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Interview with Sai Kumar
Date: February 23, 2011, Hyderabad
sai kumar

Sai Kumar is considered as a dialogue king for his powerful and authoritative voice. Police Story film has changed the image of Sai Kumar and the dialogue ‘kanipinche moodu simhalu..’ became iconic. Actor PJ Sharma (father of Sai Kumar) struggled throughout his career and he didn’t want Sai Kumar to become an actor. Sai Kumar eventually became an actor and he struggled quite a bit in his career. He never wanted his son Adi to act in films. But the destinaty has other plans. Adi is making his debut with a 12-crore film Prema Kavali. This film is due for the release on 25 February 2011. Here are the excerpts of an exclusive interview -

My journey (Naa Prasthanam)
My father PJ Sharma is a handsome man and he came to film industry to become an actor. He has a great voice, good personality and excellent stage experience. He is also a cousin to Sri Sri and Arudra. Sri Sri’s (Srirangam Srinivasa Rao) original surname was that of mine - Pudipeddi. He was adopted by a person whose surname was Srirangam. At that time, Sri Sri and Arudra were number one writers for dubbing movies in Telugu. Since he couldn’t able to get good roles, Sri Sri and Arudra suggested him to become a dubbing artist. He has been struggling since then and couldn’t able to get a break as an actor till now.

I had never intended to become a part of film industry after looking at struggles and humiliation my father faced from film industry. I wanted to lead a regular life by going to school and becoming a post-graduate. But the economical situation of my family made me work and contribute. I was also simultaneously attending classes. I started doing stage plays and monologues since I was a small kid. I used to do the most difficult Mayasabha (45 minutes episode) on stage when I was 11. I gave ‘Duryodhana’ performance at the age of 11 during the birthday party of legendary comedy actor Raja Babu. It was on 20th October, 1972. SVR was present at that party and he blessed me.

I have got my first remuneration of Rs. 250/- when I worked for an advertisement for a fertilizer company. My first dubbing for a movie was done for Tarangini and I got a remuneration of Rs 500/-. It became a super hit and ran for 200 days. When I increased my remuneration to Rs 750/- for the next movie, they sent me away and gave the dubbing chance to somebody else. I was struggling at that period and I am still struggling. I completed my MA from Presidency, Chennai and M Phil from Madras Christian college. I have also taught at Madras Christean College.

My first film as a child actor was ‘Devudu Chesina Pelli’ featuring Sobhan Babu. I did the role of a blind boy in that movie. My best movie as a child artist was Sneham film. I had to take a break from acting as I entered adolescence. I made my re-entry as an actor with Chiranjeevi’s Challenge movie.

I became a prime player in dubbing and I was the most paid and most respected dubbing artist in Telugu film industry. I wanted to settle as an actor but not as a dubbing artist. I was signed for a film titled ‘Bhayam Bhayam’. It was shot in Goa and they had taken me to Goa in a bus along with junior artists where as all the prominent actors and technician went there in a flight. I was not given a room and food was also not served. I was a king in dubbing area and I realise that I was being treated like a slave in acting arena.

I would also like to narrate another funny incident. I did a role in Krishna’s Agni Parvatham. The production manager told me that I would be doing the role of Vijaya Shanti’s husband. But I realised that I was doing the role of pelli koduku (groom). I didn’t even have a name for that character. They used to call me pelli koduku on sets. K Raghavendra Rao came to know about this and scolded me for accepting such an insignificant role despite being a big name in dubbing filed.

My break came with Kalikalam movie. I had also acted in Kannada remake of the same film (Kunkuma Bhagya). It was Kannada ‘Lock-up Death’ that brought me recognition in Kannada. Ramu was the producer and I became a good friend of Thriller Manju with that movie. Thriller Manju is a stunt director and people used to clap when his name appears in title cards of movies. Later on, he directed me for ‘Police Story’ movie. It went on to become a huge hit in Kannada. It became a big hit in Telugu and I got my first break as hero with Police Story in Telugu. I am indebted to Karnataka for giving me Police Story and it changed my life forever.

My father is a passionate movie actor. He is 77 years old and still works in movies. He is currently shooting for Bala Krishna’s movie (in Paruchuri Murali direction) in Vizag.

Humiliations to my father

1. Watching a preview: There used to be Film Chamber’s preview theater in Tenampet. My father used to take us to preview theater for the films which he has acted in. The first family that is to be disturbed in that theater was ours. We were either sent away or asked to stand in the preview theater. My father stopped watching previews because he doesn’t want to be humiliated. I used go along with my brothers and somehow sneak in preview theater even though we didn’t have passes.

