Sir, Tell us about your childhood…
Ours is a tiny village in West Godavari district. Whatever that has to happen in the village would be on our orders. Our family is like a head of the village and whenever there are any quarrels or fights, it is we who have to give the judgment. Ours is a very big joint family. I have six sisters. During my school days, I used to chide or fight with anyone, who did not call me as 'Rajugaru'. Such was my ego during those days. Once I thrashed one person for not calling me like that. But no one dares to talk against me because ours is such a royal family in that village. I behaved like a monarch with that ego.
Okay. How was your education as you have so much ego?
On one day, my father severely beat me up when I gave a reckless answer when some person came to our house and asked whether my father is in the house. By that time, my father was at home and noticed my impolite behaviour and beat up me for not giving due respect to elders. Later, he sent me to one village near Nellore. It is quite normal there. Nobody has the feeling that we are 'Rajus' and nobody cared to give respect. In fact, my ego was totally collapsed after going there. I started respecting others. I came to know about this society and the world. From that day onwards, I deleted the word angry from my dictionary in my life.
How did you become a hero?
After completing SSC, I came to Hyderabad for higher studies. I used to be very jovial and maintain dignity with gorgeous dresses and move on a scooter. Once a director met me and asked to play hero. As I am not very much interested in acting, I said 'no'. But he forced me to do a film and hence I had been to Madras.
Did you venture into acting after going to Madras?
No. The director who took me to Madras did not make any film at all. I thought of returning home, and learnt that all my villagers are thinking that I have become a hero. So, I felt that I should not go empty handed as it would be an insult to my prestige. So I started trying hard and got a chance to play hero in films and finally achieved it. I made my debut as hero through 'Chilaka Gorinka' and the film proved a big hit. Later, I did some more films.
Why you are so specific that you did 'some more films'. Did you take any break later?
Yes. I came to the film industry half-hearted and without any much interest in acting. But once I made my debut into the field and started my acting career, I thought of doing in a full-fledged manner. So, I thought of learning what is acting. I took a break and learnt what acting is, besides learning some more important points from my seniors. Thespian SV Ranga Rao told me to learn clearly what would be the scene and what kind of expressions it needed before performing. He told me to feel the character, before going to the camera. After playing the character in 'Manavoori Pandavulu', I got maturity in acting.
Do you find any difference between you and the present generation artistes?
Yes. There is. When NTR and ANR played hero, they used to charge a similar remuneration for various films for a certain period. In fact, me, Krishna, Sobhanbabu too maintained the same culture. ANR even refused when some wanted to pay him more also. After several people forced him to hike his remuneration and with a lot of pressure he started taking Rs 1 lakh. I was also offered four times more than what I was being paid but we were never after money. Our remuneration should not increase the cost of production of the film, which would embarrass the producer.
What about the performance? Do you feel any change in it?
Definitely. When Akkineni Nageswara Rao did 'Devadasu' he won compliments that no one in India could perform better than that. Even I too earned a similar compliment for my character in 'Manavoori Pandavulu'. Any artiste, whether it is NTR, ANR, Krishna or Sobhanbabu, used to live in the character and make it quite memorable leaving a strong imprint in the minds of the people. How many are there these day giving such an indelible impression.
Is there any unforgettable incident during these 40 years of your film career?
Yes. Once there is a film weekly called 'Dega'. The editor used to write all the bullshit about the film heroes propagating 'Yellow Journalism'. I had a strong feeling of killing him if he appears to me. But one day, he came to our house and apologized for his writings. Then, I could not do any harm to him as my entire anger was subsided with his 'apology'. He won my anger with obedience. This is an unforgettable incident in my career.
What about the memorable incidents in your life?
Yes. I can't forget my father. He is more than just a father to me. Those were the days when I am studying in Hyderabad. As I already said, I used to move jovially with friends. One of my father's friends, who noticed me, wrote a letter saying, 'Your son is getting spoiled by moving with friends and behaving as if he is just enjoying his life. Take care and take him back home.' My father immediately dashed me a letter. In that letter, he said, 'Don't entertain such friends, who wrote me a letter like this.' This letter proved that my father has a lot of confidence on me. So I have decided not to let him down and mended my ways.
Are there any best friends in the film industry?
Yes. Every one in the industry are my best friends. Krishna, Sobhanbabu and me are good friends. I used to watch their films, and they used to watch my films and share our feelings. For that matter, I have good friends even in light boys who worked with me. There might be some difference in the earnings, but we are all workers in the film industry and there is no discrimination among people. I strongly believe this.
Hope you watched 'Yogi'. What are your feelings on that film?
'Yogi' is a film based on mother sentiment. The story is very good. The first half is extraordinary. At the same time the last 20 minutes were also superb. The audio of the film was also a super hit. Prabhas showed good ease in dances and fights.
But there is a rumour that the film did not do well with Prabhas' fans? What about it?
Yes. They disappointed a bit. They expected a big action scene in the climax, but the film had a huge sentiment in the end. This had let them down. But, one can't expect 'Chatrapati' kind of films every time. But women are liking film very much and are watching the film in good numbers.
Will you give any suggestions to Prabhas while selecting the stories? Which of Prabhas' films do you like most?
I just give suggestions now and then. But I always keep saying to select good subjects and good directors. Among Prabhas' films, I liked 'Chatrapati'. At the same time, I liked Prabhas' performance in Chakram the most.
When can we expect a film from Prabhas in your combination?
It will be on our own banner only. It might go to sets in September. There are three subjects. We will select one among them.
Can we expect a film on the lines of Bhakta Kannappa?
Of course. Prabhas likes such subjects well. If he get a chance, he would definitely do that film.