They call him the ‘The Mass Maharaja’ down South. But thanks to the dubbed (Hindi) versions of his movies airing on satellite channels, he’s popular across
the country too. Why, Rowdy Rathore, which was a big success in Bollywood, was a remake of one of his films Vikramarkudu. Soon, we’ll be watching another one of his remakes – Kick starring Salman Khan. Here’s the man, Ravi Teja, in conversation with Vajir Singh
Let’s start with your perception about Hindi cinema.
Dus saal pehle ke Bollywood mein aur aaj ke Bollywood mein kaafi fark hai. The industry has gone to the next level in terms of performances, technicians, directors, writers… it’s all just too good! I began watching Hindi films when I was in Jaipur. I studied in the North for 16 years, which were the formative years of my life. Then we shifted to Andhra. My love for films started with Hindi films… films of Mr Bachchan.
How did the transition from Hindi films to Telugu cinema take place?
My mother tongue is Telugu as we hail from Andhra. But my dad was a pharmacist and he was constantly on the move. Unki badli hoti rahi, aur unke saath hum bhi badalte rahe. (Laughs)
Since you’re a die-hard Amitabh Bachchan fan, did you keep this in mind while doing Don Seenu, in which you were shown as Amitabh Bachchan’s biggest fan?
(Laughs) The director came up with the idea. And being a die-hard Mr Bachchan fan, how could I not do the film?
They say the South Indian industry is technically way ahead of the Hindi film industry. What do you think?
Everything has changed. Waha pe bhi bahut jaldi ho raha hai kaam. Earlier, we used to take two to three years to complete a film but, now, things move very fast. Everything is real quick. Regardless of whether it’s South or Hindi films, actors have become very punctual. At least, that’s what I have heard.
Do you keep track of the Hindi film industry?
Mr Ram Gopal Varma is a great friend of mine, so I keep getting updates about the industry from him. And there are a few other friends I have there.
Like a few actors who I am cordial with.
Do you intend to do Hindi films?
Who doesn’t want to do a Hindi film? But I don’t want to accept a Hindi film just for the heck of it. Several filmmakers have approached me but I was not happy with the scripts. Maybe one day, some day, when someone comes with a script that I feel is perfect, I will make my debut.
What kind of films do you want to do?
Commercial films. Out-and-out commercial films. Entertainment is my priority.
When you say ‘entertainment’, what do you mean?
The audience should remain glued to the screen during the two and a half hours they spend in the movie hall. They should enjoy every single moment of viewing and return home happy. That’s what I call real entertainment.
Vikramarkudu started with you and was remade in three other languages and then in Hindi. All four versions were blockbusters. Did you ever feel you should have been part of the remakes?
No, not at all. Aisa kuch nahi hai. I am very happy. If I had the chance, I would have had done it. But I am happy doing films in my own language.
South Indian actors are not usually successful in the Hindi film industry, whereas actresses make it big in Hindi films…
Yes, that’s a fact, everyone knows that. (Laughs)
Why do you think that happens?
I don’t know. It’s, like, when someone gets the chance, they go and work there. It’s, like, bas jao, waha jake kaam karke aao. Waha pe settle hone ki koshish mat karo. They go, they work and they come back. Perhaps they try to get entrenched in Hindi movies and forget their roots.
Would you do that?
I don’t know. It depends, if they give me work, I will do it. For me, this is where I belong. So I will always do Telugu movies.
Are you saying that Southern actors should take pride in where they belong?
Yes, there are a lot of people… I don’t want to take names, but there are people who want to settle down there and are mesmerised by wahan ki filmein. But aisa nahi hoga.
How often do you watch Hindi movies?
Quiet often. I watch almost all Hindi movies.
Name one recent Hindi film that you enjoyed.
The last Hindi film I liked was Jab Tak Hai Jaan. I love Yash Chopra’s style
of filmmaking and the dialogue in his movies.
You are known as ‘The Mass Maharaja’ down South. How did you acquire this nickname?
Main nahi bana, woh kisi ne bana diya bas. I don’t believe in these things. In the South, yeh bahut zyada chalta hai. But it’s not like that in Bollywood.
Do you want to portray the same character in Hindi films?
Again, it depends. I would love to work with Vishal Bhardwaj, he is a superb and intense filmmaker.
Do you watch your films, which air regularly on satellite channels?
I find it so funny. I know the Telugu dialogue, so listening to the Hindi dubbing is hilarious. Main dekhta bhi nahi hoon.
But you have become very famous in the North too, thanks to your Telugu films being dubbed in Hindi.
I know. Seriously, it’s shocking! I was shooting for a Telugu film in Agra and some of the people in the crowd recognised me. They called me ‘that police wala’. I was shocked but it felt really good.