He is the young turk in a lion’s den. Vishnuvardhan Reddy is learning to fill his father’s shoes, Serish Nanisettidiscovers in Domalguda
Parked on the road outside his Domalguda house are a fleet of cars, ordinary folks with care-worn faces wait on the pavement having chai, munching into roasted corn and occasionally raising their voices and squabbling till someone claps from the gate of the house and calls. One bunch of them run, while the others await their turn.
This used to be P. Janardhan Reddy’s house. Now it is still called PJR’s house, the cellphone number is also the same but the ringtone has changed: Instead of the Telangana song about Peddamma Talli, it is Aap ki nazron ne samjha… But many things haven’t changed. And the man who is handling his turf with equal élan is his 28-year-old son P. Vishnuvardhan Reddy. Inside his office (there are two entrances one for the family, the other for crowds) a dark young man in striped shirt flits in and out as he escorts them to the door. Inside the office, the chair in which PJR used to sit is vacant with a couple of photographs.
It is difficult to make him talk as he doodles his initials, then the cellphone rings: “Haan uncle, sorry uncle, chuda ledu uncle,” he says before moving on to the next call. This time he makes the call. “Saar woh RC road construction kyon ruk gaya?” he says as the man who made the petition waits biting his nails. He goes out triumphant with the knowledge that it was only rain that stopped the work and not some government chicanery at play. The man is from Filmnagar in Jubilee Hills: “He is almost like his father in his approach who would listen us out and talk to officials and get things done. The only difference is his father would recognise us. It will take him some time,” he says about Vishnu Reddy.
The thing that lights up his boyish face is the memory of his father. “When my father was alive I used to have good food. Now I don’t know who is going to give me food,” he laughs. “I used to like long drives stopping in small places and meeting people, now that cannot happen,” he says as his two cellphones keep ringing incessantly.
Push ups and squats
He steps out of the office into his home. “This is my father’s Jawa which he bought in perhaps ’73 or ’74 it was his lucky bike. He held so many scooter rallies on this. He used to take us for a joy ride on the Tank Bund,” he says patting the petrol tank and later simonizing the bike’s chrome exhaust pipe. “You want me to pose for a casual photograph? Then I have to do push ups and wear a tracksuit,” he says puffing up his chest and holding his fists like a wrestler,” he says. In the fuddy-duddy world of Indian politics it is rare that a legislator can say he can do 30 squats or 20-25 push ups but then Vishnu at 28 is no ordinary politician. If he is listening calmly to the people of his constituency he can be in the thick of things in the rough and tumble of street politics where issues spring like shantytowns in summer.
And he is not above it. Sharing the space with the huge busts of his father is a newspaper cutout from March where he was arrested for stopping civic workers from demolishing a shanty town. “I have to do all these things. My father was a people’s man. He would answer phone calls from people even in the middle of the night. People expect me to do the same thing,” he says.
That is the grey area for the young man who already has been in the news for the various run-ins with the law. If one day the newspapers reported that he had a spat with the Chief Minister’s brother another day they reported the trouble at a cinema hall. It might be dismissed as a fallout due to the political antagonism against his father (after he became MLA there has been no trouble) or he can be seen as a tough cookie. It works either ways.
The thing that he really shares with his father is his love for Dharmendra and old Hindi songs for their hummable lyrics.
But unlike his father he checks his email daily with an id which shows the movie buff in him: email@example.com, a take off from the character’s name in Sholay. “The last movie that we watched together was Sarkar,” he says.
Now as he lords over his father’s turf dealing with assorted land, ration cards, family squabbles, it increasingly looks like the sequel of the movie: Sarkar Raj.