The shootings are suspended, the cinema theatres are shut but trust the big names of Tollywood to ensure non-stop entertainment. A multi-starrer tussle is shaping up with two biggies hogging the headlines.
The first to sign on the dotted line was Chiranjeevi who has reinvented himself this lockdown in his 3.0 avatar as a social media enthusiast. After his 2.0 innings as a politician proved a dud, Chiranjeevi went back to the world of arclights. But Covid-19 has seen him racing to become the Megastar of the Telugu cine virtual space, commenting on just about everything under the Andhra-Telangana sun. From heartfelt birthday wishes to videos playing with his granddaughter to talking about the welfare of cine workers, Chiranjeevi has transferred his fan base to his social media accounts.
His attempt to float a fund to help film industry workers is indeed laudable and it would gain heft riding on the Megastar’s personal charisma and goodwill. But it would not amuse the regular film associations like Movie Artistes Associations or those representing Producers, distributors or film workers who have been sidelined in the bargain.
Positioning himself as the spokesperson of the Telugu film industry, Chiranjeevi has played the main interlocuter with the Telangana government when it comes to nudging the powers-that-be to permit shootings to take place. He met Cinematography minister Talasani Srinivas Yadav several times followed by a meeting with chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao.
While he did take along with him doyens of the industry including actor Nagarjuna, director SS Rajamouli, producers Suresh Babu and Dil Raju, notable absentees included the likes of Nandamuri Balakrishna, Mohan Babu and Rajasekhar. Balakrishna, who is NT Rama Rao’s son and the brother-in-law of Chandrababu Naidu lost no time in dubbing the Chiranjeevi initiative with Srinivas Yadav as a “real estate deal”.
There is also politics in Balakrishna taking umbrage. Not only is the Chiranjeevi-Balakrishna rivalry and ego clashes the stuff of Tollywood gossip, Yadav was a former Telugu Desam leader who crossed over to the Telangana Rashtra Samiti and has never lost an opportunity to take potshots at the former Andhra Pradesh chief minister. Hence the disgust for the meeting in Balakrishna’s tone and body language.
Chiranjeevi has also kept a window of communication open with Andhra Pradesh CM Jaganmohan Reddy. He thanked him publicly for granting single window permission for shooting movies in Andhra Pradesh. The fact that despite brother Pawan Kalyan who is bitterly opposed to Jagan in Andhra politics, the Megastar is able to navigate his way with politicians, is proof that a non-political Chiranjeevi has matured.