EXCLUSIVE: Working on ‘Turbo’ was a challenging experience, says Kannada actor Raj B Shetty

The actor says he looks for variety and creativity in his work since his only criterion as an actor is to do different roles.

ByArjun Ramachandran

Published May 29, 2024 | 9:50 AM Updated May 29, 2024 | 9:58 AM

Raj B Shetty played the antagonist in Turbo

Mammootty’s latest offering Turbo has a terrific villain, played by Kannada actor Raj B Shetty. The film launched him in the Malayalam industry.

Raj B Shetty is popular for his path-breaking films like Ondu Motteya Kathe (2017) and Garuda Gamana Vrishabha Vahana (2021).

With Turbo, he left an indelible mark on the Malayali audience. Thanks to Shetty’s nuanced performance, his role as an antagonist is drawing praise.

In an interview with South First, Raj B Shetty opens up about working on Turbo, the preparation for his role, and his creative pursuits.

Excerpts from the interview:

Q. Tell us about your entry into the Malayalam industry.

A. When I accepted Rudhiram, I wanted to explore the Malayalam film industry, know how it operates, and understand why it is different from its counterparts.

Further, it is a small, Indie kind of cinema. Turbo came to me after Rudhiram.

In the case of Turbo, I took it up because I liked the character. I haven’t played such a role earlier. I was initially doubtful if I could pull it off. I felt it to be challenging since I haven’t worked in commercial cinema until now.

Rudhiram is supposed to be my debut Malayalam film but Turbo was released first.

Raj B Shetty at Turbo launch event in Dubai

Raj B Shetty at the ‘Turbo’ trailer launch event in Dubai. (Instagram)

Q. You have done lead roles in Kannada films like Garuda Gamana Vrishabha Vahana (2021), Toby (2023), and Swathi Mutthina Male Haniye (2023). But what made you choose the role of a ruthless villain in Malayalam?

A. My only criterion is to do different roles as an actor. I don’t like playing similar characters since I feel them to be repetitive and boring.

Since I’m a technician, too, I look for variety and creativity in my work. Since Turbo was a commercial film, I wanted to see what I could learn as a technician and an actor.

Q. In that case, will you do commercial films in Kannada?

A. In Turbo, I did a negative role. Now, I don’t have any intentions to do such roles again in another film. Nevertheless, if a movie offers something new and I feel like trying it, then I would do it.

For instance, I’m playing a negative character in an upcoming Kannada film. The makers are yet to announce the project.

But, at the end of the day, it’s not about a negative or positive role; it’s about whether I have done it or not. If the script is good and the character is impressive, I will do it.

Review: Raj B Shetty as Toby leaves you ‘speechless’, but falls short of brilliance

Q. You also did some stunning action sequences in Turbo. How difficult were they?

A. I frankly enjoyed the whole process. Though the stunts were difficult, the shooting process became easier because of the well-experienced and supportive crew.

I worked on the film for 25 days and 14 days were dedicated to the action scenes. Since I am a flexible person, I didn’t find it problematic to do basic action scenes.

Also, the team didn’t make me do every action scene 25 times to get a perfect shot. Instead, after understanding what I could and couldn’t pull off, the action choreographers changed the techniques and designed the stunts accordingly.

The climax portion had a lot of stunts, which I did for the first time. While I gave my best, they composed the framework. It was an engaging process.

Raj B Shetty grabbed release rights of Turbo inKarnataka

Raj B Shetty grabbed release rights of ‘Turbo’ in Karnataka. (Instagram)

Q. How was it working with Mammootty?

A. It was a fantastic experience. I initially felt scared because he is such an experienced and versatile actor. I was also afraid that he would judge me.

Since Malayalam isn’t my mother tongue, I felt it hard to speak in front of him. But I realised later that he is very accommodating. He was supportive throughout the project.

On the very first day, we had to shoot the police station scene, where I needed to hold his (Mammootty’s) collar and warn him.

I was pretty scared to do the scene and I asked Mammootty sir if I could touch him. He smiled saying, “Yes, yes!”

He comforted me saying that it was “normal to feel” what I was feeling. He even gave me more ideas and made me feel relaxed.

Also Read: ‘Swathi Mutthina Male Haniye’ is an extraordinary tale of love, loss, and life

Q. What about the Tamil dialogues? Was it difficult?

A. I found Tamil pretty difficult because I don’t know the language at all.

I learnt a bit of Tamil while shooting for Turbo and another project. I took the script beforehand, asked the team to send the dialogues via voice messages, and practised them thoroughly.

We, actors, are paid to give our best to the projects.  Also, the audience expects authenticity in the characters. So, I don’t want to commit mistakes or appear fake or mediocre.

Q. Did you take reference for your character in Turbo?

A. No, if we refer to any, the fun part of doing the character will be lost.

Director Vysakh knew what he wanted from his actors. Before every shot, he asked me how I wanted to do the scene and perform so he could capture the nuances in my acting.

For example, unlike the (rough, beastly, and fierce) villains in other commercial films, I wanted my role in Turbo to look leaner. So, I bent my back a little and held my hands behind in all the scenes.

When Vysakh wondered why I thought so, I said he (my character) knows that he is powerful and has everything in control. But he never shows off and instead displays his power and control through his body language and mannerisms.

All these minute details came out well and worked in favour of my role.

Also Read: ‘Turbo’ is a one-man show by Mammootty

Q. How do you see the phase of Malayalam cinema now?

Raj B Shetty with Anjana Jayaprakash and Midhun Manuel

Raj B Shetty with Anjana Jayaprakash and Midhun Manuel. (Instagram)

A. It’s a fantastic time for any filmmaker in Malayalam. Their works are largely being complemented by the entire nation, particularly in South India.

This allows them to experiment with genres and take Malayalam cinema to newer levels. Isn’t that what happened with Premalu, Manjummel Boys, and Aavesham?

These films made us recognise their talent and how good they are at producing impressive content. That’s the reason why the market has expanded for Malayalam cinema.

I hope other industries will emulate Mollywood and deliver good films in the future.

Q. You, Rishab Shetty, and Rakshit Shetty are known as a group of actors who created space for a new pattern of films in Kannada.

A. Well, we don’t intentionally try to do something that the world compliments. We only try to make films that engage the audience. It’s the simplest way to put it.

These are the films we want to watch in theatres and we believe that people would lap up our work.

Fortunately, it worked and all our films did extremely well at the box office.

Q. What are your upcoming Kannada films?

A. I am writing a web series, where I’ll act too. It’s yet to be announced. Right now, it’s in the ideation process.

This apart, I am acting in a Kannada film, which is yet to be titled.

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