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Seriously funny

Y. SUNITA CHOWDHARY

Comedian Mallikarjuna Rao says comedy calls for talent and a good dose of luck.



WITTY BUSINESS Mallikarjuna Rao is happy to bring laughter into people's lives.

Keeping you in splits as `Battala Satyam' in Ladies Tailor to moving you to tears in Hello Brother, the effortlessness with which Mallikarjuna Rao moulds himself into characters can make a chameleon blush.

Speaking on a chill winter morning, the actor says, "Comedy navvinchali gaani navvulapaalu kaakudadhu (comedy should make others laugh but it should not become the butt of ridicule)." Wry, thoughtful, witty, and humorous, Mallikarjuna Rao reveals another side of his personality as he talks of his life, experiences and views about cinema. Zeroing in on Maya Bazaar as the greatest comedy film ever, he says it represents one of the most transcendental and joyful experiences any movie-lover can hope for. "You could see Krishna, Balaram and Ghatothkacha, all of them, in a comical situation. This was also the case with Gundamma Katha. Comedy should be incidental. Making a comedy film these days is not entirely a safe bet. The situation and the subject should go hand in hand," he observes.

"Biryani tastes good if eaten once, but if you think you will relish it everyday, you are wrong. The same applies for this film genre," says Rao who singles out Nagesh as the only comedian in Tamil cinema who could single-handedly carry a film on his shoulders. Others like Rajababu, Relangi and Chalam too were good at the job, their attempts at comedy never going out of tune. The actor also cites Allu Ramalingaiah as a perfect example of stamina, zeal and charisma.

Talking of his own work, Rao says, "I had been offered 12 identical films after Ladies Tailor but I declined. I prefer comedy that makes you think like what Velu got to do in Pratighatana. You might do very good roles but if the films don't work then you can never get recognition. I struggled for six years without any result. It helps to a certain extent if you work with a big star. If you opt for a low-budget film, you might get critical acclaim but no one would even recognise you."

So what makes for successful comedy? "Any actor needs luck, besides talent, a sense of timing, the ability to speak with clarity and to adapt to your co-artiste's style. If you do your own thing, it will amount to over-acting," he says. Rao's foray into theatre was a prelude to mainstream cinema. He travelled from as far as Anakapalli to Delhi to participate in drama competitions. Right now, he is working as the vice-president of Movie Artistes Association.

Happily married and settled in life, the actor says he is thankful to god for gifting him with a talent that can bring laughter into people's lives, and he couldn't have asked for more. Comedy is serious business. Making people laugh is definitely no joke. And Mallikarjuna Rao understands it as much as the greatest comedians. That's why his attempts at levity continue to amuse and bring happiness to people.

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