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My character is very inspiring in Oopiri: Nagarjuna

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At 56, Akkineni Nagarjuna is as fit as a fiddle. Even while his two sons make headway as leading men in Telugu cinema , Nag continues to rule as a leading man.His last release Soggade Chinni Nayana was a blockbuster. His new film Oopiri is special as it is being released in both Telugu and Tamil and Nag plays a paraplegic character for the first time. Amidst a hectic promotional spree Nag takes time off for an interview with Subhash K Jha

Oopiri is the official remake of the French film the Intouchables. How did that happen?

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(Laughs) I guess the French love me as much as I love them. No but jokes apart, it was a film I wanted to do for some time. Four years ago my wife Amala and I saw Intouchables.We loved it. I loved the spirit of my character who is on a wheelchair but never depressed. never wallowing in selfpity.My character is very inspiring. I wanted to do a Telugu version of Intouchables from the time I saw it.

So why didn’t you?

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I would have produced it myself. But I didn’t know how to adapt it into Telugu. If we did a completely faithful rendition it wouldn’t work. It had to be Indianized.We had to keep our commercial angle in mind.When the director Vamsi Paidipally came to me with the idea I was happy but cautious. I told him to see if he can adapt it, because I had tried and failed it.

Then what happened?

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He asked me to give him six months to work on it. He came back six months later.I had no choice but to say yes.

How difficult was it for you to play a man whose movements are relatively restricted?

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Initially it was difficult. I am a very physical actor. I generally use my hands a lot.It was difficult specially in the first schedule. I told my director to take his time, do as many retakes as he wants until I get it right. There were times when I did 20-25 takes. He kept asking for take after take , and I just did them. It took about a week for me to get used to the wheelchair. But one thing remained constantly unusual throughout the shooting.

What was that?

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Usually after a shot we look for a chair to rest our feet. Here in Oopiri it was the other way around. After every shot I was on my feet ,walking around the set trying to get the blood circulation in legs working properly.

What was Karthi like as a co-star?

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I’ve found a younger brother and a friend in Karthi. He is a wonderful actor. For me the director is top priority, then the script. Co-stars are the least important decicing factor for doing a film. But I must confess I thoroughly enjoyed working with Karthi .We share a special bond in real life now, as we do in the film.There was no sense of oneupmanship between us. There was only mutual respect. When you see the film you’ll realize how comfortable we are with one another.I don’t think actors get insecure about one another any more. They work in harmony.

To play a man with so much spirit in spite of his inability to move, was it inspiring?

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It was very inspiring.I’ve seen my mom confined to a wheelchair in the last three years of her life. Both her knees had given way, and there was no way she could undergo surgery at her age. Though I was concerned for her, I didn’t know at that time what she had to go through.

Did you try to share her suffering?

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Of course I’d sit with her , try to understand her pain. But it’s now after playing a paraplegic in Oopiri have I understood what she must have gone through, how frustrating it must have been to not be able to do what she wanted to, not go where she wanted to. Even if you want to go to the restroom you’ve call for somebody. You want to sleep you need someone to put you to bed. Somewhere I’ve learnt to be grateful to God for blessing us with health . Please don’t take your body for granted. You better take good care of it. My salute to all the physically disabled people in the world. For coping, smiling, living life to the fullest.

Tell me about your next project?

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I am immediately starting Hathiram Baba a 17th century period film. It’s based on Lord Balajee’s life. I play a devotee named Hathiram Baba who came from Rajasthan when God summoned. I chose this because of its spiritual theme, almost like conversations with God . Legend has it that Lord Balajee used to come down to earth to play dice with Hathiram every night.

Have you done something similar before?

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I had done a mythological costume drama Annamaya way back in 1997. K Raghvendra Rao who directed that film is directing Hathiram Baba.Raghvendra Rao is completely spiritual. I am looking forward to this as it is a complete change from Oopiri.

Are you looking at doing roles that take you away from what you’ve done so far?

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Oh, absolutely.I wouldn’t say I am at the fag-end of my career. But in the second-half of my career I want to make sure every move and movie makes me happy an artiste.

Your two sons are doing well. Are you guiding them?

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Yes, I am guiding them. The first one Naga Chaitanya is settled in his career. The second son Akhil is finding his bearings. I am guiding him with his second film which is starting now, as the first one went wrong.Now he’s finding his groove. Run of the mill films won’t work.A new phase has started in Telugu cinema.

Are you looking at more projects?

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It’s a very exciting time to be an actor.I am looking at quite a few scripts.My last film Soggade ChinniNayana was a bit of a blockbuster. So we are looking at the potential for a sequel.Provided it works.

Oopiri is coming in two languages Tamil and Telugu. Added pressure?

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None at all. I haven’t done a Tamil film for some years. I am there for Telugu cinema. Karthi is there to ensure Tamil audiences like the film. But I’ve done my own Tamil lines. Oopiri is a very special film. It’s been a life-changing experience for me.

Batman Versus Superman releases with Oopiri. Your comments?

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Well, my character is a bit of a super-hero himself. He is confined to a wheelchair. But his spirit flies. Seriously,I am a big Batman fan, not so much a Superman fan. I am looking forward to seeing it.

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Jamuna Had A Love-Hate Relationship With  Bollywood

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Jamuna

Veteran  Telugu  actress  Jamuna who passed away on Friday, shared an uneasy relationship with  the Hindi film industry.She did eleven Hindi films including the iconic Milan in  1967 where Jamuna  agreed to play the  second lead, or the  supporting role if you will, to Nutan.

