The king and the commoner
Y. SUNITA CHOWDHARY
Chiranjeevi's charm, warmth, style and honesty ensure that he still remains the badshah of the Telugu cinema.
S.V. Ranga Rao once said self-esteem is very important. Once it starts rolling, you got to feel you are the best and once it's switched off, you've got to think there are others who are far better than you. That is my mantra
WALKING TALL In a scene from the yet to be released `Jai Chiranjeeva.'
Good actors are aplenty but great ones are few. And those whose magic works both on- and off- screen are fewer and farther in between.
Chiranjeevi happens to belong to the category of actors who mesmerise the audience and fans anywhere, anytime. There has to be only one reason behind Chiru's charm: his down-to-earth attitude despite his star status. He understands very well the image audiences have of him.
The curious thing about the actor is that watching him, you often feel you are watching an immaculate machine.
His face is versatile and the camera loves him. His belief in or the nostalgia for core values struggle in adversity, heroism in defeat made him an icon of sorts.
Badshah of all he surveys
It is indeed a rare possibility for an artiste to be loved for more than one reason and sheer impossible feat to remain the `Badshah of the Telugu Cinema' for more than three decades. "Most of my choices are made out of a desire to do what's best for the film," he says.
We find the actor less defensive, and speaking in generalities. His next film Jai Chiranjeeva is, he says, if not staggering, refreshingly different and makes you sit up and watch. Chiru experiences the most fulfilling part of being an actor when "every time a challenging shot, a right dance step, an action scene or a bungee jump creates an impact. When the effort gets noticed, it gives me a high."
"Our working style might be monotonous to outsiders, but for me the camera is like a whiplash or a driving force. Believe me, even today positive feedback, dramatic response, applause, or the records in the cash register motivate me. More than this, the competitive spirit erases the boredom; the passion for the art keeps us agile," he says.
On creative differences with the director, he says, "First of all I prioritise story, character and director in that order. I gauge how far the director is able to extract the stuff from me. If he draws far more than I am capable of, I surrender. Otherwise, I give something within my limitations and try and rise to his expectations. It is mutual work and the attempt is for an outcome that is better and offbeat."
Comparing the real Chiranjeevi to the roles he portrays, he says, "My home is devoid of any memorabilia. I have clear demarcations, and I make sure to peel off the mask before I pack up for the day. When I was in the film institute, I overheard S.V. Ranga Rao say that self-esteem is very important for the camera. Once it starts rolling, you got to feel you are the best and once it's switched off, you've got to think there are others who are far better than you. That was my mantra which changed my thinking, my lifestyle and the way I work and function."
What keeps him going? "I strived to make a base during the initial five years of my life. Once I established myself, three hits out of five films in a year made me secure. Now I work in three films a year and their fate on Fridays hardly affects me. It is negligible, but now watching the budgets go haywire, I feel more pressurised, far more responsible towards countless people who are dependent on me, and my films. My film-loving populace is an extended family... buyers, fans, etc," he says. "There was a time when my films went all wrong and I took a sabbatical to do some soul-searching to reconnect and rebuild my ties with the audience and the results are there to see. My primary aim is to do justice to those who rely on me. Adding feathers to my cap with every new record or achievement is the last on my mind," he adds.
It's evident from his honest answers, and his style that makes him a world apart, that his humble beginnings have kept his feet firmly on the ground.
For his part though, the actor dismisses suggestions of political power as his next goal and says artistic content is all that matters to him.
"Power doesn't tempt me because it doesn't interest me. Ashwini Dutt is a close associate. My friendship with him grew with time and has turned it to an emotional attachment. So standing by him was a natural choice but I told my fans to support him if they felt he was the right person. There are times I feel like being detached from everything but eventually I believe that one can seek solitude by remaining attached. I do take time off and make an attempt for introspection... my relationship with my family, movies, and finally `who am I'? But how far have I been successful, don't ask."
With that, he excuses himself for yet another shot.
For him, his affair with the camera has just begun!
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