Rakul Preet Singh: At the end of the day, we would smell like sheep!
From learning the Rayalaseema dialect to learning to mind sheep on set, the actor talks of the work that went into the Telugu film, ‘Konda Polam’
In her previous Telugu film Check, actor Rakul Preet Singh was a lawyer and in her Hindi film Sardaar ka Grandson, she was an architect. In a departure from the many urban roles she has played so far, her forthcoming Telugu film Konda Polam will see her as a native of Rayalaseema region, for which she had to learn to mind sheep.
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Director Krish Jagarlamudi, actor Vaisshnav Tej and the unit filmed Konda Polam in the forest region for more than 40 days, along with 1000 sheep. “We observed and learnt how the shepherds manage their flock. In the middle of filming a scene, even if one sheep turns the other way, the rest would follow. I witnessed herd mentality upfront,” laughs Rakul, speaking on the phone from Mumbai where she now lives.
The unit would trek uphill each day and walk a few kilometres to the shooting spot. In a few days, they got used to having sheep around them: “The sheep would sleep at our feet, they would be around us. At the end of the day we would smell like sheep.”
Lockdown to wilderness
Konda Polam was offered to Rakul soon after the four-month long lockdown in 2020, when she visited Hyderabad. “I had not come across a story such as this. It is like our own Jungle Book, exploring the hardships of shepherds. As an actor I want to be cast in a variety of roles, but often I get roles based on my off-screen presence. Since I look urban, such characters come my way. Konda Polam gave me the chance to speak the rural Rayalaseema dialect. I learnt the lines and spoke every word while filming, though ultimately I couldn’t dub for the film owing to my other film commitments.”
Rakul says it was a relief to be in the forest after the long lockdown. Masks were not necessary in the wilderness: “I had not taken such a long break in the last eight years. It was good to get back to work. When Krish approached me with this film, I already had other projects lined up. But Mumbai was nowhere close to beginning film shootings. So I told him that if we were to film immediately, I would be game.”
To look the part of her character, Obulamma, Rakul did look tests with different shades of tan, to appear dusky. Though the film is an adaptation of the Telugu novel Konda Polam by Sanapureddy Venkatarami Reddy, her Obulamma character is a new addition for the film. What makes her special? “You have to see it on screen. Obulamma is the backbone of the story.”
Rakul was noticed in the Telugu hit Venkatadri Express (2013), though she had done a few films before. Tamil, Telugu and Hindi projects followed. She reflects, “Since I come from a non-film background, it took me three to four years to learn the ropes. I got to be a part of some good films. After a point I did not want to do regular heroine characters. This is not to say I will not do mainstream films, but I want characters with some heft. I am happy with an author-backed part like Obulamma as well as my work in films such as Manmadhudu 2, NGK or a De De Pyaar De.”
Over the years, filmmakers have considered Rakul for meatier roles. “With each film and each passing year, I have picked up things subconsciously and have evolved.”
Living her dream
When some of her films such as NGK or Manmadhudu 2 did not do well, Rakul says she did not let it bog her down. “If people said I had done a bad job, then I need to take it as constructive criticism and see how I can improve. You cannot predict the response to a film. It might sound philosophical, but I celebrate every Friday when I have a film release. I am grateful to live my dream and be in a profession that millions aspire to be in. I am spiritual and that also helps.”
In 2022, Rakul Preet will be seen in a bunch of films — the Hindi film, Attack is scheduled to release in January, MayDay, Thank God, Doctor G, a film co-starring Akshay Kumar and more. “I am working on my 40th film now. With quantity, I am also keen on quality,” she says.
She was approached for a few web series during the pandemic but has not signed any: “It has to be something special with a path breaking role; only then I will do it. My current projects will keep me busy till mid 2022.”
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