Kannada film star Upendra Rao is all praise for Salman Khan’s super stardom in Bollywood.
Kannada star Upendra Rao believes that stardom isn’t just restricted to South film industry and Bollywood superstar like Salman Khan too enjoys massive fan following.
Kannada actor, filmmaker and politician Upendra Rao began his career in the movies with small roles in films like Anantana Avantara (1989), Shhh! (1993) and Operation Antha (1995). In 1992, he marked his debut as a full-fledged director with the comedy film Tharle Nan Maga, which earned a cult status over the years and shot him to instant fame. Over the years, he continued juggling between acting and direction and gained massive popularity among his audience, who bestowed the epithet of ‘Indian real star’ on him. One of the most prolific actor-directors of Kannada cinema, Rao now marks his return in the avatar of an action hero with the multi-lingual film Kabzaa, which has hit the screens today.
The film sees him playing an air force soldier turned into the king of the underworld. He locks horns with another Kannada star Kiccha Sudeepa and performs some high-octane and stylish action sequences in it. In an exclusive chat with News18, Rao shares that he’s elated to be back to doing action on the big screen. “The film and story demanded me to be heroic. I like playing this kind of larger-than-life characters. Twenty years back, I played a similar character in a film called Rakta Kanneeru (2003). That was also a period drama where I wore costumes rooted in a certain era. That was a dialogue-oriented film. There was no action in it. But Kabzaa gave me a lot of scope to do action onscreen and engage in heroism,” he states.
While many Bollywood actors enjoy massive fandoms, hero-worship and deification of actors in the South film industries continues to overwhelm many. From fans queuing outside single screens in the wee hours of morning to catch the first day first show of their favourite star’s film to erecting temples in honour of them are some of the stories that are familiar with film buffs across the country. Ask Rao about it and he says, “Stardom isn’t just restricted to the South film industry. It’s everywhere. Look at Salman (Khan) ji!” Quiz him about his own stardom and being hailed as the ‘Indian real star’ by his admirers and he blushes, “It’s my fans and their love that have given me this title. But I think everyone is a real star.”
Emphasising how hero worship in South is connected to the kind of films that are made there, the Katari Veera Surasundarangi actor explains, “It’s just that the style of filmmaking is very different in South. The subjects of the films, largely, are hero-oriented. In Andhra Pradesh, the culture of film-watching is particularly strong.” But he’s quick to add that Hindi films are now following suit and are experimenting with the age-old formula once again. “Bollywood makes more realistic films but the heroes in South play more exaggerated characters and people like that. And now, I see that Bollywood is also making films with heroic characters,” he remarks.
Apart from doing Kannada films, Rao has also worked in the Telugu film industry. And with filmmaker SS Rajamouli’s epic action adventure film, RRR (2022), winning big at the Golden Globe Awards and the 95th Academy Awards this year, the spotlight has turned to Tollywood. Sharing his excitement about the same, he says, “RRR is a huge inspiration for everybody. The international recognition it has received is a great thing. Hats off to the entire team of RRR!” Happy to have collaborated with RRR actor Shriya Saran in Kabzaa, the 54-year-old avers, “Kabzaa is a puzzle and Shriya is the heart and emotion of the film. I hope we make another Kabzaa with Shriya where she does all the action sequences (laughs). I’m happy she was a part of RRR and being a part of a film like that in itself is a huge achievement.”
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