Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan was an extraordinary army officer who went beyond the normal call of duty and ultimately sacrificed his life for the sake of the captives held hostage at the Taj Hotel during the Mumbai 26/11 attacks. A Telugu film, Major, made on his life became an all-India hit and did well over its OTT release as well. People from all over the country and all walks of life were touched by the film. Adivi Sesh played the martyred part in the engrossing film. He talks about what a life-changing experience the role has been for him. To play the role of an army man who laid down his life for the country and its inhabitants, racing steadfastly in the face of adversity. The journey of getting into the skin of the character, the challenges faced, and the emotional rollercoaster he had to wade through were all worth it, given the wealth of appreciation he’s received after the film’s release. Here are the excerpts from an insightful conversation.
The Black Cat Commandos Presented You With An Honorary Medal After Watching Major.
The people who live that life, the people who are training to be officers in the National Security Guard, for them to validate it from a space of saying ‘this is how our lives are’ was incredible. In addition to that, this is from the NSG Mumbai, and the front gate of the Mumbai Hub is called Unnikrishnan Dwar, and the centre of the campus has a statue made of Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan. So for the people who worship him, some of them have even worked with him. For them to give me this medal as a token of appreciation was gold, bigger than an Oscar for me.
The Film Reportedly Left The Audience Teary-Eyed.
The range of emotions is important to credit because we can all get carried away with the idea that, oh, people cried. People also laughed and celebrated his life. We cry because we fell in love with his life in the first place. You can’t cry for someone you don’t attach yourself to. It’s because he has made you laugh, made you love, and made you like him that you feel a great sense of loss when he saves the country.
What Were The Reactions Like From Your Family And Friends?
It has been extraordinary. I had people who called me ‘tum’ until yesterday suddenly calling me ‘aap’ (Laughs). I don’t know what to do with that. The kind of validation, the kind of change in people’s gazes; there have been three kinds of gazes. Some people who haven’t seen the film have seen the trailer, and some people have seen the film. Each reaction is different, and the moment they see the film, there is this reaction of aura and this sense of, “We understand Major Sandeep.” And that was the original intention of making that film, to have that legacy of this great man go forward.
It Must Have Been A Challenge Both Physically And Emotionally To Play The Role Of A Patriot Like The Late Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan?
I have two answers to that. The first thing was that—when I had heard some of the exploits in his life, I told his father that, wow, he is such a patriot. At that time, Uncle said, “You know, we are all patriotic. Everyone has a preference on how India should fight at the border, how India should play a cricket match, how Sachin should bat. My son believed that everyone was a patriot, and he believed that it was the soldiers’ job to protect the patriots.” So for Sandeep’s father, soldiers’ were at a much higher level. That was an incredible moment of catharsis I had, which became the foundation for the dialogues in the teaser. In terms of preparation, the different ages that I had to play meant my weight kept on fluctuating in the frames, and it was hard to maintain that. And to do bootcamp training, commando training, to move like a super-soldier and be right-handed instead of left; was the toughest thing I have ever done.
Did You Feel Any Pressure While Embodying The Role?
I don’t think it was pressure, it was responsibility. I love the man and his life so much that it was important for me to get it right. A sense of responsibility was something I felt in a great way.
How Did The Martyr’s Parents React After Watching The Film?
They have been my guiding force in this film. So many times, when I’d be acting, I’d ask them how I should perform. The journey has been so long and beautiful that at first, when I met them, they were not convinced I’d make this film. But now uncle messaged me yesterday saying, “We are so happy beta. Are you happy?” From readily giving permission to make a film on their son’s life to asking me if I am happy, there is nothing more one can ask for. I feel like I am a second son to them.
How Have Your Producers, Mahesh Babu And Namrata Shirodhkar, Reacted To The Positive Response To The Film?
Mahesh sir did, and I think that happened because we were very strategic and didn’t show him the film, even though he kept saying why aren’t you showing it to me? The day before the trailer launch, we showed it to him. You have to understand that this is a very AC/DC kind of chance. Even though he is the producer, he is very honest. If he does not like the film, he is not going to show up at the trailer launch. He is also known for his honest tweets when he likes a movie. He has tweeted three of my films before. So for him to go ahead and rave about how the film is at the trailer launch itself, sets us on a path to success.
You Know, There Were Obvious Comparisons Between Major And Shershaah Because It Is About Two Patriots At The End Of The Day Who Gave Up Their Lives For The Country.
They are about as similar as Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge and Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. At the end of the day, each man is remarkable in his own way, and they have had different lives. It is also cool that they were both in Mission Vijay together in Kargil. I just think, at the end of the day, there is a certain level of similarity all soldiers will have. The idea of leaving their families behind, things of that nature. But the challenges, the victories, the journey, and the kind of person are completely different. The problem is completely different from the battlefield – one is an open-top mountain, the other is a huge hotel. So all of these contribute to a very different kind of film.
In Hindi Cinema, Lines Are Getting Increasingly Blurred. Do You See Yourself Doing More Bollywood Films Now Since Your Debut Has Been So Well-Received?
As far as I am concerned, I have always been an Indian actor. Major is a true blue Hindi film. Every shot, every dialogue, every scene has been designed properly. It is not just dubbed. And it is a true blue film made in Hyderabad. In my next four films, I have at least two that are going to be shot properly scene for scene in Hindi.
Since We’ve Seen You In Such A Strong Role With Some Action-Packed Scenes, What Are Some Of Your Favourites In This Genre?
I think The Bourne Supremacy is extraordinary. Does The Dark Knight count as an action film? The first Die Hard film for sure.