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Chiranjeevi: I will direct a film in the future- Cinema express

Chiranjeevi: I will direct a film in the future

As he awaits the release of his much-awaited socio-political entertainer, Acharya, on April 29, Chiranjeevi talks about working with Ram Charan, his future plans, and more

Published: 26th April 2022

You’d never know Chiranjeevi is 66 when you notice how fit he is and how busy he continues to be in the film industry. His mother, Anjana Devi, is, in fact, worried about his hectic shooting schedule and asks him to slow down, but Chiru, as he is endearingly called, brushes aside her concerns and has a message for her: "Entamma, nuvvu kooda kastam, kastam antaav... Please come to my set and see how energetic and excited I am. I feel low if I don't go to the set. I feel energetic, working in films and I need your encouragement."

Excerpts from the conversation

Tell us about how Acharya came together.

Koratala Siva is among the most successful directors in our industry. He worked as a ghostwriter for many of my films including Annayya and was actually supposed to direct Ram Charan on a different film, but Ram got busy with SS Rajamouli’s RRR. As you know, Rajamouli likes his actors to stay focused on his film without distractions for three-four years.

I met Koratala over dinner and asked if he would mind casting me instead of Charan. He got thrilled and told me that while he may work with Charan, he may not get a chance to work with me. I thought the issue was dealt with until he came back to me asking for Charan to play Siddha in Acharya.

Again, I was in a dilemma. How was I going to convince Rajamouli? It has always been my wife’s (Surekha) dream to see Charan and me together on the big screen. I told Rajamouli that he had to say yes, in order to fulfill the wish of my wife. Really, he had no option but to say yes.

Why was it important that Charan play Siddha?

Sure, some other actor could have played Siddha too. However, we felt that if Charan played him, it would make for a great value addition due to the relationship we share. That emotional connection also creates a feel-good factor. For instance, a scene where Charan and I meet in the forest and look at each other expressing intense emotion, has come out really well. Koratala even forgot to say cut and the entire unit was in a trance seeing both of us cry without using glycerine. That scene happened only because of our bond.

It must have been quite special for you to have worked with him on this film.

I cherish what I consider to be among the best moments of my life, when for 20 days, Charan and I shot in Maredumilli. It was a memorable experience, and more than me, it’s my wife, who is overjoyed, excited, and emotional. Acharya is close to my heart, and I think it's rare to see two reigning stars, father and son, sharing screen space.

Contrary to popular opinion, Charan plays a full-length role in the second half and he is a parallel lead in Acharya. I am hoping that his role will live up to the expectations that he has set for himself after RRR.

You play a naxal leader in Acharya, a departure from characters you have generally played.

He is a character who’s mature and possesses a smoldering inner fire. However, he does not get agitated easily. There is no room for melodrama and over-the-top expressions. Also, the scarf he wears around his neck stands as an epitome of his ideology. All credit to Koratala for taking care of all of this.

What was the challenge in playing this character?

Firstly, sharing screen space with another hero. Until Acharya, my films had not featured other heroes in prominent roles. Although it's Charan, this experience was quite new to me. Also, the real challenge was transforming myself to fit Koratala's vision for the protagonist. I don't have a fixation on how I look for a part. I remain open to ideas and sit with my directors, and my costume designer (my elder daughter Sushmita) and discuss every detail to bring in the versatility. Even though I read the script before, I like to improvise and add my signature style while shooting.

This film, unlike others I’ve done, doesn’t tap into my comic timing but it has all the other elements that people would expect from me.

Who do you like better—Acharya or Siddha?

It's a tough question. It feels happy to see Siddha, a disciple of Acharya, becoming a master himself.

What did you enjoy about Ram Charan, the actor?

I remember us filming a scene--presaging the climax--on Charan in Maredumilli. There were about 30-40 artists around him, 20 people in front of the monitor, and 40 others in the unit; none of us moved an inch after the shot. Even Koratala was emotional and so were others. We then called for a lunch break, and I couldn’t savour my meal as my heart was filled with emotions. I am sure the audience will also feel the same way after seeing Charan’s performance. At times, I get a feeling that Charan has surpassed me as an actor and I am really proud of him.

Is there a temptation to see you in him?

I see him as a mature human being, who deems it his duty to help others. Compassion is second nature to him, and he doesn't hesitate when it comes to offering help. He is selfless, and his selflessness extends beyond his near and dear ones. I am just happy he is achieving heights I couldn't achieve.

Would you call this the most interesting phase of your career? You are working with younger directors, and the stories and roles are getting interesting …

Every phase has been the best in my career. I am still enjoying my work and my graph has always been on the rise. My comeback film, Khaidi No.150, created records and I followed it up with Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy, which was also a box-office winner. All of my upcoming films are going to be different from each other. I always say that I consider myself lucky to be born a Telugu man and receive the warmth, love, and affection of the audience over the years. I am not working for money but for passion. I am unstoppable, and like Clint Eastwood, I hope to work till I am 90.

The Telugu film industry has grown in reach and quality over the last few years. What is your opinion of this transformation?

I am the proudest to witness this phenomenon. I have been waiting for this to happen since the late 80s. I remember going to Delhi to receive the Nargis Dutt Award for Best Feature Film on National Integration for Rudraveena (1988). During the high tea, I was shocked to notice that there was no mention of Telugu cinema and it upset me that our legendary actors and directors didn’t find a place in the display. They conflated Bollywood to mean Indian cinema and treated us all as Madrasis.

All credit needs to go to Rajamouli, who made the cut on the global stage with his films: Baahubali 1 & 2 and RRR. He blurred language barriers and has become the torchbearer for the Telugu film industry. I also thank the Hindi audience for welcoming our films and encouraging our talent. Henceforth, there are no ‘woods’ between us and I urge everyone to celebrate Indian cinema.

Can we expect to see you and Pawan Kalyan come together for a film?

It might happen; I am waiting for that to happen. I want both of us to act as leads in such a film. More than being my brother, Pawan Kalyan is like an elder son to me, and I would love to work with him.

There were speculations that Rajamouli would be collaborating with you on a film.

This is not true, and it won't happen. We admire each other and even if I get an opportunity to work with him, I will say no because I don't know how to satisfy him as an actor.

What's next for Chiranjeevi?

I am planning to build a Janata (people's) hospital with a 10-bed facility in Hyderabad. This hospital is my way of doing my bit and giving back to our film industry. Direction has also been a dream and I can assure you that I will direct a film in the future. Right now, my focus is on acting and I will take up direction when everything falls into place.

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