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Vijayashanti: “I Never Thought I’d Come Back To Cinema”



 The astonishing  Vijayashanti who at one point in her long illustrious career was  known as  ‘Lady Amitabh’  is back on screen after a  gap of 13 years   in the Telugu  film  Sarileru Neekevvaru  . The  film’s success has brought a glow to the  iconic actress’ face.

Speaking in a warm humble  amiable tone Vijayashanti  expresses  delight and  surprise at  the warm welcome back . “I am back after 13 years  of absence from the screen.I am gratified to know  audiences have  not forgotten me  and my roles.Even now they call me out by the names  of the popular characters I played. The response to my  return after so many years is overwhelming.”

After delivering hit after hit in the  1980s and 90s  in Tamil , Telugu and Hindi in author-backed  female-oriented  roles,  why was she  missing from the screen  since 2006?

“Politics, Sir,  politics,” she  says with  pleasurable laughter.  “I  decided to plunge myself  into the creation of Telangana. And I didn’t to do it half-heartedly, didn’t want  people  to point a finger at me  and say, ‘Look, another actor is using  politics to get noticed.’  It didn’t even occur to me that I could use my strong image in  cinema to propagate my political ideas. To me, cinema was  cinema and politics was politics.”

When she plunged into politics  she had  no intention  of ever returning to cinema. “I had been acting for 40 years when politics  beckoned. I didn’t want to continue with a film career. It had to be politics wholeheartedly.”

So  what made Vijayashantiji change her  mind? “Mahesh Babu and  director Anil  Ravipudi.  Anil Ravipudi  had offered me  a  role  just a year before  Sarileru Neekevvaru . I had  turned it down . I had no intention  of  returning to cinema. But then  again he came back to me with  Sarileru Neekevvaru  . This time  I couldn’t say no to him. When I  heard  the role and  got to know I’d be sharing screen space with Mahesh Babu, it seemed  just right to take on the  role.Do you know I started my career as  a heroine with Mahesh Babu’s father (Krishna) in  Telugu cinema  in Kilaadi Krishnudu in  1980. I also acted with Mahesh Babu when he was a child.And now I’m sharing the screen with Mahesh Babu again.It is  quite  amazing!”

 Vijayashanti is astounded by the reaction to her role in  Sarileru Neekevvaru. “The response is unbelievable. They  all want me to  do more roles. And I’m open to it, provided it’s worth  my while.At the moment I haven’t  accepted any other role.I don’t need to do  a film unless I’m convinced it’s worth  my while.”

 She  recalls her brief association with  Hindi cinema with  fondness. “The  first Hindi film I did  was  Eeshwar  with Anil Kapoorji. It was  a lovely film.And I had a lovely  role in it. I did some more  Hindi films, including Tejaswani where I played a cop and did my owm  stunts. I also did  a film with  the great Amitabh Bachchan called  Zamanat which , for reasons  unknown to me,  never got released.That remains  a regret. Amitji  is such a  great star. Do you know, they used to call me  ‘Lady Amitabh’ in Telugu cinema  because of the author-backed  strong characters  I played.”

Vijayashanti has always been associated with films  and roles that empower the  female  hero.  Sarileru Neekevvaru  is  no exception. “I’m lucky to get such a part so late  in my career. It’s  very rare  for a leading lady to return after so long with such a powerful character. Now that  the  Telangana dream has been realized  I hope to do  selected roles  from now on. Even one  film  a year  is enough. But the role has to justify my presence, like  Sarileru Neekevvaru  did.”

She is  full  of praise  for Mahesh Babu and his wife Namrata. “They  looked after me like their own family. Until  this week we were together, shooting, promoting the  film. Now that it’s over I will miss them.”

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