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Looking for diverse roles

Meet talented Ravi Teja whose long wait for success is finally over.

THE WAIT was worth it. The recognition that came with the success of Itlu Sravani Subramaniam gave Ravi Teja the feeling of being in seventh heaven. He had at last arrived as a star with box-office potential. Mention this to him, and he dismisses the tag with a smile. "I am not a star. I am a director's artiste. Learning from film to film. I owe my success to Jagan (Puri Jagannath) who, despite advice by some not to take me for the hero's role in the film, stood his ground and was prepared to lose those producers rather than me. It is my luck that he has repeated me in his next venture," says the actor who strikes an instant rapport with you.

The conversation took place at a star hotel in Rajahmundry where he was shooting for Vamsi's Avunu, Valliddaru Ishtapaddaru. "I am lucky that I have been signed by three offbeat filmmakers within the realm of commercial cinema. Besides Vamsi's film and Jagan's Idiot, I play one of the three heroes in Krishna Vamsi's Khadgam. Each of these ventures has given me the opportunity to play different roles. I am playing a soft-hearted man in Vamsi's film, a ruffian in Jagan's movie and an action hero in Khadgam.

You know, I have not signed a film for almost eight months after the release of Itlu Sravani..., simply because Jagan told me that there is an exciting offer in store for me in his next film and also the major reason is that I did not find the roles offered to me interesting enough to carry on. I genuinely feel that one should love the role he or she plays. Besides, I know my limitations and my strong points. I believe in natural acting," he adds.

Does he deliberately underplay a role given his views on natural acting? "Many said the same thing for my role in Sindooram. It happens unconsciously.There is no effort on my part. I follow the director's instructions." His favourite actors include Amitabh Bachchan, Chiranjeevi (especially his earlier films with K. Viswanath and K. Balachander), Govinda, Rajnikanth and Mohanlal.

Ravi Teja is at home talking in Hindi. He says, "My father was a pharmacist and because of the nature of his job, my childhood was spent in Delhi, Bhopal, Jaipur and Bombay. It is only after coming to Vijayawada that I learnt Telugu. I did my graduation in Siddartha College."

The interest in acting took him to Chennai. Initially, for three years between l990 and '93, he played cameo roles in some films. "Finding lack of encouragement as an actor, I enrolled myself as an assistant with Krishna Vamsi. I worked with him for Ninne Pelladutha and later worked as an assistant director for Criminal, Prathibandh and Aaj Ka ----Goondaraj. Without remuneration for the last two films (laughs)."

"But the acting bug soon bit me and I was in front of the cameras with Srinu Vytla offering me the lead role in his debut film, Nee Kosam and Krishna Vamsi giving me a well-etched role in Sindooram. Though Nee Kosam won a couple of Nandi awards, including the best actor for me, it did not help my career as it was a failure at the box-office. Sindooram won me the initial recognition and Jagan's Itlu Sravani... consolidated that recognition," he adds.

Today, he has signed ten films in lead roles. Is he restricting himself to playing hero roles or is he open to any challenging roles? "If it is a good project, I am game to play any pivotal role. Take Manirathnam's Mounaragam. Kartik is not the hero of the movie. It is Mohan. Yet, Kartik's role stood out. The role should excite me irrespective of the fact it is lead man or not," was his cryptic reply. He has an ambition too - to wield the megaphone some day. "I cannot say at this stage when I will be launching it. But the itch to don the mantle of a director and to come up with a different fare is deep inside me. Meanwhile, let me further consolidate my position as an actor," smiles the actor.

M.L. NARASIMHAM

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