Rocky, the canine movie star of Sandalwood, has not just one but six movies and a short film under his belt.
The labrador will also be seen starring in the most-awaited biopic of the year, Sam Bahadur. Directed by Meghna Gulzar, the movie stars Vicky Kaushal in the lead. Sam Bahadur is based on the life of India’s first Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw, his career in the Indian Army spanning over four decades and the multiple wars he fought.
South First spoke exclusively with Rocky’s trainer Maridevaru TV who runs a dog training academy in Bengaluru — K9 Gurukul. He presently trains at least 40 dogs of various breeds.
Interestingly, besides Rocky, a couple of dogs from the academy, too, worked in movies and short films.
Six movies and two short films
“Rocky, who is nine years old, made his acting debut with the Kannada film Kiss (2019). Thereafter, he acted in five more movies, including Nanna Prakara (2019) and Prarambha (2022), and White (2019) — a short film featuring Priyamani with Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan’s voice-over,” Maridevaru said.
His upcoming projects include Sam Bahadur, Dove Master, Yava Mohana Murali Kareyitu, Roni, and a yet-to-be-titled short film.
The then Leader of Opposition and the present Chief Minister of Karnataka Siddaramaiah released the trailer and songs of the film Dove Master in November 2022. Dove Master casts Tabalnani, Kuri Pratap and Shakeela in the lead roles.
According to the trainer, Rocky has also been approached for one more project that will soon be finalised.
Many reports keep surfacing over actors’ tantrums on the sets of movie shootings; especially about the demands and facilities they had agreed upon.
But ever wondered how a dog or an animal is treated in similar scenarios?
Well, Maridevaru explained that in the case of Rocky, almost every film team offered him the best facilities and treated him well.
“While some go to the extent of providing a separate caravan for Rocky, a few provide a separate accommodation with an air-conditioned facility. In places like outdoor shooting with bare minimum facilities, we shelter him in a car with AC on,” he added.
Diet and health
The Labrador is owned by Nagendra, a resident of Bengaluru. But Maridevaru handles the film shoots and training.
About the diet and health routines, the trainer shared that the dogs get health checkups and blood tests every six months.
“We usually recommend food like vegetables in the morning with particular dog food that is given as a diet as per their weight. Most importantly, dogs which normally sleep for four-five hours in a day are given rest, especially during film shootings,” he revealed.
After shooting a sequence, the dog is taken out for a break. Sometimes, when the scenes demand more work and stamina, we provide ice creams, glucose and calcium to the canines.”
With all that work, how much are the owners of the canines paid?
According to Maridevaru, Rocky is paid decently up to ₹10,000 per day in case he is required for a few days of the shoot.
“Also, if the dog is required for more days, a separate package will be fixed. Rocky was given ₹30,000 per day while shooting for Sam Bahadur in Ooty.
The remuneration is solely for the performance excluding transportation, accommodation and other facilities,” the trainer added.
Limca Book of Records
Dogs are known for their skills other than for their loyalty. Apart from performing in front of the camera, Rocky holds a unique record under his name for balancing 40 to 50 standard-sized biscuits on his nose. It has been recognised by the Limca Book of Records.
As regards acting, the trainer said filmmakers approach with the specific kind of breed for the role. He then accompanies them and works along with the dog for the intended concept.
The late Simba
Before Rocky came into the picture, another dog named Simba made headlines for his acting skills in Kannada movies.
In a rare scenario, Simba was awarded the Non-Human Award by the Chandanavana Film Critics Academy Award in 2021 for his performance in Naanu Matthu Gunda (2020).
National Award-winning actors Dr Jayamala and Sanchaari Vijay presented the award to Simba. Sadly, the dog passed away a year ago.
While the sequel to Naanu Matthu Gunda is in the making, Simba’s son — also named Simba — is acting in it.
In fact, before he passed away, Simba Senior acted in a couple of scenes for the sequel’s teaser.