Megastar Chiranjeevi, who turns 60 on Saturday, is usually associated with his larger-than-life and mass appealing characters thanks to his super-stardom. But much before he became the star he’s known as today, he proved his versatility as an actor in films such as ’47 Rojulu’, ‘Subhaleka’ and ‘Swayamkrushi’.
Here are some of his under-rated performances:
* ‘Mana Voori Pandavulu’: Veteran filmmaker Bapu-directed 1978 Telugu drama ‘Mana Voori Pandavulu’ happens to be Chiranjeevi’s second film. Playing one of the five leads alongside renowned stars such as Krishnam Raju and Murali Mohan, Chiranjeevi excelled in a very raw portrayal of a young man in a story inspired by ‘Mahabharata’. Despite its revolutionary theme, the film was made in such a way that it didn’t echo its leftist intentions.
* ’47 Rojulu’: Based on a novel by celebrated writer Shivashankari, this K. Balachander’s 1981 Telugu drama marked the Tamil debut of Chiranjeevi as the film was simultaneously shot in the language as ’47 Natkal’. While the film may not have set the ticket-counter trilling, it was lauded for its auteur’s courage to explore a sensitive topic such as bigamy in mainstream cinema and Chiranjeevi’s fitting portrayal of the torture-inducing, conniving husband.
* ‘Subhaleka’: This 1982 Telugu family drama marked Chiranjeevi’s first time collaboration with veteran filmmaker K. Viswanath. Inspired by playwright Gurazada Apparao’s Kanyasulkam, ‘Subhaleka’ was a brave take on the social malady of the dowry system. Chiranjeevi’s sincere portrayal of a waiter with tongue-in-cheek humor earned him his first Filmfare award for best actor.
* ‘Swayamkrushi’: In his second collaboration with K. Viswanath in 1987 Telugu drama ‘Swayamkrushi’, Chiranjeevi, in his Nandi Award-winning performance, played a cobbler and his inspiring rags-to-riches tale shined the spotlight on dignity of labour and child abuse. It was the first film in the language to be screened at Moscow International Film Festival.
* ‘Rudraveena’: A story about a young man who strives for a better society and in the process locks horns with his father over contrast ideologies. This three National Award-winning 1988 film by K. Balachander also touched upon caste divide while focussing on the responsibility every individual has towards the society. It was lauded as an important film on national integration and was later remade in Tamil as ‘Unnal Mudiyum Thambi’ with Kamal Haasan.
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* ‘Apadbandhavudu’: The film marked Chiranjeevi’s third collaboration with K. Viswanath. His role as a cowherd in this 1992 Telugu drama earned him his second Filmfare award. Exploring the communal division of caste and economic class, the film explored the relationship between a master and his servant. The film also marked writer and director Jandhyala’s only screen appearance.