At the movies

I became George Reddy, says Sandeep Madhav

Anyone who has studied at Osmania University in Hyderabad would have certainly heard of George Reddy, the fiery student leader in the early 1970s. Reddy was a research student in Mathematical Physics at the University and was killed by those opposing him in April 1972 in a student hostel. He was just 25. In death, as he was in life, George Reddy left his imprint on student politics. A University gold medallist, he was one of those rare personalities who made their mark in student politics as well. 

Five decades later, his biopic hits the screens on 22 November. Directed by Jeevan Reddy, the movie has Sandeep Madhav playing the title role. T S Sudhir of Filter Kaapi spoke to Sandeep about how he prepared for this role, especially those vintage George Reddy’s fight scenes using a blade in his mouth. 

Sudhir : The tagline of George Reddy is `A Man of Action’ and `The Story of a forgotten leader’. So you are bringing the movie with the premise that this is not the biopic of a person who people remember. 

Sandeep : Yes, people have forgotten George Reddy. We are telling his story because it is important for the people of today to know who he was. 

Sudhir : Did you know much about George Reddy before you signed on this movie?

Sandeep : Not much. I am not from Osmania University so have not had exposure to what people talk about George Reddy. 

Sudhir : The trailer looks good (see below). So what is so special about George Reddy that you want the world to know?

Sandeep : Everything about George Reddy is special. No one can do what he did. He had a bigger following than any leader that time. Students respected what he agitated for. He would motivate other students. He was a leader who encouraged others to play leadership roles as well. He was a research scholar in Mathematical Physics, interested in rocket science, a kickboxer who had won medals yet at the same time obsessed with the problems of the farmers and the common people.

Sudhir : You are 34 years old? How did you prepare for the role of someone who is a 20th century character yet before you were born?

Sandeep : There is just video of his that is available for reference. He is giving a speech in it. There aren’t many pictures of George Reddy too. So I closely observed the video to get the voice modulation right and accordingly developed the body language. Apart from this, I went entirely by director Jeevan Reddy’s research into the character. He injected George Reddy into me. I became George Reddy.

Sudhir : Wow, that sounds good. How long have you been travelling with the character?

Sandeep : Two and a half years. Jeevan Reddy told me I will be his George Reddy in 2017. 

Sudhir : Did you also meet any of George Reddy’s contemporaries from Osmania University?

Sandeep : Yes, I did. A friend’s father had interacted with him, there were also elders in my family who had known of George Reddy. Ever since people knew I was playing this character, people were interested and would tell me whatever they knew about him. But character was developed by Jeevan. 

Sudhir : I have been very intrigued and fascinated by the blade scenes. How George keeps the blade in his mouth and uses it as a weapon. How did you rehearse for those scenes?

Sandeep : In fact, I have been doing this since childhood. I used to always have a needle in my mouth. In fact, I could even eat my food while the needle stayed in my mouth. So that childhood habit came in handy while I now practised using a blade in the mouth. He was a kickboxer as well so I had to practise that extensively. I trained for six months to get it right. 

Sudhir : The Osmania University that your production team recreated looks very real. Was it a strange feeling shooting at a place that transported you to another era?

Sandeep : The set was created at Aluminium Factory in Gachibowli. The Arts college of Osmania University really came to life there. It was a massive set and they coloured it in such tones that they looked like made of real stone. 

Sudhir : What is the message from your film for the youth of today?

Sandeep : The message is George. Students should know avbout him. His leadership qualities, his fight for people. Student power has reduced over the years, even from the time that I was a student. 

Sudhir : The ABVP is not happy that it has been portrayed in an unflattering light in the movie.

Sandeep : In any college or University, there will be opposing groups. The movie is about George Reddy, not about this group or that group. Everything is shown in the movie.

Sudhir : You acted in Ramgopal Varma’s Vangaveeti so this makes it your second biopic. Is there a risk of getting slotted in such roles only?

Sandeep : There I played two roles, Vangaveeti Radha and Vangaveeti Ranga. But the body language is different between all the three characters. As far as slotting is concerned, I do not think so. People remember my role in comedy film `Jyothi Lakshmi’. So I will be doing other kind of roles as well.

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