chiranjeevi: We have overcome discrimination, says Telugu megastar Chiranjeevi on pan-Indian success of Southern films

It was “humiliating” for him as an artist from the South to see Indian cinema being defined solely by Hindi films, said veteran actor Chiranjeevi recalling a visit to Delhi in 1988. The film star Telugu, 66, said she was proud that filmmaker SS Rajamouli’s ‘Baahubali’ film series and her latest release ‘RRR’ have helped make southern cinema popular across the country and around the world.

In 1988, Chiranjeevi had traveled to Delhi for the National Film Awards and discovered that the organizers knew little about Southern cinema. Even the fences were dominated by Bollywood stars.

“It was very humiliating for me. I felt insulted, very hurt that Indian cinema only meant Hindi cinema and was screened that way for a long time. But films like ‘Baahubali’ and ‘RRR’ broke through the barriers and proved that they are Indian cinemas too,” Chiranjeevi recently said at a pre-release event for his latest film “Acharya.”

The actor said he traveled to Delhi to attend the National Film Awards as his co-production ‘Rudraveena’ was set to receive the Nargis Dutt Award for Best Feature Film on National Integration.

“We were sipping tea in the room adorned with posters highlighting the glory of Indian cinema. There were some footnotes for the posters pasted on the walls. There were pictures of Prithiviraj Kapoor, Raj Kapoor, Dilip Kumar , Dev Anand, Amitabh Bachchan , Rajesh Khanna and Dharmendra They glorified various directors and heroines and we thought they would also talk about South Indian cinema in such detail.

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“But they just showed a huge photo of MGR (MG Ramachandran) and Jayalalithaa dancing and described it as South Indian cinema. Also a photo of Prem Nazir, who played a hero in the most number of films in the history of Indian cinema, was shown,” he said.

Chrianjeevi, the star of films such as ‘Indra’, ‘Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy’, ‘Tagore’ and ‘Gang Leader’, said it was ‘sad’ to see greats like Dr Rajkumar, A Nageswara Rao and NT Rama Rao could not find a place among the posters of famous Indian movie stars displayed on the site.

“They were like demi-gods (southern stars). Their pictures did not find a place there. Even those of Sivaji Ganesan from the Tamil film industry could not be found. It was so humiliating for me at that time.I felt insulted and very sad.

“They only screened Hindi films as Indian cinema and rejected other films as if they were regional language films. They didn’t even bother to acknowledge or respect our contribution.”

But the actor is glad that the recent box office success of Southern films has changed people’s perception.

“I am so proud that our film industry has proven that we are no longer a regional cinema and that Telugu cinema has broken down barriers and become Indian cinema… Everyone is amazed at our success. We have overcome the discrimination, thanks to ‘Baahubali’, ‘Baahubali 2’ and ‘RRR’. These films have helped us a lot. We are so proud that the Telugu industry has made these films,” he said.

Chiranjeevi’s remarks come days after Bollywood actor Ajay Devgn and Kannada actor Sudeep Sanjeev engaged on Twitter about Hindi as the national language.

At the box office, Bollywood films have faced stiff competition from films from the south. In recent months, ‘Pushpa’ (Telugu), ‘RRR’ (Telugu) and ‘KGF:Chapter 2’ (Kannada) have become pan-Indian blockbusters earning more than Hindi movies like ‘Gangubai Kathiawadi’, ‘Jersey’ and ‘Runway 34’ among others.

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