Tell us about your childhood and your entry into the films…
I had a fruitful of 84 years of life and 66 years of filmy life. In fact, the details which you asked me is well known to the people and there is nothing new to speak about. Ours is a poor farmer's family. I did not have any higher studies but just stopped my education with Class V. There are no girls in our family, so my mother used to decorate me as a girl and enjoy herself. Finally, that helped me in playing girl roles in stage plays. I developed myself as a heroine in stage plays. Once I am returning after giving a performance at Tenali. At that tiem Ghantasala Balaramaiah of Pratibha Pictures noticed me on the platform of Bajawada (presently Vijayawada) railway station and booked me for the role of Kalyanarama in 'Sitarama Jananam' film. Though this is my first film as an artiste on the screen, the one that first saw the light is 'Dharmapatni' featuring Santakumari and Bhanumati in which I played a guest role. Like this, I entered the films in 1944 and is continuing my journey as an artiste till 2007.
In case, you failed to become an artiste, what you would have been?
Had I not become a film artiste, I would have spent my life by tilling the land in our native place Ramapuram as I was born in a poor farmers' family.
What are your feelings after so many years of acting career?
You see, my life, especially my film career and present stature has not come on a plotter but I earned this on my own. In my 66 years of film career, I played different kinds of roles and lived in them. The audiences blessed me by noticing my hard work. Our family was in this position just because of the blessings of the film industry and because of the blessings and affection shown by the audiences in general and my fans in particular. Not only me, but also my family. I strongly believe that the late Ghantasala Balaramaiah's soul is feeling very happy as the seed sown by him has grown like a tree.
Will you please tell us about your films and those which you liked the most in your films?
I played hero in over 256 films in Telugu and 26 films in Tamil. Of them, 80 per cent were hit films. Each film is like a PhD for me. As I told you already I just studied up to Class V. I don't have any degrees. But Each of the film I played stood as a teacher for me and taught me several points. 'Swayam Siddha', a Bengali novel scripted by Asha Purna was made as film 'Ardhangi' in Telugu. In that film there is a scene where the wife salutes her husband by touching his feet in a first night scene. Later, the husband also salutes his wife by touching her feet. I played one such innocent husband also in a film. Likewise, I played the role of 'Gopi' who doesn't have any idea about selfishness in 'Moogamanasulu' movie. With that film I came to know how a gentleman should be. In 'Dasara Bullodu' I played the role of a youth, who enjoys a jolly life in a combined family. I played the role of a innocent village boy in that movie. In 'Bharyabhartalu' I played the role of a luxurious youth. In another film, a girl slaps the hero. Irked over this, he marries her with determination. However, that girl challenges him that the hero could enjoy her physical body as he married her but could not win her soul. Then he too challenges that he would enter into her life only after she invites him into her life as a husband and wins her love. Likewise, I played the role of a coward lover in 'Devadasu'. The hero in that film could not accept the love of the heroine as he was afraid of his father and finally destroys his life. All these films and the morals in these movies taught me several things in life.
Sir, please tell about your character in 'Tenali Ramakrishna' film…
Various writers changed the structure of Tenali Ramakrishna in many ways but no one could exactly explain what he was. But in this film, the moulding of the character is excellent. It was clearly explained that Ramakrishna is an intelligent and blessed by Kalika Devi. Not only with poetry, but also with his intelligence, he was able to save the prestige of the country for several times. I played the role which depicts that he was a very good patriot.
What about 'Mahakavi Kalidasu'?
Kalidasu is a fool, who cuts the branch on which he sits. One such fool turns a big poet and litterateur after Kalika Devi writes 'Beejaksharas' on his tongue. The role has different variations and shades as a fool, innocent and later as a litterateur. I am quite fortunate that I had got the opportunity to play such great roles. Though I did not study much, I was able to get compliments as a great artiste like Valmiki.
What is your opinion on progressive movies?
Is my film 'Sudigundalu' was not a progressive film? We debated in detail how the children would spoil in the absence of proper supervision by their parents. Likewise, 'Maro Prapancham' is also a progress movie. During those days itself we had a vision about the future generation and brought out those two films.
What is the part of an artiste in the entire film?
According to a survey conducted recently, an artiste would contribute only 8 per cent of the entire movie, while the others would do the remaining. Even if an artiste did not do perfectly, it doesn't matter. But he should not spoil the remaining part. However, the teamwork of the entire film unit would reach the audiences only through the artiste and that is why we do have this much of glamour. The performance by an artiste is just negligible but has a great value.
What is the reason behind your happiness? What is the secret behind your evergreen glamour? Tell us about the secret behind your health?
My answer to your first question — Not only for my happiness, but for that matter for anybody's happiness, he should have satisfaction. Whenever you are satisfied, he would be definitely happy. Next, ever-green hero. I did not remain an ever-green hero, but the audiences made me like that. When I start talking about my health, you will be surprised on how I am still living. I suffered a heart attack in 1974. I underwent bypass surgery to my heart on October 18, 1974. Again, I suffered a heart attack in 1988. But the doctors were afraid of touching my heart again, but I survived. You will be surprised if I say that my heart has the capacity to pump only 35 per cent blood than a normal heart. However, the affection, love and blessings of audiences did not allow me to die.
We wish you live long for more than 100 years and play many more memorable roles and live happily with good health. Once again we wish you many happy returns of the day.
I too wish that your wish were fulfilled. Thank you.