New Delhi: Yet another star has risen on the south's political firmament. After mesmerising millions of fans with his dancing and emoting skills for three decades, 53-year-old Telugu actor Chiranjeevi is now set to cash in on his mass popularity in the political arena.
Born on August 22, 1955, in Mogalturu village in the coastal district of West Godavari as Konidela Siva Shankara Varaprasad, the eldest of three sons of Anjana Devi and an excise department employee, Venkat Rao, he changed his name to Chiranjeevi after a divine dream.
He dreamt one night that Hindu monkey-god Hanuman, extolled for his courage and daredevilry, had called him Chiranjeevi. On his mother's advice, he changed his screen name to Chiranjeevi, which in Hindu mythology refers to Hanuman.
Chiranjeevi's fans are confident he would be able to recreate the magic of actor-turned-politician N T Rama Rao, who stormed Andhra Pradesh politics within nine months of floating the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in 1982. They feel Chiranjeevi like NTR will become the chief minister after the elections scheduled in March next year.
However, many do not agree. Observers point out the sea change in the political situation since the early 1980s when NTR floated the TDP. They also point out that the two personalities are poles apart.
The state was then dominated by a single party - the Congress - and people were looking for an alternative. NTR showed them an alternative with the slogan of 'Telugu pride'.
With the Congress appearing to be firmly in the saddle, Chiranjeevi's party is likely to damage the TDP, which is trying to make a comeback. The presence of two parties in the Telangana region also poses a challenge to the actor.
While NTR, who was chief minister three times, had a dynamic personality and used to take all major decisions himself, Chiranjeevi relies heavily on his brother-in-law Arvind and some close aides. This is the reason for the long time he took in announcing his entry into politics.
NTR, who mainly portrayed Hindu gods or kings in his films, was more popular for his theatrics and knew how to turn the tables on his rivals, In contrast, Chiranjeevi is sensitive and gets emotional in the face of attacks by his rivals. It remains to be seen if the superstar manages to turn his mass appeal into votes.
After completing his schooling and graduation, Chiranjeevi moved to Chennai to seek a career in the film industry and joined a film institute in 1977.
Punaadi Raallu was the first film in which he had the lead role but it was Pranam Kareedhu that was first released. The year was 1978 and he began establishing himself as an actor. Soon, his style of doing action scenes and dancing became popular.
He married Surekha, daughter of popular yesteryears comedian Allu Ramalingayya, in 1980.
His first big hit was Khaidi, which was released in 1983 and inspired by Hollywood blockbuster First Blood. By then he had acted in 60 movies. The films that followed gave him the image of an action hero.
He churned out more hits in the 1980s. Pasivadi Pranam, released in 1987, brought him stardom. Going beyond his action hero image, Chiru donned a variety of roles in the 1990s.
He has been virtually ruling the box office by producing big hits like Hitler, Master, Sneham Kosam, Annayya, Indra, Stalin and Shankar Dada MBBS - a remake of the hit Bollywood film Munnabhai MBBS. His last film was last year's Shankar Dada Zindabad, a remake of Lage Raho Munnabhai.
Chiranjeevi has won the Nandi award for best actor thrice and the Filmfare (Telugu) award seven times. He was also conferred the Padma Vibhushan in 2006 for his contribution to Telugu cinema.
Chiru's two brothers Nagendra Babu and Pavan Kalyan are actors too. His only son Ram Charan Teja is also an actor. His eldest daughter Susmitha is married to a Chennai businessman, while younger daughter Srija eloped last year.