Pasha of cool
Nagarjuna rocks as always with his new hair do, scuba diving and eclectic taste in music. MINI ANTHIKAD-CHHIBBER
CASUAL SUPERSTAR Nagarjuna's laid back attitude has allowed him to experiment with his roles Photo: Satish H
There is an urban legend floating around college campuses in town that Nagarjuna has the most comprehensive collection of rock music. "I do have quite a collection," the coolest one in the Telugu film industry says with a smile. Shooting for Puri Jagannath's as yet untitled venture, Nag looks the quintessential rocker as he walks off the sets with a lithe, sinewy grace, his long hair framing the face that has launched a zillion blockbusters. Between shots, he pulls a chair, pushes his hair off his face and confesses, "I always wanted long hair even before I was an actor. The long hair is in character."
Of his new movie he says, "While importance has been given to content, the concentration is on presentation. Look at a movie like The Matrix, the first thing that strikes you is the visual pyrotechnics, it is only on second or third viewing that one concentrates on the plot. That is the effect we are striving for in this movie. Take Mass (Nag's last movie which has gone on to become a massive hit) for instance, we worked on a stylish mass look."
Experimenting with looks was such a big no-no earlier and Nag was in the eye of the storm when he played the saint-composer Annamayya with a moustache. "I wish I had gone authentic," he admits a tad ruefully. "But I was doing two other films at same time and as I am not comfortable with false hair, I went with the moustache."
Nag, however, does not anticipate any such trouble for his next project - a biopic on Bhakta Ramdas. "He was a tahsildar so there definitely would be a moustache and it is a good reason to grow my hair longer," he says barely concealing his glee.
While authentic is all very well, Nag believes that since cinema is a visual medium, "in the final count it should look good. I would like to know who is in the film! I cannot look like Ramdas. What I would do is try to get into that era. Showbiz is all about looking good and convincing."
If there were an industry of cool, Nag would surely be the CEO. He, however, is not cool to the point being cold. He is warm to a fault as he gently remonstrates with the minder for shooing away over-zealous fans, politely thanks the lensman, asks that the cooler be set right and organises fresh orange juice - perfect for the sweltering hot day. He wears his superstardom lightly - like his clothes, which are not part of a carefully put together look. "I believe in being identifiable - the man on the street should feel he does not need to go to Italy to dress like me."
His father's son
Nag is to the manor born, and like his father, Akkineni Nageswara Rao, who held generations in thrall with his histrionics; Nag is an icon across ages and gender. After Annamayya and now Ramdas would Nag describe himself as a spiritual person? "I don't know," he says candidly. "While I do not believe in rituals, I do believe in a force above. The very thought of god is humbling."
Period films are the flavour of the season with Venkatesh doing Subash Chandra Bose and there is The Rising with Aamir Khan playing Mangal Pandey. Nag, however, does not subscribe to the theory of historicals being a way to connect to our national identity. "I try to do something new. One has to move on you know, I cannot be playing a college student forever. In Andhra we have two saint composers - Annamayya and Bhakta Ramdas. While Annamayya was never made into a film before the film I worked in, a film was made on Bhakta Ramdas in the Fifties. My father and NTR acted in the film."
When Nag says, "acting is not the be all and end all of life," it rings true as he is one of the few actors who believes in vacations and taking Sundays off. He has a life apart from the movies with his super trendy restaurant Touch, scuba diving in the Maldives and safaris in South Africa.
As far as scuba diving goes, Nag says, "It was during my honeymoon in Hawaii. Amala and I signed up for the introductory course. We were hooked and returned the next day for the beginners' course and the next year for the advanced course. Swimming at the depth of 100 to 120 feet, watching over a 100 hammerheads swimming in an abyss or the giant manta rays is something one can never forget."
About not letting films rule his life, Nag says, "This pace was a conscious decision. Ideally I would like to work for a week and take the next week off! Or at least do a five-day week."
And though he rocked big time in Agnivarsha, which was a cinematic adaptation of Girish Karnard's play The Fire and the Rain, Nag is not particularly keen on theatre. "There is nothing much happening in Telugu theatre and I would not like to do English theatre."
Though Nag's style icon status translates to regular appearances on Page 3, he is not particularly fond of it. "I do not like it. It is not me - I cannot understand it but look on it as a part of my job. It is one of the cons of my profession but the pros - the respect and love I get far out weighs it."
"The love is overwhelming and I wonder what I have done to deserve it - especially when I think of some of the movies I have done," Nag says with baffled laugh. The answer to that is blowing in the wind. The unconditional love is for showing an endearingly human side to a super successful star.
Send this article to Friends by
Chennai and Tamil Nadu