Wielding the marked features of Megastar Chiranjeevi, his cousin Viswa Tej makes his entry as hero in the film Happy Journey. Born at Mogalturu, it was (late) Konijerla Venkat Rao who named the boy as Viswa Tej, going by the sweeping family sentiment for Lord Hanuman. Chiru’s Vijetha inspired the boy with the force of a Tsunami. An engineering graduate, the young man had a brief stint as an assistant director for Tamil and Telugu films “to have first hand knowledge of filmmaking.” His first and foremost ambition is to become a versatile actor, “not limiting to heroism only.” In an exclusive interview to Idlebrain, he talks about Pawan Kalyan, Bunny, Ramcharan, Chiru, his fans and his Party, and his first heroine Madhushalini. “Shankar Mavayya is my teacher, guide and philosopher,” says Viswa Tej.
Tell us about your debut film Happy Journey?
This is my debut film as hero in Telugu film industry. Sabhapati is the director. He is considered a very creative director in Tamilnadu. He also did one Telugu film Pandem. Madhu Shalini plays the heroine. Rashmi is another heroine.
What type of character is yours?
It is deglamorised one. You will find a lot of oil applied to my head. Going by the script, my character demands a treatment like that. You find a lot of family entertainment attached to my role. You don’t find any terrific dance numbers or stunts. But in reality, I am a very good dancer. I am not proud of it. But, I will use the talent next time. Script doesn’t permit me now.
Doesn’t this deglamorised role hit your wish to become a mass hero?
Certainly not. I never wanted to become a mass hero or a hero to that matter. Just I want become a good artiste. I am ready to do even negative roles and other roles with lesser footage, but important by their presence.
How did you get this opportunity?
I got a call from Hari Prasad (one of the producers of Yamudiki Mogudu and roommate of Chiranjeevi during the initial days of their career). Sometime back, I happened to give my photo album to him. Ramana Reddy (Producer of Happy Journey and friend of Hari Prasad) saw my photographs. Later, director Sabhapati was also impressed with my pics. I was called for an audition. I heard a lot about Sabhapati when I was studying in Chennai. I went to their office in the morning and I was informed that I got selected for the film. A few days later, the project was launched as Happy Journey. Now, the film is done by almost 70 percent. Only the song sequences are to be finished.
How you are related to Megastar Chiranjeevi?
My dad is maternal uncle to Chiranjeevi garu. Chiru’s mother and my dad are siblings.
Who is the inspiration behind your entry into films?
One hundred percent it is Chiranjeevi garu. I was born and brought up at Mavayya’s place Mogalturu. When I was a boy, my family would frequent the shooting locations of Chiru’s films. I still remember my trip to the shoot locations of Vijetha. Climax episode was going on. I never got the feeling that it was mere film shooting. I was so moved at the climax that I wept. From that moment onwards, a burning desire gripped me to become an actor. But, my father insisted that I should first finish my graduation. So, I started my forays into films only after I took my BE degree. I took my diploma in film acting from Adayar Film Institute, Chennai. Based on the suggestions of some elderly persons, first I started my career in film industry as an apprentice with some directors. I contention was this: First I should be able to understand the requirements and vision of the director.
My journey into Telugu films started when I started working as assistant director for Sumanth’s film Satyam. I also worked for Gudumbha Shankar, Errababu, Brahmastram and a few other films. Very recently, I thought that it was the right time for me to turn into an actor. Exactly at that point of time, Hari Prasad informed me about this project (Happy Journey) and took my photo album. It was through him that I got this film. In fact, I have a special liking for Sabhapati. I saw his film VIP several times, and I also tried to work with him as assistant director. When I first saw him at their office, I frankly admitted to him that I came to him because I wanted to see him and not that I would become an actor.
Sabhapati is like my guru. He not only directs me to do the lead character as hero, but in personal life too, he taught me as to how to behave with the cast and crew surrounding me. Now, I got the confidence that I can handle any sort of character.
