Ambareesh: An actor-turned-politician speaks exclusively for

"Politics has not affected my filmi image"

Photographs: Thomas Saldanha

Politics may have taught him smile broader; this may have also attracted a large number of his aficionado, or majority of his vote bank in the constituency.  Not us.  Our waiting at the lobby for twenty-five minutes was quite disgusting and disappointing.

And when the wait was over, Ambareesh, a middle-aged looking despite a nice looking t-shirt and black trousers, a lazy faced guy with bloodshot eyes appeared with a large smile on his face.  Obviously, the one time 'Rebel Star' in Kannada cinema world, and he undisputed reigning hero was to maintain his status, as he lighted a cigar from his packet.   The huge fellow sprawled across the lobby sofa of the hotel in which he will be staying till the Kannada programme on the coming Friday, after shaking hands with our team with reasonable gusto.  Looked to be sober and well mannered, the one time most adored hero.

We were happy to note that he was listening to our explanation with curiousity when Walter Nandalike gave him a small introduction about our site, achievements, readership, work area and our team.   In return, Ambi expressed a few words of appreciation towards our teamwork, though he was hearing about us for the first time.

The man with a distinguished filmi image of his own, Ambareesh is still an icon in Kannada movie world with a large number of people following him.  He has recently tried his hand in politics as well, and he claims to be more of a politician now.  He first joined the Congress just before the Karnakata assembly poll in 1994, too late to be given a ticket, but well in time for campaigning.  However, his reception from the people turned to be far more lukewarm than either the star or his party anticipated.  That is an old story.

Ambareesh retired from active politics for a while, but continued to nurse his political aspirations. When the Congress did not give him a ticket during the 1996 general election, he promptly quit that party and joined forces with fellow Vokkaliga, H D Deve Gowda, who gave him a Janata Dal ticket in 1998.  Ambareesh won that election and was an MP for several months.  He came back in time and joined Congress before the Lok Sabha polls, where he was elected MP.  He created a big political drama by deciding to resign from the seat for reasons still unknown, though few political pundits say that it was for Kaveri issue.  Now, some sources say that he will contest the next elections as an independent candidate.  But Ambi himself denies such reports. "It's not that easy", he retorts.

Though an active politician, he has not given up living in reel life.  He is presently shooting for more than two movies: one of which is 'Dalapathi', a remake of Tamil's 'Dalpati', where the stout hero will enact a rowdy.  The other one is 'Gowdru', the typical role of a peasant. 

Ambareesh with Dinesh Correa

We had the opportunity of gettting up close and personal with the 'Rebel Star' and asked him a few questions concerning his filmi career, political goals, and behind the scene personal life.  Here are the excerpts:

Q: What do you portray yourself as, a film actor or a politician?
A: A politician, as it gives me more opportunities to serve my community.  You see, film has its own glamour and glory, but politics makes you a true man.  I have found it to be more challenging to be an MLA or an MP.   You are more far-reaching in the field of politics.  I was always interested in social service.  It is not possible to help the people without getting into politics.

All the same, I still enjoy being an actor.  That is the field which has given me my daily bread, and the status I am holding at present.  Moreover, the challenges to be an actor are much more difficult than to win an election.

Q: How have you served the community being an MP?
A: I have done many things for my people, especially the 'Vokkaliga' community that I represent.  In fact, I organized a 'Vokkaliga Sammelana' at Bangalore and the turnout for this was really big.  I have also strived hard to give maximum benefits to people of my constituency.  My career record has been outstanding.

Q: What are your past-time hobbies?
A: I like games.  I am a sporty person.  I used to play Kabaddi during my school days.  Also, I started playing cricket during my college years, where I was the opening batsman, and the frontline bowler too.  I started developing special liking towards ball badminton as well as shuttle badminton.  I represented my college in all three of these games. 

Later, after my college life, I was inclined only to shuttle badminton and became a good player.  I also developed special liking towards horse-race and and started betting, by which I used to get great thrill.  Recently I have been playing golf, and have made friendship with many golfies.  I have acquired friendship of many famous personalities like Kapil Dev, Farooq Abdulla, Ajay Jadeja, along with many ministers, IAS officers.   I have also played in foreign countries like Malaysia, Singapore.  But I have never played in USA.  Probably, I would get chance to see the famous player Tiger Woods.

My most favourite game is playing the cards.  I am still interested in horse race, and own a few horses.  But I have made up my mind never again to gamble.  Gambling is a bad habit.  I still adore cricket. 

Q: What has been your familiarity and feelings with Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts and people there?

A: Yeah; Mangalore and Udupi have been just like studios for me.  These districts have breathtaking scenery and I have always found great pleasure to be in Dakshina Kannada.  The places here are beautiful and people of D.K. and Udupi are very warm. 

I remember my days during shooting of my movie 'Tonie', which was shot entirely in the coastal areas, starting from Ullal upto Karvar.  Those memories are really unforgettable.

I know lots of people from Mangalore, and many are like my family friends.  Adoor family, Shreepathi Rao are few of my close friends, and I have numerous fans and well wishers from here. 

Q:  There are reports that you have you resigned from your seat.  Is it true?  Are you planning to form a party of your own?
A:  It is true that I have resigned, but I am very much a Congressman.  I will remain with Congress.  I have no plans to start a political party of my own.  It is not that easy. 

Q: What are your plans in life?  Will you remain a politician, or will you quit film world?
A: None, I will not quit any of these fields.  I will continue to be an active politician, all the same I shall act in movies.  I do not mind doing any kind of role, as long as it suits me.

I have a few good offers including my latest movies 'Dalpathi' and 'Gowdru'.  I am also shooting a movie which is co-acted by Darshan (son of Toogudeepa Shreenivas).

Q: Do you agree that politics has fractured your image you acquired from film world?
A: No, I don't think so.  Politics has not affected my dignity.  People have always differentiated my political personality from acting.  Politics has never affected my filmi career.

Q: How do you like Dubai?  Is it for the first time you are visiting here?  What about the Kannada programme on coming Friday?

A: I have visited Dubai several times prior to this visit.  I think this country is rapidly developing and it is simply amazing to note that there is not disharmony here.  Life is very safe and secure, also quality of life is very good.  Yeah, I like this place, it is very nice.

I won't be taking any active part in the entertainment parts of the programme next Friday.  But my wife will be singing a few songs, and my son Abhishek Gowda will be displaying his talents in music.  

By Dinesh Correa
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