think I will play anything that would be in conventional terms, a straight leading hero type. It’s simply because I haven’t found any heroic classical characters that are interesting to play. They all seem to be rather one-dimensional, and I think that when I get older, I’ll look into the other side of the buffet.
That sort of “antihero”, meaning interested in grey shades idea is in fact more realistic and believable
Exactly, they’re like us. They’re not trying to live up to something that’s not us. If you want to go to the cinema and escape, that’s one thing, but if you want to go to the cinema and escape and actually find connection, you’re not going to connect to something that ultimately is false. A superhero like Thor? Get real. It’s just not real. That’s cool, but just as long as you know it isn’t real, and people in the real world don’t do that. But there are plenty of real heroes out there.
Being able to evoke that kind of believability in a character is a difficult thing to pull off. You are being loved for it. What have you got to say?
There were some fans who totally loved me as Ranga, because they got down with what I was trying to achieve. What I’m trying to go for is a straight down the line evil voice like a classic villain like Raghuvaran whom I have seen a million times before. I just try to play a real guy.
That vocal adroitness is something people love you for.
I guess I need to ask you if it is any good, then, being from theatre. It’s not conscious. We were always encouraged in theatre to step up on the stage and exercise the vocal cords.
You’ve got a packed schedule this year and next, starting with Gandu Yendare Gandu and many more.
It’s lovely to be jam packed and recognised. This is what I love doing. But I always like to take the bull by its horns, because if this all ends tomorrow, I don’t want to be remembered as anything less than grateful for every opportunity, especially that of having my family and holding onto them as tightly as possible and really, fully experiencing what life has to offer in all aspects.