Nagarjuna talks about his upcoming film 'Manmadhudu 2', his fondness to entertain the audience, why he's still 30 at heart, his stint as an anchor in Bigg Boss and more.

Id rather be a star than an actor Akkineni Nagarjuna to TNM
Flix Interview Wednesday, August 07, 2019 - 15:18

Unlike his contemporaries, actor Akkineni Nagarjuna is yet to take a break from cinema, with at least one film of his hitting the screens every year. From Aakhari Poratam in 1988 to Criminal in 1995 and Manam in 2014, the actor has been Tollywood’s evergreen hero, still remembered by many for his cult classic Shiva, and Mani Ratnam’s Geetanjali, where he played the role of an ailing romantic hero.

Nagarjuna, at the age of 60, is awaiting the release of his next romantic entertainer Manmadhudhu 2, which is reminiscent of the title of his 2002 hit film where he starred alongside Sonali Bendre.

“Hey, but who here is 60? I am just turning 30 next month,” the actor chuckles, adding that the audiences can expect more wholesome entertainers like Manmadhudu 2, because entertainment has always been his forte. Nagarjuna says he has never wanted to do movies that would be critically acclaimed because he has "always aspired to be a star and not an actor."

In a chat with TNM, Akkineni Nagarjuna opens up about his upcoming release after Devdas in 2018, his fondness to entertain the audience, why he thinks he is still 30 at heart, his stint as an anchor in Bigg Boss and more.

Manmadhudu 2 is named after your film which released in 2002. It’s a genre you will be doing after a long time, your last romantic entertainer being Manam. How have you been preparing yourself for the film?

To be frank, I wasn’t looking at romcoms, because at this age I thought romcoms shouldn’t be the kind of movies I should be doing anymore. But I happened to come across the French version of the film almost a year-and-a half before. I really liked the concept and thought it suited the sensibilities of our family audience. The film is hilarious because it’s not just about a bachelor who is averse to the idea of marriage, but also about his family, his mother, his three sisters and this young woman who comes into their life. The romance shown in the movie is also quite mature and not just some kind of infatuation that brings two people together.

It’s a breezy romantic comedy and it fell in the same genre as Manmadhudu. I think it has a good recall value and most importantly it’s my film, not anyone else’s.

In a recent interview, you had shared that Manmadhudu wasn’t a blockbuster hit when it released but the movie earned recognition as years passed. Do you think Manmadhudu 2 now will be able to hit an instant chord with the audience?

Absolutely. Because 17-18 years ago, it was difficult to find acceptance for a mature romantic-comedy entertainer in Telugu. Manmadhudu was ahead of its time when it released but eventually took off. The movie had subtle jokes and didn’t have the usual trope of loud elements found in Telugu movies. But this time, we are at par with the trends in the industry. The audience has also matured over time. I think if the movie has to take off, it will be now or never.

What made you choose Rahul Ravindran to direct your movie?

I watched Chi La Sow and I liked his sensibilities, especially the comic timing. I am not a fan of loud comedy, I always like humour to be clean. I came across Rahul as a director with similar preferences. 80% of Manmadhudu 2 is comedy and I wanted someone who could deliver neat humour.

For Rahul, once the shoot started, I have been a director’s actor. But in the post-production, I have looked at the film only through the lens of a producer.

As a bachelor who is forced to get married, there is a particular dialogue in the trailer where you say that to have a one-time meal, no one would like to start farming. There have been objections that the dialogue is demeaning to women and objectifies them. How do you respond to this?

This is a line famously told by our former president Abdul Kalam that for a day’s meal no one would want to get into farming. I don’t know if those who're criticising are aware of this.

If so, aren’t the contexts in both the situations completely different?

Absolutely. People do not know in what context the dialogue delivered in the movie. They take lines out of context and make assumptions. I think they need to first watch the film and then decide if the said dialogue is offensive or not.

Nagarjuna and Rakul Preet in Manmadhudu 2

You are also known for doing experimental movies, the best examples being Shiva and Geetanjali, which you have said were never expected to be blockbusters. Do you still have a similar approach towards films?

I always like the roles I play to be under my control. I need to play new characters in every film because I myself would get bored otherwise. Why would the audience even come to the theatres if they have to see me in the same get-up every other time? I am not looking for awards or for that matter critically acclaimed films at all. However, that also doesn’t mean I do films that cater to my fans alone. Because then you would be reaching out to just a very niche audience in the industry.

I personally like to watch larger than life characters in movies. I like to laugh, fall in love, sing songs which I can bring back home, I like my hero beating up villains who have done wrong. This is the way I look at cinema, be it Tollywood, Hollywood or on Netflix. I don’t go for films that are realistic, which make me think why am I living in this world?!

I'd rather be a star than an actor, any day.

Poster of Naagrjuna's 1989 film Geethanjali

You've said in an interview earlier that despite turning 60, you still are 30 at heart. Is that why we are getting to watch a Manmadhudu again where you play a Casanova?

Hey, who told I am 60 years old? I am turning 30 next month, all over again. In my mind, I am very sure I am still 30. And I wish in real life too, I could pull that off!

You are now anchoring Bigg Boss 3 which started amidst much controversy. But we also remember you mentioning in one of your old interviews that you have never been able to understand the concept of Bigg Boss. So what made you host the reality show this season?

I still don’t understand the concept of the show. I cannot imagine staying in a house for 100 days with cameras looking at me. I would die. But then I realised that this is one of the biggest reality shows not just in Telugu, but around the world.

I enjoyed being a host for Telugu KBC but I was a little wary of getting into Bigg Boss. However, I know it’s a great platform. I can see how people behave when they are shut in a cocoon and their personalities change from week to week. Even I am being watched for every single word I utter and that I think is really challenging. But if you ask me if I would like to be in the show, no! If someone asks me for advice, I would say never get into the house!

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