He never expected that he would become an actor. Chandra Sekhar, who did the sacrificial role and rugged lawyer in SS. Rajamouli’s films Chatrapati and Sye respectively, says that Telugu Kalama Thalli (Mother Telugu film industry) will never give him a slip. “Though I am continuously in struggle, I am happy that the audiences recognize me well.” Hailing from a nondescript village in Kurnool district, Chandra Sekhar reveals that he totally missed his childhood, “languished in utter poverty. He never enjoyed Deepawali as a child. He watched the neighbors marrying in fireworks, eating good food and dressed well. Even after several years, there is no full stop to his sufferings. Despite heavy odds, this talented artiste is hopeful of good time coming to him. An exclusive interview to Idlebrain.
Your background before coming to films?
We were a poor agricultural family from a remote village Hussainapuram towards Allagadda in Kurnool district. My father passed away when I was a child. My full name is Savitri Chandra Sekhar. My parents are late Savitri Anjaneyulu and Savitri Venkata Subbamma. I studied in the village up to third class. I joined my fourth at the Wesley School, Hyderabad and finished my X Class. Our family, including my elder brother Venkata Ramana (now working in transport field), reached Hyderabad long back and my mom got a job as a nurse. Though I joined Intermediate at Ambedkar College at Baglingampalli in city, I had to discontinue it soon as I had no money to pay the fee. I also did a small course in Marine Radio engineering when people said that I could get a job if I finished it. But, I discontinued that also for financial reasons. After several years, I tried to get into Army or Home department. I also attended the physical tests. But, I didn’t get through as my physical fitness was very weak. Then, I thought of getting into the film industry. With lot of hopes I joined Devadas Kanakala’s film institute. Even this course also, I had to discontinue now and then. But, I am grateful to Devadas Kanakala couple for their excellent moral support. Before making into films, I did commercial ads and roles on the small screen.
Tell us about your interest in films in your childhood?
There was a tiny touring talkies in our village. People from surrounding villages would also throng the theatre. Standing far away, I used to listen to the songs, dialogues and some strange sounds emanating from the theatre. But, I was very unfortunate that my family was not in a position to watch films. Our economic conditions were so bad. After coming to Hyderabad, I sometimes bunked the class to watch the morning shows of Chiranjeevi garu. Later, I started watching all sort of movies. I didn’t check whether it was black and white or color. I watched films without any urge to become an actor, but purely for entertainment. From all my mental tensions, I wanted some relief.
How nostalgic are you about your village?
I frequently recall my village and its beautiful environs into my mind whenever I feel bored or tested. Wonderful locations surrounded my home. Hills and forests and unending fields. In my childhood even after coming to Hyderabad, we (my brother too) used to go to our uncle’s house there (Hussainapuram). I also did farming. It was all tobacco crops and as and when we emerged out of it, the entire body would give a strong odor and tasted sour. Life was beautiful but in reality we languished in poverty. Apart from caring for us, my mother had to look into the wellbeing of her brothers also. With her meager earnings, she used to give her best for one and all.
Any memorable moments in life?
Nothing. All my life was mired in difficulties. I will tell you one instance. This will explain to you what our life was those days. I asked my mother to as to why we didn’t have any photographs with our grandmother. She said that she had no bucks to get it done. Our house there in the village was very small, but housed a huge family. When all my classmates and friends were enjoying the festivals like Deepavali and Sankranti, we just watched their happiness and their jolly moments firing the crackers from a distance. We couldn’t eat well, dress well and all our dreams were failures.
What was your dream as a child and adult?
I know perfectly well that I had not concentrated on anything properly. My childhood circumstances continued to haunt me. Moreover, none of our relatives was settled in life. Many times I desperately felt – why there is nobody to support me. In fact, I never had any big dreams. I lived in realities.
What suggestions you got from Devadas Kanakala?
Devadas Kanakala garu and Lakshmidevi Kanakala garu treated me like their own family member. Though I stopped going to the institute several times, they did feel for it and the next moment I would be with them. They warned us: See, now you see only a very few people in the institute. When you go out, you have to face hundreds of eyes, who will be watching you thoroughly. They emphasizes on the elements of observation and concentration. From then onwards, I started shedding my reserved feelings.
How did you get the opportunity in Student No. 1?
