Tollywood hero King Nagarjuna has been in film industry from past two decades and he acted more than 70 movies, is now planning to open a film institute.
"I had a nice roller-coaster ride in the industry. I have learnt many lessons. There were many ups and downs and, thankfully, I survived them all. And every experience has been very enriching and satisfactory," Nagarjuna said in an interview.
The Chennai-born 51-year-old actor is a qualified engineer and he even went to the University of Louisiana at Lafayettein the US to do his masters, but the acting bug bit him so hard that he took a plunge into showbiz. And why not when he had an inspiration at home – his father Nageswara Rao is an actor and a producer.
So Nagarjuna’s acting journey began with Madhusudan Rao’s 1986 movie ‘Vikram’ and he not only became a big name in the south but also did a few Bollywood projects. He has played all kinds of roles – from emotional and romantic to action and comic.
He has even featured in devotional Telugu film "Annamayya", which fetched him the Nandi Award for the best actor in 1997. But the success brought some problems as, Nagarjuna says, after the film audiences refused to accept him in any other role for four-five years.
"My films didn’t do well after the movie. I just couldn’t get away from the image," said the star who even now wants to play a mythological character from the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. "We grow up listening to stories from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. So I would like to portray any character from any chapter of these epics," he said.
He also wants to do ‘experimental cinema’. "I want to do something that can satiate my hunger for breaking the stereotype. Unlike Bollywood, Tollywood (Telugu film industry) is not experimenting with cinema. So the change has to start from somewhere; let me be the first one. Audience is same everywhere and so we have to try to break free from the regular masala movies," he said.
Calling his upcoming venture ‘Gaganam’ experimental, Nagarjuna says it is very different from what he has done so far and hopes to bring change in southern cinema with the film.
In Bollywood, one remembers Nagarjuna for ‘Criminal’ and his last Hindi movie was ‘LOC Kargil’ and he said laughingly: " ‘LOC’ was enough for me. I don’t want to waste time. I have been offered scripts, but getting out of Hyderabad, shooting somewhere else, it doesn’t work for me; hence there are constant clashes. I have things happening here, all under control, so I am comfortable here," he added.
The actor-producer doesn’t rule out the possibility of producing a Bollywood film if he gets the right package. But direction is a no-no for him.
Nagarjuna has been dabbling in different business for the past five-six years. He is closely associated with Telugu TV channel Maa TV – he is on its board of directors. His restaurant N-grill is a popular dinning place in the plush Jubilee Hills, Hyderabad, and he has plans to take it to other cities like Delhi and Bangalore as well.
The most ambitious project that Nagarjuna is currently focussing on is Annapurna Studios Pvt Ltd (ASPL) in Jubilee Hills that will train technicians and budding actors.
"Unfortunately, down south we don’t have a film school like you have in Mumbai. So the gap has to be filled and I am looking more at the quality aspect; hence this project has come up. After all these years in the industry, I have seen there is no proper channel or guidance here if one wants to make a career in this line," he said.
"So a person learns on the job. But this is not the right way. Hence it will be on the lines of the American film institute, New York University, and the University of Southern California. The objective of this institute is to upgrade talent for students to compete globally," he added.
According to him, this is a way of giving back to the industry that has made him what he is today and see it scale great heights in future.