Telugu superstar Ram Charan turns 37

Transforming himself in front of the audience is a special skill that Ram Charan has nurtured

Telugu superstar Ram Charan turns 37

Subhash K Jha

Telugu superstar Ram Charan couldn’t have hoped for a better birthday gift than Rajamouli’s RRR. The letter ‘R’ has played an important part in his career. In RRR his turn as a cop during the British Raj who changes loyalties with a sweeping smooth celerity is one of the film’s highlights. The hard work that has gone into the performance is evident in every frame.

Ram Charan is not a great actor. But he has worked hard to prove he is more than the legendary Chiranjeevi’s son.

I remember in 2013 when he made his disastrous debut in Hindi with Zanjeer. Ram was not fluent in Hindi and he took rigorous Hindi classes.

Transforming himself in front of the audience is a special skill that Ram Charan has nurtured. In his career’s best performance in Rangasthalam, there was something enormously endearing about the Telugu superstar trying to shed his image, to get into the skin of his character the way, say, Uttam Kumar did in Satyajit Ray’s Nayak or Rajesh Khanna in Basu Bhattacharya’s Aavishkar.

In Rangashthalam, Ram transforms in front of our eyes. It is almost like watching a magic show where the entire appearance of the actor undergoes a sea-change as we gawk in open-mouthed amazement…Except that, here Ram is not ostentatious in his mutation. He changes his personality, yes. But in doing so he makes sure he merges into rustic rugged violent milieu of injustice and inequality where one man plays an evil God. As the partially disabled docile shy and goodhearted Chitti Babu he is a hero unlike any other: vulnerable and sensitive, prone to defeat if push comes to shove but not embarrassed to be pushed against the wall, willing to take the punch on the chin.

Most of the dramatic conflict is generated in tandem, with Ram sharing screen space unconditionally with his screen brother, played by Adhi Panisetty. When Ram is with his brother he is tender. When he is with his beloved, he is super-tender. Emotions are not concealed in a false sense of machismo that screen heroes often suffer from. There is no effort to take over the show, to emerge as an unvanquished conqueror. Ram remains almost flawlessly in character: diffident and disarmingly disingenuous, valiant but not fearless. This underplayed heroic dimension to large-screen heroism is the film’s greatest strength.

Even in Dhruva where Ram played a cop (again!) he had to beef up for the part. He built a physique that the film required. Unfortunately, Dhruva came at the time when the country was hit by demonetization. The audience was just not in the mood to spend on movie tickets. So Dhruva suffered.

Ram admitted Rangasthalam was a new beginning for him. The superstar of Andhra who made his acting debut in 2007 admitted Rangasthalam was a first for him on many levels. He had never played a rural character before. In fact he had never stayed in a village before, though he had visited his native village with his father, Chiranjeevi, a few times.

Ram also spent considerable time understanding his character’s physical disability. “I spent five months understanding the character’s body language and his hearing disability. Since I had never played a rustic character before I wanted to ensure I got it right. I didn’t want my portrayal to look superficial. With Rangashthalam I’ve entered a more realistic phase of acting. I hope to do more such roles in future.”

The process of transformation that began in Rangasthalam has now reached a full fruition in RRR.

In 2012 Ram married Upasana Kamineni, the vice-chairperson of Apollo chain of hospitals. In an interview he did with me hours before the wedding Ram said, “I can't tell you what it is like. Upasana is already my wife in my mind and heart.”

The couple went through two weddings. The first wedding was on June 14 morning at Upasana's farmhouse in Hyderabad. And the second wedding was the next morning at the same venue. The wedding on June 14 was for family and friends. It was attended by around 4,000 people, mostly fans.

Salman Khan also attended the wedding.

About being married, Ram said, “I feel a man, when married, becomes more balanced. All the extra-curricular activities are done away with. The focus is on work and family. I am getting married young. I've known Upasana for seven years. She was my best friend. Then we started dating two years back. So I am marrying my best friend. I can't ask for more.

“I sometimes ask her to switch off the wifely side and listen to me as a friend. She knows which buttons to press. You know, when I told her I am building a separate home for us at the Golf Course area for us to live in after marriage, she put her foot down. She insists we stay with my parents. She says she can't handle me alone. She needs my parents' help. That was below the belt.”

Ram has never been daunted by his father’s success. "When I started in Telugu cinema in 2007, I was judged as the great Chiranjeevi's son. If I cowered, thinking I was being seen only as an heir-apparent and not an individual, I'd have been immobilised. I just did what came naturally to me.”

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