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Nagarjuna: Working with new people made me a star

Nagarjuna in a still from ‘Manmadhudu 2’

Nagarjuna in a still from ‘Manmadhudu 2’  

Akkineni Nagarjuna, who will turn 60 later this month, talks about his ‘Manmadhudu 2’ and why he prefers to work with young directors

Actor-producer Akkineni Nagarjuna will turn 60 towards the end of this month. However, he is in no mood to let that number weigh him down. His new film Manmadhudu 2, directed by Rahul Ravindran, will see him as a middle-aged bachelor called Sam. Nagarjuna who likes to reiterate that he doesn’t feel older than 30, admits that despite having been a lead actor since 1984 (Vikram), he still has ‘butterflies in the stomach’ when a film approaches the release date. “A lot of hard work goes into a project and then it’s up to the audience, so this feeling is inescapable,” he laughs.

Excerpts from an interview with the actor:

What intrigued you about the French film (the name of which the team doesn’t want to disclose now, to avoid comparisons) to want to adapt it in Telugu?

I wasn’t looking at rom-coms at this stage of my career. But when I saw this film, I felt it was tailor-made for me. The lead actor in the French film is also a middle-aged actor and the film was very funny. More than romance, this story is about how even a middle-aged person can be bullied by his family into doing things. Our first teaser gave an idea of the story — Sam leads a double life and for the sake of his mother, agrees to get married. Sam has been surrounded by three sisters and his mother while growing up and decides he doesn’t want another woman in his life.

This is a third generation Telugu family settled in Portugal…

A lot of people from Vizianagaram were taken to different countries like Mauritius, Fiji islands and Europe as workforce. This is one such family that went to Portugal. Usually, I’ve observed that such families speak good Telugu. I think I’ve spoken good, or pure, Telugu in this film after Annamayya (laughs). The characters don’t speak English too well. They are comfortable in Telugu and Portugese. You’ll hear words like ‘subhamadhyanam’. There’s a joke that a place like Cassandra becomes Cass-andhra because of Telugu-speaking people.

All in the house
  • I enjoy hosting Bigg Boss (season three) though I cannot imagine how it would be to be locked up inside a house, cut off from the world, with a dozen or 15 other inmates. I don’t think I can stay even by myself for two or three days. I certainly cannot share my bed or bathroom with anyone else apart from my wife. Also, this is a show where I am seeing each person change so much within a week.

Probably for the first time on screen we see jokes being cracked at your age, with respect to playing the older bachelor, isn’t it?

It was fun to do that through the film. Even younger boys are usually shown on screen as being reluctant to get married. When the bachelor is much older, these age-related jokes come in. There’s a lot of humour in the film.

Was there anything specific about Rahul’s work in Chi la Sow that gave you the confidence that he could direct this film?

Chi La Sow had very little humour, but I liked how Rahul had done those small portions. Those scenes were truly funny. For our film, we needed humour in the context of a family living abroad and at the same it has to be relevant to the audience here. I thought he could write it well, and he has. I also like the sensibilities with which Rahul handles relationships, which is important to this story. He also has a way of getting the best from his actors.

You have worked with relatively new directors many a time. How do you identify people who have the potential to pull off a film with an established star like you?

I believe that working with new people has made me a star. Some films have failed as well. But when working with new people, I discover something new within me. Shiva (Ram Gopal Varma’s first film as director) and Geetanjali (by Mani Ratnam) catapulted me into stardom. Since then, I’ve done many films with brand new directors or those who’ve directed one or two films. There’s a good vibe when I meet certain people, which is tough to describe. I like working with new people, that’s why I wanted composer Chaitan Bharadwaj (of RX 100 fame) for Manmadhudu 2.

Does working with young people also keep you young at heart?

Yes. All my friends, outside of cinema, are in the age group of 35 to 40. I don’t have older friends, apart from two of my classmates from childhood.

Oopiri and Manmadhudu 2 are remakes of international films. Do you feel a dearth of interesting original stories here?

There isn’t enough being offered here to excite an actor of my age. I wouldn’t have looked at international cinema for remakes had there been options here.

What’s next?

I’ve been wanting to do a sequel to Soggade Chinni Nayana. Director Kalyan’s brother passed away in between and we’ve put the project on hold. I don’t want to push him now. As and when he’s ready, Bangarraju will happen.

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Printable version | Jul 11, 2020 7:36:08 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/akkineni-nagarjuna-who-will-turn-60-later-this-month-talks-about-his-manmadhudu-2-and-why-he-prefers-to-work-with-young-directors/article28848080.ece

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