Ever since director Ram Gopal Varma announced a film on the notorious sandalwood kingpin Veerappan, everyone was curious to know who’d play the infamous dacoit. Enter Sandeep Bharadwaj who makes his debut in and as Veerappan. One look at the actor and you’d be convinced that nobody could get into the skin of the character better than him. His transformation in to the character is brilliant to say the least.

Pandolin had a chat with the actor, who hails from a theatre background, to know more about his experience of working with RGV, the challenges faced in playing Veerappan and more.

Sandeep Bharadwaj

Sandeep Bharadwaj

What was the one thing that struck you the most about this film or character? Were you convinced that you could pull off the role?

I didn’t have the option of being struck. Working with Ram Gopal Varma (RGV) is every actor’s dream. The character of Veerappan is completely opposite to how I am in real life. He lived in the jungle all his life while I have had nothing to do with a jungle. It was challenging to portray such a character about whom you know nothing. And so it was also fun to study about him and get to know little things about him. Also, it is my debut film and I’m playing the lead so I was excited about that as well.

I enjoyed working with RGV sir. I’m a  big fan of his. His films are very realistic and he portrays reality in a brilliant way. And no matter what sort of films I do, I would always want to do realistic movies alongside.


Your physical transformation/makeup is brilliant. How did you get into the skin of the character?

Firstly I wanted to know what the character was all about. I started researching about him but not a lot was available online. I did not get any video footage, just a few photographs through which I could make out that he was an arrogant and powerful man of his area. RGV sir told me about his criminal details, which enhanced my knowledge on him. He also briefed me about Veerappan’s wildness and I then started working on my body language. Veerappan was a man living in the jungle amidst wild animals. So I wanted to adapt that wildness through my body language and my eyes. He was a man who was alert 24×7 as 1200 Special Task Force soldiers and the police from three states were looking for him and there was the constant danger from wild animals as well, so I wanted to work on the alertness and sharpness. Makeup wise I was toned down and had to shave my eyebrows and lose weight. Vikram Gaikwad was the makeup artist who did a fantastic job.

What were the other insights that RGV shared about the character?

He told me that Veerappan was an uneducated person, so there couldn’t be even a hint of education in the character. He told me I should be like a wild panther, very sharp and with a good speed. Veerappan used to walk 50 kms everyday. He knew every nook and corner of the jungle. He would sense even the slightest danger through the noise of the birds.

Was it emotionally taxing to play this notorious criminal?

It was not emotionally draining. I had some knowledge about him before the shoot started and once the shoot started, every day I would get to learn some more new things. I’m from a theatre background so I have a lot of patience. It has been almost a year since I was finalized for this movie. We did the Kannada version and each day I’d try doing something new. I wanted to reach as close to the character as possible. After the Kannada release, I met some people who had met the actual Veerappan. They told me that I looked more real than the real Veerappan (smiles). That was a compliment that really boosted my confidence and excited me further.


Sandeep BHaradwaj in Veerappan

Sandeep BHaradwaj in Veerappan

What were some of the challenges you faced while playing this role?

We were shooting in a dense jungle, which was difficult. Also the film is fully loaded with action and I’ve done all the action sequences myself, so all that was new for me. Plus, it’s my debut and I was the lead, so I had to maintain my character every day. As soon as my make up would start, I would mentally prepare and transform myself into Veerappan.


How would you sum up your expreince of working with RGV?

It was a dream come true. There is hardly any director like RGV in Indian cinema, who portrays reality in such a manner. He has crystal clear thoughts. He knows exactly what he wants the actor to portray. He briefs the actors very well and makes them very comfortable. His way of understanding and sense of details is very interesting. Also, his screenplays are very strong. So you feel very confident with him.

What kind of roles do you wish to pursue in the future?

I have many dream roles but at the moment I am concentrating on Veerappan because I have to talk about it everyday. This is a challenge that I have accepted and have performed successfully. In the future, I’d like to take up more such challenges.

Photo ofSandeep Bharadwaj
Sandeep Bharadwaj
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