 Jamuna as Gauri was the Other Woman who craved for the hero Sunil Dutt’s attention whereas  he had  eyes and devotion  only for Nutan. In later  years  Aruna Irani played a similar  role in  Caravan.

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 In Milan Jamuna  was not keen to  do a supporting role. Producer L V Prasad tempted her with three chartbusting songs. Besides, Jamuna had played the same role in Mooga Manasulu, the  Telugu original  of  Milan. But it  was the songs composed by Laxmikant-Pyarelal  which convinced  Jamuna to  take up the second lead in Milan.

 While  Nutan had no solo songs  in Milan, she did have the chartbuster duet  Sawan  ka mahina . Jamuna on the  other hand,  had two  splendid Lata Mangeshkar solos: Tohey saawariya naahin khabariya  and   the magnificent Ghazal Aaj dil pe koi  zor chalta nahin.Not only  these, Jamuna  also had a  hit duet  with Mukesh  based on her character  Gauri:  Bol Gauri  bol tera kaun piya.

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But  then, fate  intervened. After the film released  one of Jamuna’s solos, the poignant and memorable  Aaj dil pe koi zor chalta nahin was  snipped  out of the film.

Here is what  happened:  the  Ghazal , one of Lataji’s all-time greats, was very much a part of Milan when  it released on 17 March 1967. But then  it was seen to hamper the  flow of the  film and  edited  out. The  beautiful song occurred right after intermission. Producer  Prasad, a shrewd  filmmaker, got to know that audiences prolonged their  loo breaks as there was  a song after the break. Hence the sacrifice  of  a seriously  sonorous melody.

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Jamuna hardly did  Hindi films after Milan. Her last  Bollywood appearance  was in  Raj Kumar  Kohli’s Raj Tilak  where she  was lost in a multistarrer as  the royal  queen.

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Karan Johar Moves Alia Song From Switzerland To Kashmir

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Rocky Aur Rani  Ki Prem Kahaani

The  romantic duet in  Karan Johar’s Rocky Aur Rani  Ki Prem Kahaani  which was to be  shot in Switzerland and which was  delayed  due to the film’s leading lady Alia Bhatt’s motherhood, is now being relocated to  Kashmir.

Purely out of  the  love for  new mom Alia.

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Says a source in the know, “Karan loves Alia  like his own daughter. He would do anything for her. He postponed  the  release of Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahani as the love duet could not be shot before Alia’s maternity leave. Karan had decided to shoot the song in Switzerland  after Alia’s maternity love. But now he has relocated the song to Kashmir  as Alia doesn’t want to leave her  baby girl behind for  long stretches.”

And as Karan Johar argued, snow is  snow. How does it matter whether it is  Switzerland or Kashmir?

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This  song would be Karan Johar’s tribute to  his  idol Yash Chopra. Alia would be dressed in chiffon sarees while  Ranveer, for  a change, would be seen in  formals.

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Bobby Deol’s Switchover To Villainous Roles

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Bobby Deol

After  Prakash Jha’s webseries Ashram where Bobby  played a sleazy  godman, and Love Hostel  where  he was a ruthless assassin,   he is playing the villain to Ranbir Kapoor in  Sandeep Vanga’s  Animal.

Bobby says it is not conscious career decision to play negative characters  but a conscious  decision to play interesting characters. “ I don’t look at  characters as positive or negative.When I watch  films there is always  one character  that stays  with you. I want to play that  character.”

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Prakash Jha’s Ashram proved a gamechanger for Bobby.  He admits finding  challenging roles is tough.  “I am trying. I  am doing Sandeep Vanga’s Animal with Ranbir  Kapoor , Parineeti Chopra. Then I am doing the family film Apne  2 which I am  very excited  about.”

 In an  earlier  interview with  this writer Bobby spoke  about his   long absence  from screen  before Prakash Jha’s Ashram.  “My fans   would ask why I wasn’t being seen on the screen.And I couldn’t tell them it was  because  I wasn’t getting good roles. But my fans  stood by me. They gave me  the strength  to  keep looking for the right roles. Thankfully I found the roles I liked. My new  films have given  me  some new fans. I am  thankful  I am still here. Yeah , I am in a good space right now.”

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Pathaan Collects 55 crore nett in India On Day 1

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Pathaan

YRF’s Pathaan has apparently wiped out all previous records as it collected 55 crore nett in India and recorded the biggest ever Day 1 for a Hindi film. The total collections of Pathaan on Day One is 57 crore nett (Hindi – 55 crore and dubbed versions 2 crore).

It is the widest Hindi release of  all  time in India and also the highest grossing 1st Day for a   Hindi film.It is  also the  highest grosser  on the  first first for a  non-holiday release. Pathhan is  also the highest  opener for Shah Rukh Khan.

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Akshaye Widhani, CEO of Yash Raj Films, says, “It is a historic day for Indian cinema and we are humbled to see the love and appreciation that is flowing for Pathaan globally. For Pathaan to shatter records in this fashion on a non holiday, just proves that the theatrical business is here to stay, provided we make films that entice people to come to the cinemas to witness a never seen before experience that entertains them thoroughly.“

He adds, “We, at YRF, are thrilled with the start that the film has got across India and we are hopeful that Pathaan brings joy to cine-goers globally in the days to come! Pathaan is the fourth film of our YRF Spy Universe and we are thrilled that we have been able to elevate the cinematic experience of audiences with each film from this franchise. We humbly share this moment with all the stake-holders of the film who have given their blood, sweat and tears to give people a movie-going experience like never before.”

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