Interview with Tollywood Hero Raja
Recently Denver hosted a major fundraising event by Indo-American Eye care Organization, for which some special guests have attended all the way from India. Tollywood Hero Raja is one of the special guests. Everyone knows he is the hero in the famous movie Anand, O Chinnadana, Aa Naluguru, Vennela, Mayabazaar etc. DesiShades was a given some time to talk with him.
DesiShades: Hello Raja, itís been a nice evening in Denver with you. Can you please tell us something about your childhood?
Raja: I was born in Vizag. My grandfather was in the British army during pre-independence days and my mother grew up in India. Many tragic events happened in my family. When I was five, my mother died of uterine cancer. My father worked in the Gulf. He was ostracized from his family because he married a white lady. We had many unpleasant experiences. My father shifted us to Hyderabad and I studied here from 3rd standard to 10th class. In 1988, he had to leave his job and come to India to spend time with us. My father died of a cardiac arrest in December 1989. That was another turning point in our life. We had to go back to Vizag. We (my sister and me) worked at a young age to support our education. Life taught us many things but it also opened us new avenues. It made life less complicated.
During my college days, I worked for Sterling Holiday resorts. After graduation I worked with NEPC airlines for one and half years as public relations officer. Then I joined Lufthansa as a part of their cabin crew and flew with them for two years. Finally I wanted to do something much bigger in life.
DesiShades: How did you start your film career?
Raja: My momís genes have been passed on to me and I fulfilled her dreams. She always wanted to be an actor. I always heard from my family members about my momís interest in films. She always was a great fan of Savitri garu. She was always fascinated by cinema. I think that rubbed on to me. I used to participate in lot of cultural events in school, stage drama, theatre and all. I always used be a front runner. Even in my college I used be on the front for any kind of program that is being held. I was very enthusiastic about all the events. I like to do things very excitedly. There was always something patting me at my back saying that I can sort of do this. But things were not always the same. I had to focus on my career. I worked for a company in Europe for two years. I got tired. All I want to do is follow my dream. I gave up my job and came to USA. I came to Miami and everybody started laughing at me saying "Chalo, hero banne jaa rahahai". I had a friend in Miami and he helped me a lot. With his help I came to USA. I did my college in Theatre at Miami. I participated in lot of programs in US. I finished my course, packed my bag and went back to India. I was strong in my American accent in those days. I went to couple of production houses, but their attitude put me off. I really struggled hard. I respect theatre, I respect acting. These people have no regard for me and no respect. I was not even bothered in spending and wasting my time. I packed my bags and went to Bombay. I gave my portfolio to couple of modeling agencies, advertising agencies, and coordinators. I started getting lot of calls. My theatre background helped me a lot. My first commercial was a coco cola commercial. It was very interesting. I started my earnings as an actor with Rs.5000. I started getting a lot of work. I was very happy. I stared getting work. Then I met Sandeep Sickand who was a theatre maker for Sony Television. He was very close to Ekta. We used work out in the same centre. We bumped into each other and started talking. I never knew who he was. When we are in the gym we talk about different things. We never had trainers; itís like do your own kind thing. He asked me for a small help and I helped and told him that I have a theatre background. He was really excited. MTV VJ who is from London who played Mowgli in Jungle book is leaving the show. He wanted me to replace the character of VJ. I just had 10 days of time to finish this. It was like a great offer and a big challenge for me. I had to memorize the whole play by heart. I did lot of shows. I was very happy to be apart of this team. One of the media people started talking to me in Hindi. I said talk to me in Telugu, I am Telugu guy. Every one was shocked and started saying what you doing in Bombay crew. The whole media was so happy by looking at me. I started telling them about my entire story and my USA school. There was an article published in Hindu, "Raja in The Making". By looking into the article Dr. Rama Naidu called me. I am a media actor. I thank them and I always tell that. I went to his office, for a screen test. Amrita Arora and I were both screen tested. We both were selected. Unfortunately the project got shelved, but Rama Naidu garu promised me may be we will look for a better script. In the mean time I went back to Bombay and Sridevi Nekkanti, who used to work for Ramanaidu garu she happened to start her own production. She had my number and contacted me in Bombay. EVV Satyanarayana Garu along with Sridevi Nekkanti garu came to and EVV garu selected me. Unfortunately it was also shelved. I got to meet Rajesh and Naresh also. One day out of the blues, Rajesh called me and said my cousin Satti Babu is here he is planning a new movie with Srikanth and is looking for new hero and asked me if I am interested. I said Why not? I went and met Satti Babu garu. He instantly selected me for the movie "O Chinnadana" They said You are doing the film. Though I got the first call from Ramanaidu garu, it was EVV garu who introduced me. This is one family that I am really thankful for giving me a break.
DesiShades: How are your movies now? What are the upcoming movies?
Raja: Jaganmohini just released. It released in Tamil and Telugu. It got a tremendous response. People had appreciated for the graphic work for the film. I always wanted to be different and do different things. I really liked it. I donít want to do the same thing for a long time. I donít want to fit into that slot. I am still not able to move out of Anand. It is so ironical that my fatherís name happened to be Anand.