You are directly related to a mega family with three heroes. What kind of suggestions did they give you?
Chiranjeevi garu is like a compass to our family. Without his suggestion or consulting him, we don’t do anything. It was Chiru’s father (Venkatrao garu) who named me as Viswa Tej. His mother likes me very much. Importantly, Chiranjeevi garu suggested me that I should first take valid training before getting into films. When I finally sought his clearance, he said: Believe in the profession which you love most. And do fulfill your responsibility without second thought. Put your entire energy into your work. But, never ever get disappointed when you don’t get the desired results. Don’t stop persisting for success till you get it. His words still fill my ears. They are like sacred Vedas to me. Whenever I think of his suggestion, nothing affects my morale.
What kind of friendship you maintain with Ramcharan and Allu Arjun?
I love them a lot. Though they are young, they have very matured thoughts. Bunny (Allu Arjun) is more like a friend to me than as a relative. To be frank, I desired to become an actor inspired by Chiranjeevi garu. But, Bunny made me a dancer. We frequently meet each other and share our views about films. When I was working as an assistant director, Bunny would ask me to search for good scripts for him. And, I spend a lot of time at his personal gym at Film Nagar. Now, you see me slim and trim. But, really I was not like this. I was a little bit fatty and round. Bunny brought much pressure on me and seriously suggested me to slim down immediately. It sounded more like a warning. Coming to Charan, I was very close to him when he was a boy. But, he went abroad for studies and there came a big gap between us.
What about Pawan Kalyan?
Of all my three uncles – Chiru, Nagababu and Pawan Kalyan – I feel at home and relaxed with Pawan Kalyan. He might look jolly, but inside, he is a very serious man. He is a good thinker. He gives lot of importance to the society around him. Things like poverty and sufferings of the downtrodden make him moody often. He holds a volcanic dream to serve people and to wipe out human suffering. More or less, I feel the same with Nagababu garu. But, I feel nervous before Chiranjeevi garu. Of course, you know that a student can’t find himself at ease standing before his teacher.
Your family circles have two big production houses. Why didn’t you make your debut with them?
I am a very plain person. I don’t take too much of lenience from anybody. When the Megastar came to the film industry, there was no Geeta Arts or Anjana Productions. He was a self-made man. After years of struggle, he found a rock solid empire in Tollywood. Above all, he won the hearts of millions of Telugus. He never depended on anybody. Just, I too want to start my journey like him. I want to prove myself as an artiste. They should get confidence in me that – Baji (my nickname) should do well. We can do a film with him. At present, there is no scope for me to make them believe my capabilities. Anyways, they are eagerly waiting for my debut film. They are regularly asking me about the film’s progress. I call Chiranjeevi garu as Shankar Mavayya. Other than me, Chiru has got a good number of cousins. Almost all of them have interest in films. Is it possible to introduce all of them?
How is support from your parents?
My parents love me and my dreams very much. One thing is sure. Even if they come forward to produce a film with me, I don’t like it. I don’t want to be a burden on them. I have their blessings. That’s all.
What exact patronage you have from Chiru’s family?
Their good wishes are enough for me. I honestly feel that being the cousin of Chiranjeevi garu, I should live up to the expectations of people who regard me as their relative. I should not do things in a haste which might bring bad name to the megastar. I take precautions to see that nobody commented on my performance negatively. To achieve this, I should get perfection. I am on the job.
What is your association with Chiranjeevi fans?
I maintain a very happy and healthy relationship with all. Fans Association president Swami Naidu garu and all other organizers at various levels in the state. They encourage me a lot. In fact, I am also a big fan of Chiru, though I don’t need to mention it.
You have some of the marked features of the Megastar. How you feel about it?
Yes. My friends and relatives say that I look like Mavayya. My dad says that just I look like Chiranjeevi garu. I shall continue to be grateful to Mavayya, because he sent his personal makeup man to do makeup for me in this debut film.
