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Life is a stage for him


Life has been the biggest teacher for him. The trauma which he went through in his childhood, and the experiences he had in later years, enabled him to face the challenges in life with a smile.

Meet Raja, the `Fair & Lovely' guy who has not only done 21 ad. shorts but is also into feature films and is determined to make a mark as an actor who would be remembered for generations to come. Born to Krishna Murthy and Shirley in Vizag, he did his schooling in Hyderabad and higher studies at Dr. Lankapalli Bullayya College.

"My mother died when I was hardly eight years old. She had dreams of becoming an actress. I learnt that she was obsessed with films and with the acting of the famous heroine, Savitri. But she gave up her plans after marriage. Dad used to be in the Gulf most of the time," he recalls.

"When I was at school, I used to participate in cultural activities especially stage plays. The audiences enjoyed my portrayal of various characters, whatever be the subject. Stage plays and folk and classical dances became my favourite pastime and the hobby continued through college. Once, I presented a folk and classical dance item at Ravindra Bharati, during the tenure of the late Chief Minister, N.T. Rama Rao, and my performance came in for all-round appreciation. I decided then and there to make stage shows my career," he says.

But then I had to complete my degree and take up a job. In 1996, when I was in college, I saw an advertisement in THE HINDU inviting applications for cabin crew in Lufthansa. I applied and was called for an interview in Chennai. I was one among the four candidates selected from all over India for the posts. I joined the airline crew in Germany and worked there for two years.

Dame Luck came calling and my employers sent me on a trip to the United States. I visited the National Academy of Performing Arts in Miami. There I found out that a two-year course in acting was about to start. I quit my job in Lufthansa and joined the course.

On completion of my course in January 2001, I came back to Vizag with great expectations. However, I was disheartened to find that there was hardly any theatre activity in the steel city. I was planning to go back to the US when someone suggested that I should try my luck in Mumbai.

In Mumbai, I was put up with my cousin, Balbir, who is a top-notch male model. My first stage play was, "Ask what father says". I worked with Pankaj Udhas for his album `Jaaneman' and from then on there was no looking back. Raymonds, ICICI Home Loans, Airtel, Fanta... offers for advertisement films came pouring in.

It was the star director, D. Rama Naidu, who spotted me. He called me to Hyderabad for a screen test and wanted me to work for his film. But somehow the project did not take off. I went back to Mumbai and continued my stage shows. Once when I was a in a hotel in Mumbai, director E.V.V. Satyanarayana's sons, Rajesh and Naresh, came to the hotel. They were excited to find a Telugu man there and soon they became my friends. EVV gave me my first break with `O china dana'. Rama Naidu cast me in his `Vijayam' and subsequently I did `Appudappudu'.

Raja is currently doing `Arjun' with Mahesh Babu. "In this film, I am playing the role of a Chettiar, who falls in love with the hero's sister, the character played by Keerthi Reddy. I am sure that the film, directed by Gunasekhar, will make waves in the film industry. A replica of the Meenakshi temple in Madurai has been made at Gandipet at a cost of Rs.3 crores for this film," he says. He has also signed another film, which is yet to be named, being produced jointly by Shekar of `Dollar Dreams' and the National Film Development Corporation.

Raja draws inspiration from the icons of the Telugu film industry, NTR, the late S.V. Ranga Rao and the evergreen hero, Akkineni Nageswara Rao. In the present generation of stars, he likes NTR Jr. "Despite being highly successful, Jr. NTR does not have any airs about himself and addresses even newcomers by their first names and makes them feel at home. I am sure that he will make it big like his grandfather one day," he says

"I do not have any godfather in the film industry. A single wrong step would result in my career on the rocks. That is why I am selective about my roles, which explains the reason for the few films that I have done in the last couple of years. I want to work with directors who would turn out something new."

"My ultimate aim is to be remembered for my roles even after generations to come," he says. The determination in his voice leaves little scope for doubt that he would realise his goal.

B. M.G.

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