I have Inkosari, coming in the next few months. I donít think I can get a film Inkosari in the future. I love that project a lot. I enjoyed a lot. I think Anand, Vennela, and Inkosari are the only three films that I really like. We had very young team. All the team members are below 30. The guy who directed this film is the co director for Vennela, Suman Paturi. He is really very good and he will one day become like Sekhar Kammula or even bigger. He is young, dynamic, enterprising, and very fresh.
He is the one who audience and the industry will look forward to. He is from Detroit. My producer is from California, Kalyan Palla. Itís a great movie. Flavors movie team gave the script for Inkosari. We have all winning hands.
DesiShades: How do you choose your scripts and roles?
Raja: We donít have that system of going through the script. It may be the practice in Bollywood. We donít have this tradition in South. They just narrate. Itís really unfortunate. Some people are really very good narrators but not good film makers. They wonít be able to screen it. They lack in vision. I realized and now unless I have a draft I am not going to accept projects anymore. This is where we come across the difficulty. Itís always better to have the draft. Inkosari is the last project for this year. I have not taken up any projects. After this film I will get back to ANAND. I love Inkosari, every part of it. We had the best team in Inkosari. All the NRIís will definitely love it.
DesiShades: What do you prefer to do - class films or mass films?
Raja: For movie clicks it doesnít matter whether its class or mass. Anand was hit by every body.
DesiShades: Can you tell us about your heroines.
Raja: I donít interact with my co-stars much after my shooting, They have their own life. When I am on the set we like on the roller coaster, we laugh, crack and some times directors say Raja itís a serious scene; please do not laugh. People liked my sense of humor.
DesiShades: Tell us about your acting school in Miami.
Raja: They taught us how to become a good actor. There are many people who do martial arts, and dancers. If you are a good actor you can inculcate all the talents.
DesiShades: You were nominated for Carbonnel award. How did you feel about it?
Raja: We did a play called Antigone in a mad max version. We were a trio in leather jackets, very funky. We made all the depressing part into the futuristic mad max version. People really enjoyed it. We took the old wine in a new bottle. It was hit with every body. Even the critics really enjoyed it. This was nominated for Carbonnel award, but we didnít get it.
DS; Differences between the film making in India and USA
Raja: the only difference is people are really dedicated, they know what they are doing. Every body is designated with a job. First is planning and second is implementation of the planning. Then the execution, which I think is more important, that we lack in India. I connect with people with all these qualities. I think my producer Kalyan Palla is one with all these.
DesiShades: What are your dream roles?
Raja: I am too young. Let me get little older to get to this point.
DesiShades: All-time favorites
Raja: If I ever wanted to do I would like to do Sagrasangamam, because art has no respect in India today. When there is a classical program going in India we donít see the younger generation. I want to show it.
DesiShades: Your favorite actor
Raja: S.V Ranga Rao garu
DesiShades: Your favorite director
Raja: All the old film makers. Singitam Srinivasa Rao garu is one of my favorite directors.
DesiShades: How do you like Denver? Would you visit us again?
Raja:I really love Denver. I promised my self that no matter how many films I do in a year I promise I will do couple of sequences in Denver. I really fell in love with the State. It is so pristine, beautiful, serene, and picturesque. Itís not exploited. Every street looks like a location.
DesiShades: How could you manage to do your charity and films?
Raja: This very common. Every one does. Younger generation is very good at multi tasking. Where there is will there is a way. So what ever you do put in your sincere efforts.
DesiShades: We heard about your charity contributions. Can you brief us?
Raja: My charity organization started couple of years ago with the name Raja Welfare Society - save the people. We have done a lot of programs. I donít take donations form any body. If some one calls me and wanted to do something for the organization, I say do it to the people. I identify the people and you can help them. I channel the people who need help and people who are helping. I observe the people and enquire about the persons and then I will proceed. I am in the media and donít want to get into any trouble. I only call people for funds when I am lacking money.
DesiShades: What is your opinion on politics? Do you have any plans to get into politics?
Raja: My next passion after cinema is politic. I always wanted to serve my country, state and people. Itís not that I want to get into power. If you are into power you can really make wonders. One should not misuse the power. I am so tired and sick of politics and politicians the way they are running the system. I want to bring in the change and I want to tell the younger generation please supports people. It is really unfortunate in India that they wonít vote in India. I plan to contest for the coming elections 2014. If I donít get a ticket form any party, I will contest as an Independent. I genuinely request people to choose the right person and the right candidate. I really look forward support from the younger generation as I can get along with the younger generations. I really want to bring change and I will bring change. More than financial support, I need moral support. I am inspired by Dr. Raja Sekhar Reddy garu. I really look up to the man. His service motto really attracted me.
DesiShades: Thanks Raja for spending valuable time with us.
Raja: Please send me the published interview. Also add me to your facebook profile.
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