How do you work for Chiranjeevi’s Party?
Chiru’s Party is need of the hour. A big hope is born in the state that they are going to have a wonderful leader. The hope is going to become a huge reality. I am ever ready to be a sincere part and parcel of the whole thing.
Geetha Madhuri (Playback Singer)
Sneha Ullal (Actress)
Prem Kumar Patra (Producer)
GV Prakash (Music director)
Mohana Krishna Indraganti (Director)
Bharat (Child actor)
Malini Dasari (Cinematographer)
Rama Jogaiah Sastry (Lyricist)
Uday Kiran (Hero)
Aditi Sharma (Heroine)
Nagur Babu (Mano) (Singer)
Sekhar Suri (Director)
Sindhu Menon (Heroine)
Vinu Thomas (Music director)
Nihal (Music director & Singer)
Smita (Pop singer)
Sonal Chauhan (Actress)
Raghu Kunche (Singer)
Udaya Bhanu (Anchor)
Meher Ramesh (Director)
Rao Ramesh (Actor)
Gopi Mohan (Writer)
Ajay Sastri (Director)
Vara Mullapudi (Director)
Bhumika Chawla (Actress)
Jagapati Babu (Actor)
Vijay C Kumar (Cinematographer)
Sekhar Kammula (Director)
Ram Gopal Varma (Director)
Srinivasa Reddy (Director)
Mickey J Meyer (Music director)
R Narayana Murthy (Producer)
Baba Sehgal (Singer)
Buddhadev Dasgupta (Director)
Tom Alter (Actor)
Kundan Shah (Director)
Priyadarshini Ram (Director)
Selva Raghavan (Director)
Vijaya Bhaskar (Director)
R Ravinder (Art director)
Chandra Sekhar Yeleti (Director)
Mohana Krishna Indraganti (Director)
Dega Deva Kumar Reddy (Producer)
Nidhi Prasad (Director)
Hema Chandra (Singer)
Vijay C Chakravarthy (Cinematographer)
VN Aditya (Director)
Actor’s father K. Venkata Rao dies of a heart attack
HYDERABAD: K. Venkata Rao (76), a former Excise Superintendent and father of Telugu film star Chiranjeevi, died of a heart attack after suffering from asthma for some time at his residence at Jubilee Hills here in the early hours of Monday.
Apart from Chiranjeevi, he is survived by wife Anjana Devi, sons Naga Babu, Pavan Kalyan, both film actors, and two daughters. Venkata Rao started his career as a police constable before joining the Excise Department. He also played character roles in some Telugu films including ‘Jagat Jettilu’, ‘Jagat Killadilu’ and ‘Mantrigari Viyyankudu’.
Film industry leaders based in Hyderabad visited Venkata Rao’s residence to console the bereaved family. Notable among them were producers D. Rama Naidu and Ch. Ramoji Rao, actor and former Union Minister U. V. Krishnam Raju, actors Venkatesh, Brahmanandam and Prabhu Deva.
There was also a large turnout of political leaders to convey their condolences to Chiranjeevi. TDP president N. Chandrababu Naidu and the party’s Polit Bureau member Ummareddy Venkateswarlu, Political Advisor to Chief Minister K.V.P. Ramachandra Rao and MP K. Keshav Rao and BJP State president Bandaru Dattatreya were notable among those who called on the family.
What attracted attention was the arrival of Chiranjeevi’s newly-married younger daughter Sreeja and her husband Sirish Bharadwaj. As Sirish waited some distance away from the house, Sreeja was escorted inside by her mother’s elder sister and a cousin. They were said to have visited Sreeja at her house in Begumpet to take her to her grandfather’s house.
As Sreeja did not emerge even after one hour and her mobile phone was switched off, her husband walked up to the entrance where he was jostled by unidentified fans of the film star. A situation was averted when Sreeja came out of the house and the couple quietly left the place.