Ram Charan, 28, is playful but sensitive. He loves his cars and his dog, Brat. Be it teenage problems, his first affair or becoming a superstar, everything has happened to him early. He was a complete brat, who was forced to change eight schools as he was so naughty. Ahead of his Bollywood debut Zanjeer, he speaks to TOI about his non-controversial father Chiranjeevi, his protective mother and how he and his best friend Rana Daggubati are a riot together. Excerpts:
Let's talk about your childhood?
I studied in eight schools and did not get to be in a school for more than two years, as I was always requested to get out, even though I was not thrown out ever. My marks were always bad and I was a bad influence on other children, so they would explain to my mother that they could retain me only by being partial towards me, and so I should offer to leave the school myself. I would barely get 40-50% and was also extremely naughty. In later years, I knew that soon they would be calling my parents anyways to take me out, so I better get out myself. I did only two years of B.Com, but studied in two colleges. I dropped out completely after the second year. There were a series of complaints against me and my parents were out, so my aunt (my mother's sister) went with me to meet the principal. She asked me to wait outside the principal's office, but I sneaked out even from there. I would start unions in school and college. The worst was that the teachers would be on my side against the principal. I was the captain for volleyball and basketball, and I was supposed to be voted as the sports captain, but was not allowed since I did not have the marks. The principal did not like the fact that the teachers would take my side. I always left an impression when I left the school, not for who I was but for what I did there. Till the time I was nine, my dad was extremely busy doing seven movies a year, three shifts a day. We would meet him thrice a month as he had odd timings. My mom was a housewife and a sponge, who would absorb everything and make it all look like a fairytale when he entered the house. For instance, when he came home, I would always be seen studying with my books open. She always made sure that dad went back to the shoot happily. She did not give him a chance to lecture us or correct us. She never spanked me. I think if she were to ever spank me, she would cry the next minute.
Who are you most attached to?
My mom. I hated to see her face when I entered the principal's office after being suspended. But she is a good actor and extremely supportive of me. In front of any third person, be it my father or anyone else, she would always protect me and not bring me down publicly, ever. I always felt completely secure with her. She would only tell dad, 'He is fine and is doing superbly.' I will do anything for her in my life. I am a kinesthetic person, who will always hug her. My wife gets really jealous when I do that. My mom has been the biggest support system of the house. Being an actor's wife, what we actors seek from our wives is a sense of calmness and zero pressure from household things as our profession requires a lot of mental peace. We need to act in front of the camera and be someone else everyday. If your problems at home dominate your mind, it becomes difficult to camouflage that while acting. My mom realised that and consciously always kept my dad in a happy space, so that he did not have to worry about anything but his work. My dad would not have been my dad today without my mom's support. And he knows that. That's why he never asked her how we were doing, but left it to her.
Let's talk about your wife Upasana. Her mother owns the Hyderabad part of Apollo hospitals and you are Chiranjeevi's son. How did you guys get married?
I always imagined that I should get a wife like my mom. Upasana and I met about seven years ago and got married a year ago and dated a year before that. It's a love marriage. We met at a sports club and and did not know about each other. We got along really well and would fight like cats and dogs, throwing chutneys and sauces at each other. While we had arguments, we also found a comfort zone in that. It took us about five years to understand that we actually love each other and would miss each other if, some day, one of us did not come to the club. She is an extrovert, who is extremely warm, loves meeting people and can entertain 100 people with the same level of energy. I got attracted to all these things. I cannot handle more than 10 people at a time. I like my space, but with her, anybody is more than welcome to enter her space. I liked all that. I am extroverted with my close friends, but am introverted, otherwise. She is a happy-go-lucky girl and I found that she can tap the other side in me. I also know that nobody could handle her or anchor her except me. I like being dominated by the woman I love. Not in the way of looking after my tiffin, but I like her to take care and let me be free. And in return, she will also have a command on me in certain spaces. I calm her down and make her think. I like independent women and believe that a woman can be extremely competitive outside and still be sensitive at home. I have seen my dad being shouted at by my mom at home, but once she steps out she respects him. Everybody can do that switch-on and switch-off in their relationship. The minute I go home, I go to my mom's room and play with my dog and wait for my wife to come back.
Looking at you with your dog Brat, you seem to have high parental instincts?
My dog Brat is my first son and my mom just cannot understand that. She will keep calling him 'kutta'. Given the way I am possessive about him, my mother tells me, 'I don't think you will give me your child to take care of'. I am so possessive about him that if I find even Upasana cuddling him, I will find some excuse for her to leave him. I read somewhere that, 'Respect a man's belongings and the man will respect you.' Guys are generally possessive about their cars and watches and are quite territorial about their space. Once this director kept calling him 'kutta', I delayed signing the film for two months due to this. Brat has to sleep on my side of the bed between my legs. I feel only I know his comfort angle and nobody can look after his comfort like I can. We went to Maldives on my first anniversary and that is the only time, I left him behind as dogs are not allowed on the island. A dog's emotion cannot be compared to human emotion, but dogs reciprocate a lot. I remember when my mother's father died, her dog would behave like a human being and every time she cried, he would irritate and scratch her to stop her from crying.
Your father is a superstar. What is he like as a father?
His father was a constable and he is self- made. He is a family man and is extremely aware of what is happening to his kids, even though he does not ask and my mom has not told him. He never said even once to me that I should be an actor, till I went to him and said that I wanted to become one. He has given us a lot of liberty and taught us our boundaries. He is supportive and his aura of strictness is there, but it is unseen. I am quite restless and have to learn from him about being tolerant towards my family. I never went for his shooting as I could not see him dancing with another actress. In his life, he had no controversies and no affairs. Like my dad, I, too, am sensitive but can disconnect quickly, be it with our relatives or with a friend. We tend to give a lot to a person who we feel connected to, but the mistake we make is that we also expect the same in return. When the trust is deceived, we accept it and cut off from that person. For instance, my father did not talk to one of his cousins for eight years as he was hurt by her. He likes people and is a public person. I like people too, except those who pile on.
Do you have friends in the industry?
Rana Daggubati is my childhood buddy. I taught him all the bratty stuff. But he is now five times that. While I have calmed down after getting married, he is carrying on the legacy. We are still completely a riot when we are together.