Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy success proves Chiranjeevi's legacy as a megastar is alive and kicking
There is a strong notion an actor’s fate can change every Friday, and nothing is permanent in showbiz. The unpredictability of stardom scares most people so much it engulfs their lives after a point. Nothing is sacrosanct or permanent anymore, especially with the attention span of the audience dwindling year after year. But then, there are always a select few exceptions.
What defines an actor’s stardom? Is it critical acclaim or box office results? Or does it lie in how much people admire the actor? If a star’s true worth lies in their enduring legacy, very few actors can stake claim to it as much as Chiranjeevi can. Some call him ‘Boss’, a few call him ‘Annayya’ (elder brother), but for millions of his fans, he’s simply Megastar. His films, and the buzz surrounding them, especially in the ‘90s and early 2000s, were not mere festivities. They were memories which shaped people’s adolescent and adult lives. Chiranjeevi did not just capture the cultural zeitgeist of the ‘80s and ‘90s. He was at the very core of the Telugu cinema, and influenced the way movies were made.
Having made his acting debut in 1978, Chiranjeevi’s initial years had all the bearings of a promising actor in the making for Telugu cinema. And then, in the mid ‘80s, his films like Khaidi, Challenge, Vijetha, and Chantabbai turned him into a force to be reckoned with. Then, the staggering success of Pasivadiki Pranam and Yamudiki Mogudu meant that there was no looking back for him. Between 1990-92, he starred in three of the biggest hits ever in Telugu cinema, Jagadeka Veerudu Athiloka Sundari, Gang Leader, and Gharana Mogudu, which made him the undisputed king of box office. He was the angry young man of the ‘80s, who fought against injustice and hegemony of the old guard. As Telugu cinema became increasingly masala-driven, he was in the driver’s seat.
Amidst all this, there were his acclaimed performances in films like Swayamkrushi, Rudraveena, and Aapadbhandhavudu which showcased a different side of his acting persona. They are still talked about as some of his finest films. A brief lull in the mid-90s, which led to his hiatus from films for a couple of years, was followed by a roaring comeback with Hitler (1997). His stardom continued to endure in early 2000s, with smash hits like Indra and Tagore. He emerged as an icon and a role model for an entire generation of Telugu moviegoers, actors, and directors. A lot of people wanted to dance and dress like him. His mannerisms were emulated with gusto. He was no longer just a star. For a lot of people, he became a symbol of resilience and endurance.
Despite taking a long break from films to focus on his political career (2007-2017), it feels like Chiranjeevi was never really out of action. His comeback film, Khaidi No 150, was celebrated as a return of the king. And his 151st film, Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy, which is also the first period drama in his career, opened to such a thunderous response it is proof Chiranjeevi’s legacy is very much alive and kicking. He might have left films in between but films did not leave him. “Every time I faced the camera while acting in Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy, I kept asking myself if I can pull this off at this age. I’m not young anymore, and I have to do some complicated stunt moves. But the only thing that kept me going was my image and my fans. I didn’t want to disappoint them,” Chiranjeevi said at a recent event.
To understand the relationship between the star and his fans, it is essential to focus on the welfare activities initiated by Chiranjeevi, and spearheaded by his fans. In the late ‘90s, when a few health officials approached him to be part of an initiative to encourage blood donation, Chiranjeevi announced he will pose for a photograph with each person who donates blood at a few camps. It led to such a huge surge of blood donation camps everywhere that it became the stuff of legends. Mother Teresa became his inspiration. Through his fan clubs, he initiated many more welfare activities, including blood and eye donation camps, that are still in effect to this day. The network of fan clubs has come in handy to raise funds for the needy. It is all done in the Megastar’s name. Throughout the ‘90s and early 2000s, a photograph with Chiranjeevi was deemed as a rare badge of honour amongst his fans. He even had a magazine, Chiranjeevi, dedicated to him and his films for a long time. In the process of shaping people’s memories, Chiranjeevi himself turned into a cultural force who gave his fans an identity of their own.
For someone who has achieved so much at the zenith of his stardom, Chiranjeevi’s return to cinema, when he turned 62, symbolises the extent to which his legacy has endured. His fans welcomed him back with fervour, which could not have enough of his charismatic screen presence and graceful dance moves. The actor can still speak volumes through his eyes, a trait which he used extensively in Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy. He is truly in his element in the many emotional moments and a rousing climax sequence. Acting in the film was also one of the riskiest decisions of his career, considering the budget the film was made on, and expectations riding on the period drama. And he did not let people down.
Post the release, Chiranjeevi will soon collaborate with Koratala Siva, and then, there is another film with Trivikram Srinivas lined up in the near future. He was sprinting faster than anyone else at one point of time in his career. But now, at the age of 64, there is little doubt that he will be more conscious with his choices. With the success of Khaidi No 150 and Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy, Chiranjeevi has thrown his hat in the ring, and showed he is very much part of the game. Maybe, being a Megastar is not about how quickly one can cross the finish line but how long one will keep running in the marathon.
Updated Date: Oct 10, 2019 08:33:46 IST