Back in November 2018, when rumours were rife that Pawan Kalyan might act in one more film ahead of the state elections in Andhra Pradesh, the actor-turned-politician issued an official statement announcing that there was no truth in the rumours. His statement, which was released through the official Twitter handle of his political party Jana Sena, said, “There is news in some sections of the media that I am acting again, which I deny. I have dedicated my life to the people and have fought for them and have raised their problems. There is no time for me to act in a film. This is the time for me to question the government about the problems faced by the people. I am working towards a better society and I don’t have the time to even think about films.”
His last film Agnyaathavaasi came under severe criticism and it made many speculate that perhaps his heart was not in films anymore. Despite taking a massive opening, his swansong from films ended up as a major letdown. However, his subsequent plunge into politics and his vocal commitment to social service were seen as a positive sign that he had found his groove.
Now, almost a year later, the tables seem to have turned. Pawan Kalyan is supposedly making his comeback as an actor and reports suggest that he has been in talks to reprise Amitabh Bachchan’s role as a lawyer in the Telugu remake of the critically acclaimed Hindi film, Pink. To be jointly produced by Boney Kapoor and Dil Raju, the Telugu remake will be directed by Venu Sriram, whose previous films include Nani, Sai Pallavi starrer MCA, and Siddharth, Shruti Haasan, and Hansika starrer Oh My Friend.
According to the grapevine, the actor is said to have given his nod for the film, although he hasn’t signed it yet. The production house bankrolling the film hasn’t made an official announcement yet regarding the Telugu remake. However, Boney Kapoor retweeted a trade analyst's tweet about the Telugu remake with Pawan Kalyan, more or less confirming the news.
BIGGG NEWS... After remaking #Pink in #Tamil, Boney Kapoor joins hands with Dil Raju to remake #Pink in #Telugu... The #Telugu remake will star Pawan Kalyan... Directed by Sriram Venu... Pawan Kalyan was last seen in #Agnyaathavaasi .— taran adarsh (@taran_adarsh) November 2, 2019
“Pawan Kalyan has held discussions with the team and even some changes in the script. But he hasn’t signed the film yet, and he is expected to take a decision by the end of the month,” a source in the know says, adding, “His return to films is confirmed. Whether it’s with Pink remake or some other project remains to be seen.”
On any given day, the news would have sent his fans into a state of delirious joy. However, this time, it's turned into a political slingshot aimed at Pawan Kalyan himself - that he hasn’t remained true to his oath. As a result, a slew of memes have appeared on social media, several politicians have taken potshots at his decision, and some of his die-hard fans have come to his defence. But the general consensus, even among his fans, is that his return to films was accelerated post Jana Sena party’s poor show during the 2019 elections in Andhra Pradesh. The party contested in 140 seats, and its allies BSP, CPI and CPIM contested in 35 other seats; however, JSP won in only one constituency (Razole). Moreover, Pawan Kalyan himself lost the elections in both the constituencies - Gajuwaka and Bhimavaram - where he had contested. Since then, the actor has managed to put up a brave front and has been questioning some of the state government’s policies; however, sources close to him suggest that his re-entry into films was inevitable for the sake of his financial stability.
PK: idi uthine rasanu ani inko utharram rayana...— Comrade Ravipudi (@TheMB) November 3, 2019
Sainiks: Appudu poorthiga yadavalam avutham pic.twitter.com/eDIxMUqTfB
PK: Shall I write another letter saying that whatever I have said earlier isn’t true? Sainiks: Then we will become even bigger fools
ee cinemalu cheyadam mana valla kadhu ra.. asalu istame ledu— R R (@RacchaRidhvik) November 3, 2019
Aa viswasam cinema DVD anduko.. pic.twitter.com/efx0YDkm2F
I am not into acting or films anymore. I never liked it in any case. Now, get me the DVD of Viswasam.
PK fans who changed their display pics to Chiru/Charan after Agnyaathavaasi, it’s time to change the DPs again (to Pawan Kalyan).
In fact, Pawan Kalyan himself has gone on record to say that unlike his rivals, who own several factories and business establishments, he can only make money through films. Interacting with the media in Vizag on November 4, Pawan Kalyan said, “I don’t know whether I’m going to act in films or not, but I certainly hope to produce films because cinema is the only thing I know. Has anyone shut down their businesses for the sake of politics? Has YS Jagan shut down his Jagathi publications and Bharati Cements? Shall I do politics by grabbing Avanti colleges?”
Ever since he began to openly talk about his return to films, the rhetoric has turned into whether he’s a man of his words or not.
“It’s been barely six months since the elections were held in Andhra Pradesh, and the announcement about his return to films at this point sends mixed signals to everyone. Moreover, the announcement came just a day before he was supposed to address a huge gathering in Vizag where he was going to talk about the sand policy of AP government and how lakhs of people had been affected by it. Amidst all this, the news about his return to films changes the perception, especially on ground level, among the public,” says a political commentator on the condition of anonymity, adding, “In the past, NT Rama Rao too acted in films while he was active in politics, but things are a lot different now. If Pawan Kalyan returns to films now, his choice of films will be under a lot more scrutiny. He can’t afford to give flops anymore and if people feel that his heart isn’t in films anymore, like how his own fans felt while watching Katamarayudu and Sardaar Gabbar Singh, his return to films could backfire.”
For nearly a decade, the fact that Pawan Kalyan has managed to keep his image intact underlines the credibility he has built for himself. Several people point out that when his elder brother Chiranjeevi decided to merge Praja Rajyam Party (PRP) with Congress after the 2009 elections, Pawan Kalyan wasn’t in favour of the move; however, he kept silent and didn’t raise any questions back then.
“People didn’t doubt his intentions when he supported TDP during the 2014 elections because the image he has created in the minds of people is that he has no hidden agenda in politics. Later on, when he started Jana Sena Party, his ardent admirers and people who liked his approach to politics followed him; however, the loss (in both constituencies) in 2019 elections changed a lot of things. He’s still at an early stage of his political career and it might take years for him and his party to make a huge difference on a wider scale, but until then, it’s important that he speak up on behalf of people whenever the situation arises,” a longtime fan of Pawan Kalyan says. “One can blame his political failure on a lot of factors including inexperience; however, if his films fail to do well, given that it’s his forte, then it’ll be a big blow. The stakes are too high now, and he can’t afford to do a mediocre film again," he adds.
His return to films might have made him a soft target for his rivals, but all said and done, there’s a lot of burden on his shoulders to make the right choices, if he intends to continue acting in films. For the past few years, a lot of his well-wishers and close associates, including his brother Chiranjeevi, expressed their desire to see him be active in both films and politics. Now that he is at the crossroads of making a big choice in his life, all eyes are on Pawan Kalyan to see if he’ll silence his critics and make a comeback with a bang. The Telugu remake of Pink and the themes it tries to address might give him the right platform to talk about relevant social issues, but it’s a million dollar question what’s he going to do after this project.
Views expressed are author's own.
Hemanth Kumar CR is a Hyderabad-based film journalist. He writes about Telugu cinema on most days, and when he doesn’t, one can find him talking about Game of Thrones, chai, books, and digging into all things related to history.