Chiranjeevi, 60, is emotional, sensitive and focused. He gives a lot of importance to his family and to him, balancing professional and family life is a quality each one should follow. Family bonding gives him his energy and he enjoys being the person responsible for keeping his large family together. He never loses his cool and is always composed. Over a cup of coffee, he opens up to Hyderabad Times about what makes him connect with Salman Khan, Prabhudheva being a better dancer than him and what he likes and does not like about his son Ram Charan. Excerpts:
Who do you love the most in the world?
My wife Surekha. I can say a no to Charan but when my wife is involved, I cannot say a no. Last few years, my birthday I would spend with either my close family or go to some destination with my wife. But this year, Charan wanted me to stay in Hyderabad and celebrate my birthday in a big way. Surekha said, 'It's a pleasure for them to celebrate your birthday and you should fulfil their wish.' And since she insisted, I could not say no.
What do you like the most about her?
She has not just gifted me Charan and my two wonderful daughters, but she is also my shock absorber and stress buster. I am very much focused towards my field, be it 35 years of my film career or politics and it is only because of her support that I didn't need to get divided. As a result, I could focus completely on my work. It happened so smoothly only because of her.
What do you think Surekha likes about you?
She knows that I balance my profession as well as my family. And she always says that because of the importance I give to the family, it is an inspiration for all of them to be together. Not just my immediate family, but my whole extended family is very close.
Talk about your relationship with your father?
We came from the West Godavari District of Andhra Pradesh where my father started his career as a police constable. My father was extremely interested in films. He was fond of acting himself and he supported me a lot. In fact in 1963, he did small roles in a few films produced by one of his friends. But after that he never faced the camera. Because of his unfulfilled desire, he always tried to fulfil it through me. He would always say, 'I can see myself through my son.' He liked me for my hard work. But he would also worry a lot about me as I never used duplicates for my action scenes. He would say, 'Why should you crawl under the train while it is running or jump from heights? Why can't you take proper harness? Why do you not take a duplicate? Why do you do risky shots yourself?' But I would convince him. And when he would see the reaction of the people in the theatres, he would be so happy and say, 'It's true that you are my son, but the way the people love you, I think we are dedicating you to the people of Andhra Pradesh.' I miss him, but I am happy that at least he could see his grandson Charan's first film in the theatre just after which he passed away.
Have you ever seen professional failure?
I got my first film by accident while I was still studying at the Madras Film Institute. I never had to knock the doorstep of any producer or director and was fortunate to have continuously got films after films all throughout. There was not a single year when I did not have a sequence of hits, except for a very brief period of six months in the end of 1995, when I had a few back-to-back flops when I took a break and that was the only six months when I didn't put makeup.
Charan said that Salman Khan can make you party. Is that true?
Salman is a close family friend of ours. Our relationship was strengthened while working together on the Thums Up ad. His coinage of 'Being Human' is so appropriate. He is a very good human being, host and friend. Whenever I would be in Mumbai, he would take me to his house and he would treat me. I am really very impressed with that human side of him.
Salman and you seem to be such different people. What makes you two get along with each other so much?
Somehow Salman likes me. It just happened. He liked my personality and love and behaviour towards him and we became close. Of course I am not as naughty as Salman.
Talk about your friend Rajinikanth?
He is such a gentle person and so down to earth. He is very passionate about everything. We have a similar image of being mass action heroes. He is very close to me.
Prabhudheva said you are the best dancer he knows.
Between Charan and you, who do you consider a better dancer? Obviously me. Next to me only anybodyJ. But Prabhudheva, he is far ahead of me. He is a gem of a person. I have been watching him right from when he was a teenager. At the age of 16, he choreographed a song for me. He was very young. I wanted to take him abroad, but he didn't have a passport and his mother Mrs Sundaram had to accompany him. His father Sundaram asked me, 'Are you crazy? Are you confident about taking him?' I said, 'I could see the talent in your son. Definitely he can choreograph.' And he did a fantastic job. He has a style of his own.
Any other star who stands out for you as a dancer?
Hrithik Roshan is fantastic. He has the ability to dance with grace.
What is Charan like?
Charan is such a mature person. Right from his childhood, I could say he was beyond his age. Outside he is very naughty but his inner personality is very composed. Sometimes he will give suggestions, 'Daddy don't say like that. It doesn't look good.' And he will correct me. I can say that he is a very good organiser. He is very passionate about films but also gives a lot of importance to the family. He gives a lot of respect to his parents. Of course, his favourite parent is his mother. His bad quality is his temperament. He gets angry easily. And further, he will say, 'My grandfather was a short-tempered person, so that's the quality I have and I can't help it.' I used to always warn him, 'Please get composed.' Sometimes, he will go late to his shootings. And I will tell him, 'Hundreds of people are waiting for you.' I was always very punctual and have never ever gone late. I would be stressed if I was to ever go late.