Telugu superstar Allu Arjun is on Cloud Nine. His latest film Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo has opened to record crowds.
“It is likely to be my career’s biggest hit so far. What can I say? I’m overwhelmed. It’s also very humbling to be given this kind of response,” says Arjun whose career since 2003 is cluttered with blockbusters.
He shyly admits he hasn’t got so many compliments for any of his previous films. “The two things that I keep hearing repeatedly about Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo is that it’s a one-man show and that it has repeat value. As far as being a one-man show goes, I can’t take the credit for my performance. Full credit must go to my director Trivikram Srinivas.”
Trivikram and Allu Arjun have worked together before. “Yes, we teamed up in Julai and S/0 Sathyamurthy before. So there is a huge comfort level. We needed to do something different within the commercial format. As you said, the story (of babies getting switched at birth) has been done repeatedly for generations. The freshness had to come in the treatment, not in the plot.”
Arjun says he tried to do something different in Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo with his performance even while adhering to the needs of a commercial audience. “You see when we mass entertainers do a formula film we tend to go over-the-top to seem larger-than-life. This time in Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo I decided to keep my performance on an authentic level even as I did all the things that commercial cinema demands of me.”
All Allu Arjun fans and even those who are not traditionally his fans have noticed the manner in which Arjun holds the camera to his personality without screaming for attention. In a sequence, he does a whole lengthy jig dancing in a board room to popular old Telugu film songs.
“You liked it?” Arjun laughs shyly. “It was an afterthought. We thought the boardroom sequence needed something extra. So why not a medley of old songs for me to dance to?”
Though the steps look improvised, Allu admits the dancing required hours of rehearsal “We had a very experienced veteran choreographer to guide my steps. When we were doing it we never thought of how much it would be liked. When I am doing a film I don’t think about how successful it would become. I don’t put that kind of pressure on myself. I’m not thinking now about what to do in my next film to be one-up on Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo. But I can tell you I’m putting everything that I can into my next.”
But here is the one thing that Arjun would never abandon. “I am never going to step off the commercial platform. It is where my dreams were realized and as far I am concerned it is the commercial cinema that gives me all the success and fans.”
Speaking of fans does it get too much to handle them? “Not at all. I love their attention. I am what I am because of the fans. They’ve made me into the person that I am today.”
Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo has the incandescent Tabu playing Arvind’s mother. How did they manage the feat?
Says Arjun, “It took no great persuasion. One phone call from the director….five minutes into the narration and she was on board. She knew my director’s work and we needed someone with great dignity and grace, someone who doesn’t talk much but can freeze you with one glance. Who but Tabu?”
At the moment Arjun has no plans of heading to Bollywood. “Don’t get me wrong. Bollywood is a lovely place. I love the work that’s being done there. A film like 3 Idiots is truly inspiring to me. There have been offers from Hindi cinema. But for me to take a break from my busy career in Telugu cinema it has to be something worth the effort. Maybe someday soon.”
Would Allu Arjun like it if his son and daughter showed an interest in acting? “I’d welcome it. Right now they’re too young. But when they’re old enough to choose their own path and if they tell me they want to be actors, I’d extend all support to them. I come from a family devoted to cinema. My grandfather gave his life to the movies. And my father is completely devoted to producing films. For me cinema is life.”