My dream at that time was to show my parents a respectable preview. I achieved that dream by showing them my ‘Police Story’ in Devi-Sridevi preview theater in Chennai. My parents were the only one that present in the entire preview theater and I watched the preview from the projection room.

2. Casting to 100 days functions: Whenever there was a movie opening my father used to be tensed about whether he would get a role. if he gets a role - the next tension is if it’s big or small/ dialogues or no dialogues. My father is a big personality and his shoes size is 11 inch. The production manager asks my father to bring his own shoes. Most of the time, they don’t make costumes for him and ask him to get his own. His next tension was to know if his role got deleted during the editing time. If a film becomes hit and if it celebrates 100 days, my father’s tension was if he is going to be given a shield or not. Even if he were given a shield, it was duly taken back after he gets down from the dais. After the function was over, there used to be success party where liquor would be served and my father was the first man to be asked to get up from the table if any important person comes in. Since I am his elder son, I used to accompany him for all these events and witnessed the humiliation he has been put through.

I went to USA in 1993 to attend TANA event. While coming back I have bought a blue label scotch bottle by paying $108 in duty free. I presented it to my father and told them that I would treat him with good scotch henceforth as my position got better. During the 100 days function of Police Story which was attended by a stalwart like Dasari, I made my parents come onto the stage and present me with a 100 days shield.

Association with legend NTR
My first movie with NTR was Samsaram. I dubbed for that movie. I acted as one of villains in his last movie Major Chandrakanth. I took courage to speak to him and narrated him a real incident. Vijaya Nagaram used to be cultural and literary hub when I was a kid. I did 45-minute episode of Mayasabha in Vijaya Nagaram and everybody appreciated me. I had got a chance to do the same at Maharaja college the next day. College students got disappointed because they are used to NTR’s dialogues in Maya Bazaar. I understood that and changed my modulation to that of NTR and used the body language of SVR and Sivaji Ganesan. I got a great applause. When I narrated this incident to NTR, he felt very happy.

Introducing Adi in Telugu film industry
My father has struggled and I have struggled in Telugu film industry. Hence, I didn’t want my son to go through the same routine. That is the reason why I encouraged Adi in cricket. He represented Hyderabad Under-19 team and played under the captaincy of Ambati Rayadu. He was the roommate of spinner Pragyan Ojha when they went to Srilanka.

I was organizing a cultural event called KALA (Karnataka Andhra Lalithakala Academy) in Karnataka a few years back. It was attended by a huge crowds. I played Sri Krishna Devaraya on stage. Chiranjeevi was attending as chief guest. My son Adi wanted to dance in front of Chiranjeevi. I was not sure about his dancing capabilities, but he insisted. He performed ‘Kodithe Kottalira’ song (Tagore) on stage and it impressed Chiranjeevi. It was Chiranjeevi who suggested that I should make Adi an actor if he were interested. I was doing Samanyudu film that at that time and director Ravi C Kumar recommended Adi to producer Venkat. It was Dr. Venkat who promised that he would introduce Adi as hero. He has established a new banner Max India and made Achi Reddy handle the banner. He has also roped in big names like Vijaya Bhaskar, Chota K Naidu, Gowtam Raju and Ravinder. Prema Kalavi is releasing in approximately 200 theaters. In Bangalore and USA, it is releasing in 19 and 16 theaters respectively.

I wouldn’t have spent so much money. Adi is getting his dream debut with the blessings of Dr. Venkat.

How do you assess Adi as an actor?
I have worked as an actor for the past 35 years. It is a continuous learning process. Krishna Vamsi was slightly unhappy with my performance in Anthahpuram. I learnt a lot about subtle acting from Deva Katta while doing Prasthanam. I have not seen rushes of Prema Kavali movie and I can assess from whatever I had seen in trailers. He is 100 times better than me in dances and action sequences. He is a decent actor and and I am little worried about his voice culture and modulation as people would keenly observe his dialogue delivery as he is my son. I will be watching the movie along with the crowds and know how good Adi is with the acting profession.

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Samudra (Director)
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Kanmani (Director)
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Madan (Director)
Bhavana (Heroine)
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Krishnudu (Actor)
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Salim Panda (Actor)
Surekha Vani (Actress)
Manjari Fadniz (Actress)
Vishal (Actor)
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Sridevi (Actress)
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Viswa Tej (Actor)
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Namitha (Actress)
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Ajay Sastri (Director)
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