Chiranjeevi: Salman Khan's presence made 'GodFather' even more glorious

Telugu superstar Chiranjeevi talks about box-office hits and audience appreciation and working alongside Salman Khan


Ambica Sachin

Published: Mon 10 Oct 2022, 6:17 PM

Last updated: Mon 10 Oct 2022, 6:25 PM

There are only a handful of actors currently in India, who can bank on the unwavering adulation and undying loyalty of their trusted fan base even after nearly four decades in the industry. Telugu superstar Chiranjeevi is definitely on top of that list.

Born Konidela Siva Sankara Vara Prasad, the 67-year-old actor took a hiatus from his super successful on screen career to venture into politics. Ten years later in 2017 he was welcomed back with a rousing round of applause for Khaidi No. 150, remake of the 2014 Tamil hit Katthi.

At a time when Telugu movies are making their mark on the global platform – cue the resounding success of Pushpa and RRR - Chiranjeevi is once again back on the screen, with GodFather, the remake of the 2019 Mohanlal starrer Lucifer. The movie follows events after the death of Andhra Pradesh CM PKR and the appearance of a mysterious figure, Brahma or Godfather.

Starring Chiranjeevi alongside Nayanthara and Satyadev Kancharana, the Mohan Raja directorial also boasts a spectacular cameo by Bollywood superstar Salman Khan. As GodFather continues to rake in mass appreciation and box-office gold, (the movie is slated to have collected Rs380million worldwide on the first day of release alone) we catch up with Chiranjeevi to talk movies, success and the special regard he has for his Gulf audience.

Congratulations on the success of GodFather. But what does success mean to you at this stage of your career beyond the box office collections?

To me success is not so much about box office. It is more about how many people appreciated the film and how much impact the film has had on the audiences.

Irrespective of the box office numbers, the knowledge that the film has been loved by so many people and touched the lives of so many people, itself is a greatly satisfying feeling. It is also something that is addictive. You would want to engage with people and entertain them as long as you can. So for an artist, at any stage of their career, it is the audience’s adulation that truly matters. It is more precious than any material success in tangible terms.

GodFather is the official remake of the Malayalam hit Lucifer. Did you have any conversation with Mohanlal before reprising the role?

My dear Lalettan Mohanlal played the role of Lucifer in Malayalam wonderfully. But when we adopted the film for Telugu audiences, I wanted to portray it the way I perceived it and interpreted it, keeping in mind the tastes of the Telugu audiences and my own image. So I had consciously chosen not to discuss this character with my dear Lalettan, lest I would not have been able to own up the character.

GodFather is a movie that seems to celebrate the superstardom of Chiranjeevi. The way you enter the scene, the action, the background score all aid in this. Do you believe movies such as GodFather are meant to cater to your hardcore fans?

I have been wanting to do a different film myself since my re-entry into films. And of course GodFather gave me that opportunity. For the first time in my career of 150 plus movies, I did not have a heroine, songs, dances or comedy sequences in GodFather.

I was a bit apprehensive about whether people would like to see me in such an intense political drama. But all my apprehensions were put to rest when audiences gave their unanimous verdict about the film. And despite the absence of all these elements, the role of Godfather is quite a powerful role and the way director Mohan Raja sculpted it further making minimal use of dialogue and extracted my performance through my presence and made me emote through my eyes have appealed to the audiences and my fans alike.

The presence of Salman Khan makes the movie more special for Bollywood fans. Did you not fear that he will walk away with all the glory!

No way. On the contrary, I knew he would greatly complement my character. And our combination will greatly enhance the movie experience. The character of Godfather needs a star of Salman bhai’s stature to lend credibility to Godfather’s power. So I would say Sallu bhai’s presence made GodFather even more glorious.

Secondly, at a time when regional boundaries are blurred and there is only Indian cinema and no more Bollywood, Tollywood or Mollywood cinema, such collaborations between artists from across industries and across languages will provide greater excitement to the audiences. I am so glad that Salman bhai agreed to do this role and make more such collaborations possible.

Movies like Pushpa and RRR have had a global reach and won international applause. Do you believe South Indian films are finally being acknowledged for their worth?

I am very delighted that South Indian films are finally getting their due and are being applauded by audiences across India and the globe. There was a time till not so long ago, when Indian cinema meant only Bollywood outside of India. But today the world is increasingly aware of the diversity Indian film industry has to offer. But we must not be satisfied with this. Indian films must also strive to claim a place on the global stage. We have a treasure trove of stories and world-class technicians and artists. So we must work towards global acclaim even more.

When you make a political thriller like GodFather the audience is bound to make comparisons with the current political situation especially since you have a political background. Was that part of the attraction of taking on GodFather?

There is a dialogue in GodFather, which goes; ‘Though I have quit politics, politics have not quit me’. At the time when we were starting the promotions of GodFather, I just posted this dialogue as a voice note on my Twitter handle. The kind of response and media frenzy that one voice post generated, had greatly surprised me. I had not anticipated this level of response to the post. But then it occurred to me that people were connecting the dialogue to my real life events and persona. So I think people have in someway connected the film with my real life journey and the dialogues are resonating with audiences in more ways than expected and perhaps that made the story more attractive to the audiences and my fans.

But I must say that it was Ram Charan who had first seen this film and suggested that I take up this project. Perhaps he had envisioned that this is how the film would resonate with audiences. So the credit goes to Ram Charan for persuading me to do this project.

I remember watching the first day first show of RRR in a Dubai theatre and seeing first hand the palpable excitement and utter joy of Telugu viewers - what message would you have for your hardcore fans in the UAE on the occasion of GodFather's release?

The Gulf audiences have always given me immense love and affection. Since the time Telugu movies started getting theatrical release in UAE - be it Indra, Tagore, Stalin or Khaidi No 150 - each of my films have been great successes in the UAE. And with GodFather they have continued that same tradition. I want to thank them and express my gratitude for their love. And I will continue to try harder each time to entertain them better.

GodFather is currently playing in UAE theatres

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