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He shapes up star sons



'Star maker', Satyanand, in his training Institute.--- Photo: C.V. Subrahmanyam

After making an accidental entry on stage, he turned the fortunes of quite a few dream boys and girls, who had set their eyes on the silver screen, and turned them into stars. No wonder, he has come to be popularly known as `star maker'.

Meet Lanka Satyanand, actor, trainer and associate director to whom goes the credit of grooming megastar Chiranjeevi's brother, Pavan Kalyan, superstar Krishna's son, Mahesh Babu, the Tamil hero, Ravi (editor Mohan's son), Brahmanandam's son... and the list is endless.

His maternal uncle, Y.S. Raju, was a popular stage director. "In 1967, `Nalugilla Chavidi', scripted by the popular actor, Raavi Kondala Rao, was to be staged. One of the boys who had to play a character did not turn up. My uncle sought my father's permission to induct me in the boy's place. He agreed and I performed my first role on stage," recalls Satyanand. There was no looking back for him ever since.

His very second role in the play `Vidhi', which was staged in Vizianagaram, brought him his first award in his career. The popular actor, S.V. Ranga Rao, who watched the play, was so impressed by the boy's performance that he asked the stage director whether there were any awards for child artistes and the director replied in the negative.

Ranga Rao himself contributed money for sponsoring a prize for the best child artiste. In those days there were quite a few child artistes, but Satyanand bagged the first prize for his role. In 1969, he met the late Attili Krishna Rao and staged plays through his `Natya Bharati'. He subsequently came in contact with the noted director and actor, Chatla Sriramulu, who had done an acting course from the British Drama League, London.

Later, Satyanand had a chance to don roles in the famous play, `Kanyashulkam', along with the well-known actor, the late J.V. Somayajulu, and J.V. Ramana Murthy, between 1973 and 1984. In 1975, he formed `Kalajyotsna', a stage group, through which he enacted several plays successfully and won innumerable awards.

He created a new record in the Telugu theatre, when the play `Adavi Diviteelu' written by Vangapandu Prasada Rao, was staged for 51 days continuously from March 15, 1985, to May 4, 1985, at a single theatre in Visakhapatnam. He broke his own record by staging the play `Bommalata' for a continuous run of 102 days from May 15, 1993 to September 2, 1993 at a single theatre in Visakhapatnam.

In recognition of his outstanding contribution to theatre, the Yuvakala Vahini, Hyderabad, awarded the prestigious `Dr. Garikipati Raja Rao Best Director Award'. He was chosen for the award as the `Outstanding young person' for 1994 by the Waltair Junior Chamber and the `Visista Puraskaram '95 award of the Kalasagar Cultural Trust, Madras.

He was nominated as one of the committee members (adjudicators) for the State Nandi Awards for TV Films for 1991-92 and 1992-93.

The lack of professionalism in Telugu theatre has made Satyanand restrict himself to special stage shows. He suggests theatre should be run parallel to cinema as in Tamil Nadu, Maharastra and West Bengal. This would give viewers a choice of entertainment, besides exerting pressure on the theatre groups to improve upon their performance.

Satyanand got a break, when he had occasion to come in contact with Chiranjeevi as an associate director of the film, "Manchu Pallaki", which was directed by Vamsi. The film was shot in and around Visakhapatnam in 1980 and Chiru used to visit the city on and off.

"Chiranjeevi learnt about my stage plays and how I introduced new artistes. He used to inquire about my work whenever he came to attend his shooting schedules. In 1990, when Allu Aravind wanted to send Pavan Kalyan to London for training in acting, it was Chiru who suggested my name. I took it as a challenge and proved my training talent.

"He (Satyanand) taught me that the key to good acting is not acting and I have realised the truth in his words now," said Mahesh Babu at a recent function in Visakhapatnam.

Satyanand will direct the Telugu remake of the successful Kannada film, `Kushi' in which his students will play most of the characters.

He quit his job in Andhra University last year and has opened Satyanand Acting Institute where he offers full-time training to aspiring film stars. The institute has got all the equipment to provide the `A to Z' of acting to students. "It takes about 45 days to train a person who does not know the ABC of acting. But I can foresee the future of a learner in the first week of training itself," says the master trainer. "Though I have taken up training as a commercial venture, I don't mind waiving the tuition fee for really deserving and poor candidates who have the spark in them," he says.

Today, some of the film directors don't even conduct a screen test for "my students" before selecting them for their projects. The tag "Satyanand's student" is enough for them to decide the credentials of the artiste.

B. M.G.

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