I never interviewed Rama Naidu for any movie-related achievements or movie releases or even his Padma Bhushan. I had the opportunity to meet Mr Suresh Babu and also interview him or call him to take his view on many issues related to the movie industry.
I had the opportunity to interact with Mr Venktesh on quite a few occasions. I interviewed RaNa Daggubati soon after the release of Rajamouli’s magnum opus, Bahubali.
This story is about how Dr Rama Naidu, who, in spite of his “intense desire” to produce a movie with me in the lead role (say, hero), couldn’t take it forward. Who is responsible for the same?
Actress Soundarya, one of the most beautiful faces in the Telugu tinsel world, was a darling of many movie buffs. She still remained etched in the hearts of her fans even after 16 years of her passing away in an unfortunate helicopter crash. She would have been a heroine, by my side, in the movie proposed by Dr Rama Naidu.
Incidentally, Dr Rama Naidu also had a brush with politics for a brief period.He was elected on behalf of the Telugu Desam Party from Bapatla Lok Sabha constituency in 1999 to the 13th Lok Sabha and served as the MP for one full term until 2004 general elections.
He deserves commendation for the work he had done as the MP. I do not remember specific projects, but he had spent the MP Local Area Development funds and also spent a few crores from his personal earnings too to address certain problems in terms of infrastructure and made life easier to his constituents to the extent possible. He was diligent in identifying the work and getting down to basics of the problems and finding easier and lasting solutions.
Such a dignified man that he is, when asked about his winning chances in Bapatla when he sought reelection to fight Daggubati Purandeswari, daughter of N T Rama Rao, in 2004, Naidu garu told me: “I am not sure. Most likely I would lose. Yet, I am glad. A daughter-in-law of our Daggubati clan (referring to Ms Purandeswari) may get elected.” His prediction came true and he retired from politics forever. I had the privilege of working as a journalist representing The Hindu in Guntur.
This facilitated our interaction on many an occasion ever since he entered politics. He used to attend District Development Review Committee meetings and Zilla Parishad meetings and used to review the development schemes in his constituency, all in the district headquarters of Guntur.
Then Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu used to frequently visit Guntur district. In one of those visits sometime during 2002, the Chief Minister embarked on a tour of some Assembly constituencies. Many ministers, MPs and MLAs used to join the CM’s entourage. So did Rama Naidu.
After seeing off the Chief Minister, who flew off in his chopper from Pednandipadu, we boarded a special bus meant for journalists. While we were to move on, Rama Naidu waved his hand to stop the bus and boarded it, asking his car to follow our bus. He came and sat by my side in the bus, as I was more familiar to him than the others owing to my phone calls and personal interactions, even in Bapatla and Karamchedu (his native village).
Then we began chattering as every one was interested in knowing about a top movie personality. After all, movies is a subject of interest for many and who else is better than Dr Rama Naidu to talk about them. After a brief tete-a-tete, the topic moved to the movie, ‘Vasu’, that was just then released. Somehow, Rama Naidu did not like the makeup of his son Venkatesh, who was the hero in the movie produced by Creative Commercials of K S Rama Rao. Rama Naidu asked me whether Venkatesh wasn’t looking much older than his age at that time. I personally like Venkatesh very much. So, I told Rama Naidu: “Sir, if you did not like it, you should tell him to go for a makeover.” He nodded in affirmation.
Then, I couldn’t resist my urge to make use of the opportunity and airtime with the movie Mogul. I mustered courage and asked him: “Naidu garu, if you don’t mind. I have a request. How do I get a chance to act in a movie? I won several prizes at the State level in mono-action competition in my school and I also was Deputy Convener (elected by performance) of Drama Association in my college at UG. A little bragging to present my portfolio to you, sir.”
To this, he smiled and said: “Why do you need a small role. You are a senior journalist with such good expression in writing (I am told). You also have a twinkle in your eye and you look smart too. You can be a hero in a movie.”
For a while, I wondered if he was sarcastic. But, to reassure me about his observation, he asserted: “Sekhar, I am not joking. Hero doesn’t mean he should fight like NTR or dance like ANR or do everything like Chiranjeevi. Hero is a lead role.” I rolled my eyes in utter disbelief.
As we were deeply engrossed in our conversation and owing to the buzz of breeze, the others moved to their seats. But for sure, either Suri (Surya Desaraju) or Vasudevan Patri was around.
And, he continued: “Get a worthy story. I will myself produce a movie with Soundarya as your heroine.” I was jaw-dropped asking: “whattt…?” He said: “Yes,” very firmly. I said: “sir, she’s much taller than I.”
To this, the star producer said: “There is no rule as such that a hero should be taller than the heroine. Chandramohan was not taller than Sri Devi in Padaharella vayasu. Anyway, you get a story for an art film. We will get many awards for that.”
When the main task of getting the story is rested on my shoulders, I knew it’s not going to happen. I said the same thing to him. To this he smiled and said: “Finding a story is never difficult. Finding a producer is. You got the second one first. Now it is your choice. If you don’t, I have no problem. Poor Soundarya will miss acting by your side.”
And, he was right. Soundarya could never be my heroine.
Shaking hands with him, we parted ways at the State Guest House in Guntur where he stayed back and I went home, A lovely man he was. During the thick of electioneering, Soundarya died in a helicopter crash. When I met Rama Naidu later at Bapatla in his campaign, he had said: “Unfortunate that Soundarya is no more. A great talent she had. You are also unfortunate. She missed being your heroine.”.