Jai Chiranjeeva!

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A tête-à-tête with the megastar who was awarded the Padma Bhushan recently

There are no half-baked measures to success. There's no cheating the camera The year was 1979. The venue- a small village near Rajahmundry. A group of 50 film crewmembers clapped as the young man took centre-stage, dancing in gay abandon in pouring rain, fed on ABBA and Osibisachartbusters. And he has been dancing since then. Having metamorphosed into what we now know as Telugu cinema's first megastar, Chiranjeevi has literally danced into people's hearts.Flush with winning the Padma Bhushan award, Chiranjeevi looks content as some fans from West Godavari holler 'Jai Chiranjeeva... Jai Chiranjeeva' outside his magnificent bungalow. And the diehards are stupefied when their idol gets up to wave at them. "They want to touch me, shake hands with me... that gives me the real high. My fans are my lifeline and my driving force," Chiru explains as one of his helpers serves piping hot coffee to saar' The accolades keep pouring in for the Padma award, but how does he feel? "My mother's words, that she's blessed to have a son like me touched me the most." While wife Surekha is extremely happy to have two Padma winners in her family (her father Allu Ramalingaiah was a Padma Shri awardee), the actor feels the response from the entire Telugu film industry has been heartening. Once he was with Sachin Tendulkar for a charity cricket match in Visakhapatnam . The master blaster was so astounded by the huge crowd pulling capacity of the megastar that he started calling Chiru a demigod. But Chiru says without people's love and affection, he's nobody and he dedicates the award to his fans. "I owe it to them," he says.Not ready to wear the political mantle for now, Chiru says his responsibilities as an actor will not grow just because he's got the Padma Bhushan. "I've always been a responsible citizen and have led a disciplined life. There are no half-baked measures to success. There's no cheating the camera," he intones. Films are what he's very passionate about. Not only does he want them to kick people's conscience but also wants to use them as a medium to provoke people towards societal problems.

Driven by instinct

With plans to launch his son in August this year, the people's hero says not everyone has the good fortune to lead an extraordinary life. But in pursuit of excellence, one has to work hard with dedication and commitment. "I'm demanding, not for myself, but for the film. I have to feel the moment and express it. Other things can wait." Though he doesn't like to bind himself, Chiru says at times he feels insecure but is able to rise above anxieties because of the unwavering love from his admirers. G. ARUN KUMAR




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