After I finished the film institute, I took up small commercial ads. At that time, Rajamouli garu called me to do an ad, which I did. He called for me the next time also. One day he told me whether I was interested in doing a role in his proposed TV serial (Shanti Nivasam). I told him I was ready to do any character. I played the role alongside Rajiv Kanakala. Then, he gave me the first opportunity on the big screen with the film Student No. 1. I did in several of his films later. It was Rajamouli garu who encouraged me after my exit from the film institute. He guided me to do exactly what was in his mind. Whenever I failed to bring out the correct emotions, he further encouraged me with very soothing words. For what all I am today, I owe it to Rajamouli garu.
Which character brought you recognition?
It was the role that I played in the film Simhadri. It got me superb recognition. Next, it was in Sye, doing the role of a lawyer in the company of the villain. That was a different role with rugged shades. For the first time, I did a positive role in Chatrapati. That was a sacrificial role, after saving the children. A number of Telugu film industry people, including biggies, appreciated me for that role. They said that though my face was rough, I brought out excellent feel. I was satisfied that I too could do positive roles.
How many films did you do so far?
I did around 20 films. Recently, I did Raksha, which got released. Currently, I am doing in Ramcharan Teja’s film with Rajamouli garu. AA Arts movie is getting ready for release. And another movie Terror is under production. One more film in AVM banner.
For what kind of roles you are called for?
Mostly for the roles with negative shades. But, they are of small footage. They (directors) call me for even single scene roles. I am happy that they feel that I can do the roles as per their requirement.
What yardstick you follow for selecting roles?
No. I am ready to do any role. As of my current position, I act as per the freedom of the director. When a director wants my services, definitely he would have watched my films and my characterization, I believe so. But, before I accept the role, I just ask for its characterization so that I could prepare for it well.
How’s the reaction from your mother and relatives after you became an artiste?
All of them felt happy. But, even now, my mother is not happy with my profession. She feels that there is no settlement for me in the films. There is no guarantee here. So, she wants me to search for a permanent job. Next, coming to my films, she watched all of them. As of my character in Chatrapati, my mother just said that Rajamouli garu gave you a good role. But, she never said I did well.
Who was your inspiration in life and career?
My biggest inspiration in films is Megastar Chiranjeevi garu. I never saw him as hero, but as a person in my family, like annayya and mavayya. I still feel that he is close to people like me. Whenever Chiru’s films got released, we used to lay in wait for tickets at the gates three hours in advance. Each time, I stood at the first row, always I found behind a mob of hundred people. I did a small role in a single scene in Chiru’s Stalin, but it was not in his combination. You don’t believe. I have never spoken to him so far. Recently, when Chiru came to the sets of Rajamouli’s latest film, I just wished him with Namashkar. Other than that, I don’t have any closeness to him.
As an artiste, how do you feel?
I hope I am doing good films, at least three out of five films I do. But, still I am in struggle. Just some bucks are coming and days are going on. I believe I will get my break someday. This belief keeps me going. I don’t have any close friends or affinities. I am a sort of reserved person. I can’t move freely. My well-wishers tell me frequently: Why can’t you go and ask for roles? – But, I don’t take lenience from anyone. It may be due to my sufferings in the past.
After you became an artiste, did you ever visit your village?
After I left my place during childhood, I hardly went there. Now and then, I used to go to Kurnool, but not to my village. Once during a visit to Tirupati, I happened to visit my beloved village. I went alone. People there recognized me just as an actor, but not as one among them. Then I told them who I was and everybody got stunned and felt happy.
Tell us about your family?
Ours is love marriage. Actually, we eloped and got married (laughs and blushes). My wife Bhavani is from Kothagudem near Badrachalam. I got acquainted to her during summer holidays. Her parents didn’t agree to our marriage. Of course, I didn’t have any job or support those days. Their feeling for their daughter’s security was genuine. Anyways, past is past. Still they feel that their daughter’s life is not secured. They hold the popular view (negative view) about the film personalities. My children – son Maheshwar and daughter Pujitha are studying at Vidyanikethan School of Mohan Babu garu in Tirupati. Bhavani is currently doing her course in fashion designing. In future, I hope to start a small business for her.
Who are your favorite actors and actresses?
Amitabh Bachchan, Paresh Rawal, Irfan Khan, Ravi Kale in Hindi; Jr. NTR, Prabhas, Pawan Kalyan in Telugu; I like Soundarya as heroine.
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