150 Films and Counting: Here’s Why Viewers Still Love Chiranjeevi
Speculation is rife that Chiranjeevi still harbours political aspirations and wants to do more responsible cinema.
(This article was published on 18 January 2017, and is being republished on Chiranjeevi’s birthday, 22 August)
He was Telugu cinema’s biggest star in 2007 when he did Shankar Dada Zindabad. It was then that Konidela Siva Sankara Vara Prasad aka Chiranjeevi decided that his future lay in politics, and went on to form the Praja Rajyam Party.
But fate seemed to have had other things in store for him. After a decade in the political arena, the 61-year-old ‘Boss’, came back to cinema with Khaidi No 150, his 150th film, in January 2017.
So, what prompted Chiranjeevi to return to films? Many actors from the south have made successful transitions to the political sphere. NT Rama Rao, for instance, could successfully capitalise on his superstardom to be elected as the CM of Andhra Pradesh three times, as the leader of the Telugu Desam Party.
Unfortunately for Chiranjeevi, his dreams did not pan out as expected. The merger of the Praja Rajyam party with the Congress was seen by many as the last nail in the coffin. His silence on issues affecting the people of his state, including the farmers, didn’t go down too well either.
With his popularity waning, Chiranjeevi’s political journey seemed to have hit a major roadblock. And there was no better way to regain lost ground than going back to the silverscreen.
Khaidi No 150 released on 11 January. The film has grossed over Rs 100 crore in India and USD 2 million in the US, till date. These box office figures clearly show that the Boss hasn’t lost his mojo despite being absent from the big screen for a decade.
Interestingly, Chiranjeevi chose to make his comeback with a film that didn’t touch upon politics at all. He chose a remake of AR Murugadoss’ Kaththi – the film focussed on a social issue and dealt with helping farmers. One wonders whether this was a deliberate choice on his part. For someone who – for most of his film career – made mass films that were purely commercial, the choice of Kaththi seems to send the message that Chiranjeevi could be looking deeper at the films he picks.
While Khaidi No 150 has the megastar’s signature dance moves, fight scenes and an item number, a strong social message lies at its core. There is speculation that this choice shows that he still harbours political aspirations and that he wants to be part of more responsible cinema.
In fact, in the film, Chiranjeevi makes subtle references to politics and his failure in that arena.
“Galli nunchi Delhi politics varaku chusi thatukuna gunde ra idhi, aa navve vadiki cheppu edche roju vastundani (He has witnessed everything from local politics to Delhi politics and he is still strong. A day comes where people who are laughing today will cry), is one of the most popular lines from the film. Is this Chiranjeevi’s way of hinting at his political comeback?
The success of Khaidi No 150 has proven that Chiranjeevi still enjoys immense popularity in an industry full of younger actors, including his son Ram Charan.
The large crowds in theatres, social media posts and all the media attention proves that Chiranjeevi continues to be a big attraction even today. His popularity as an actor hasn’t waned and people – young and old – want to see his inimitable style on screen.
For the older generation, Chiranjeevi invokes nostalgia, a throwback to an era of idols and hero worship. For the younger generation, he is one of the biggest stars the Telugu film industry has produced. In fact, most of the younger Tollywood heroes speak almost reverentially about Chiranjeevi and wish to emulate his success in the industry.
For instance, Baahubali star Rana Daggubati had previously referred to Chiranjeevi as the “father after my father”. Speaking at the audio launch of Rudhramadevi, Allu Arjun said:
He has worked hard to reach the number one position and we have all grown under his shadow. For me, everybody else in the Telugu industry comes after the megastar.
While Chiranjeevi’s older fans drag their children to the cinemas in order to introduce them to the icon, the younger generation watches eagerly as they try to decipher the man who inspired the actors they know and love.
Ram Charan and Chiranjeevi are reportedly planning to work on a two-hero film, one that is likely to be aimed at bridging the generation gap between their fan bases.
However, as a senior member of the Telugu film fraternity and one who allegedly still harbours political ambitions, Chiranjeevi should perhaps continue his comeback with responsible and good cinema.
“The current movie generation is rational, sensible and practical,” Avinash, a Chiranjeevi admirer, wrote in an open letter addressed to the star. “They will accept you only if you are realistic as a person which will reflect in your acting,” he wrote. Apt words of advice, perhaps, for a star who is looking at a successful second innings both on and off the screen.
(Published in an arrangement with The News Minute)
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