Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy is one of the biggest films releasing this year – in terms of production value as well as its cast. The film has both Amitabh Bachchan and Chiranjeevi on board, playing the roles of teacher and student respectively. In a recent interview by Farhan Akhtar, it turned out that the two actors are great friends and share a great camaraderie and relationship that cuts across languages.
Amitabh Bachchan told Farhan Akhtar how he and Chiranjeevi had been friends for very long. He was actually quite surprised when the latter called him for the role of his guru in Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy.
Chiranjeevi and me have been very close friends for a very long time. It’s very rare that he would call up and ask, ‘Can you do this?’. So when he called up and asked, there was no question of not doing it. I just feel very honoured that Chiranjeevi thought about me. It’s a huge project! I’m just amazed at how they visualized something like this.
As Amitabh Bachchan turned to Chiranjeevi, the actor, modest as ever, praised his ‘guru’ Amitabh Bachchan instead.
When we decided to do this film, my director asked me, ‘Who will play your guru character?’ though it is a small part lengthwise. I said, ‘Who else other than Amitabh ji?’ I had my own doubts, I was skeptical when I was calling to him. Because he hadn’t accepted any other film than in Hindi, in any other language. When I called, he asked me if I was sure I wanted to cast him and whether or not he would do justice to the role. I said, of course sir! Who else would do justice to playing my guru. Without a second thought, and with a simple phone conversation, he said yes. I am really indebted to him!
Laughingly explaining how he actually reached to the actor, Chiranjeevi said Amitabh Bachchan was more accessible on text message than on phone! “He is very accessible. More than phone call, he is more accessible to SMS! So I took his number, and messaged him, and immediately he responded!” said Chiranjeevi.
Amitabh Bachchan had apparently noticed Chiranjeevi long before they ended up collaborating for Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy. “When you’re in the film industry, you take notice of everyone that’s in the field. Not just in your language, but in other languages also. You keep seeing their work, hearing about them, reading about them. It’s quite inevitable that at some point, you desire to meet them. I’ve been an admirer of his films and works for a very long time,” said Bachchan.
There is actually an anecdote behind the time that the megastars of Hindi and Telugu cinema had met. They had met in Ooty while shooting for their respective films, narrated Amitabh Bachchan.
We were shooting together in Ooty. I was shooting for Hum and you were doing a song sequence. We were pretty close to the same location. We sat, we chatted, and when his shot was ready he cracked a very complicated dance move within 2 seconds and gave just one take. It was over. I was amazed! It was something I would’ve taken a couple of years to crack. So we keep meeting, and we keep talking and I keep giving him advice which he never listens!
On being asked by Farhan what advice he is referring to, Amitabh Bachchan said that he had warned Chiranjeevi not to enter politics when he was considering it as an option. “He came to me one day and said Sir, I think I need to join politics. I told him, sir, please don’t make that mistake. I have told Rajini the same thing,” revealed Bachchan. The actor further went on to narrate how Chiranjeevi later quit politics and thanked Bachchan for his advice.
Talking about Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy, Chiranjeevi said that it was his long-time desire to play a freedom fighter character from the pages of history. This was a character that he personally desired to do, rather than for audience satisfaction. Chiranjeevi said –
I’ve been telling for the last two decades that Bhagat Singh is my favourite, most passionate character. But nobody came forward with a subject or content. A particular set of the star Telugu writers came forward with the story of Narasimha Reddy about twelve years back. He was, much before the sepoy mutinee, he was the rebel who fought against the British in a particular place of Andhra Pradesh. Nobody knew about him – even though he was the first freedom fighter who declared war against the British.
Amitabh Bachchan, meanwhile, spoke about how he has forayed into featuring in advertisements and associating himself with social causes. The actor said, “I like to associate, or convey through my own personal experiences. If I can say that I’m a patient of TB, then I can say the cause gets a little more personalised. I’m being a little immodest here, but I feel that becomes the scoring point.”
The actor was then questioned about how he feels the current generation is different from the previous one, he looks back at the time when he was making his debut.
Whenever I’m asked this question, I feel that I must look back at the time when I was entering films and I was the young generation being looked at and the kinds of inputs I was getting, and whether we followed it or not. When I did Anand, a very prominent writer came up and said, ‘Dhoti se aap kabhi bahar mat nikalna.’ Then when I did my first drunk scene, the same person came to me and said bus abhi ek ho gaya, aur matt karna. Therefore I never want to challenge today’s generation. I was in a similar situation fifty years back. I was not arrogant about not listening to them. But sometimes you want to do things your own way. I don’t argue with today’s generation. They are so competent, so confident, I would rather go with them than tell them what to do. Technology has changed, the way people think has changed, the way they convey, the way they talk, it’s all become so different from what we were.
Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy releases on October 2, 2019.