chat Giri Babu reflects on some of the ways the Telugu film industry has changed over the years
Astone-studded dagger lies on a centrepiece in Giri Babu's home. It is reminiscent of the number of violent, negative roles that the actor played; around 300 of them in the 550films in a career spanning 39years. He's been recently awarded a Doctorate by an American University. Looking calm and relaxed, he jokes that there are no more rape scenes, no vamps, villains don't lust after the heroines..they have become comedy villains or mafia dons. “None of my directors told us to grow muscles, they insisted villains should be good looking, happy, handsome— on par with the heroes and should have a good voice. Villains nunnaga undali, kandalu penchesi Bheemudu, Bakasurudu laga undali ani yeppudu cheppaledhu and that is why we had good looking villains like Mohan Babu, Satyanarayana etc.”
Giri Babu made his debut with Murali Mohan in 1973, his best friend back then. Now he says friendships are never long standing in politics and film industry. He adds, “I was the one who launched the Jayabheri banner and we both intended to make movies on it. I did produce quite a few films and then aimed at making my younger son Bose Babu an actor; instead my eldest son who handled production became one . I never knew that there was an artiste in him, Raghu Babu would meet his friends every evening and they noticed his comic timing, spontaneity and encouraged him to step into films, Murari happened. His work is different from mine but when someone says he did a better job than me, there is no limit to my happiness. Earlier we would discuss films but not any more.”
Does he find his work monotonous? “Not really, the content in films might be clichéd, but don't we have to memorise dialogues and cater to the different techniques and thought process of the director? We are senior artistes, it would be a spectacle if we falter on the sets, it would be embarrassing if we miss a word amidst the young actors. Poorvam prompting ante siggupadevallam. ”
The actor has fond memories of his shootings. While on trips to the districts, onlookers would approach the heroess for autographs but would get scared to even stand in front of the onscreen villain. He avers, “I could hear them say Giri Babu is handsome but they would never come near me. I started acting as a hero intermittently and they stopped abusing and loathing me after that.”
The actor says in Chennai there was a custom of holding a preview and inviting film people but here it doesn't happen and there is a reason. “The producer is scared that some negative feedback, phone call or an SMS would make the buyer create problems for the producer after releasing the advance by not paying the remaining amount.”
He finally adds that problems are common to all and there is no point in getting unduly worried; one should take life with a pinch of salt , be careful the next time and note that better times are always waiting to return.