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Naresh Interview – 50 years in Telugu cinema, tryst with politics, charity

Naresh Interview

Naresh : I intentionally flunked in tenth grade to facilitate my entry into films

Naresh, son of yesteryear actress Vijay Nirmala, who turns 64 tomorrow, grew up on sets, peeping into the makeup rooms of his mother, superstar (stepfather) Krishna. He and Jayasudha donned the greasepaint for the first time in the same film – Pandanti Kapuram, nearly 52 years ago – building a strong foundation for careers that survived great highs and crushing lows over decades.

“I believe I was destined to be in films. Many cautioned me that several child artistes don’t transition into full-fledged actors seamlessly, but perhaps I was blessed. I intentionally failed in my tenth grade to convince my parents about entering films. While I began shooting for Prema Sankellu and Nalugu Sthambhalata simultaneously, the latter hit theatres first,” he recollects.

While Nalugu Sthambhalata was a runaway success, his main intent behind entering films was to be a good actor. “The industry somehow demands you to be a hero first. Thanks to Jandhyala (garu), comedy worked very well for me, be it Srivariki Prema Lekha or Chitram Bhalare Vichitram or Jamba Lakidi Pamba. I attribute my longevity as an actor to all the directors I’ve worked with.”

The veteran had an unconventional fetish to dress as a woman on the screen – a wish that was fulfilled through Chitram Bhalare Vichitram. “However, the success of Jamba Lakidi Pamba truly belongs to EVV Satyanarayana. It was his baby through and through and the film is celebrated even today for its humour.” With changing times though, Naresh became disoriented towards his career.

The hits started drying up and he wasn’t quite satisfied with his work. “There were a limited set of directors and writers to work with – they were all masters without doubt. However, as someone who was willing to take creative risks, I wasn’t happy with what I was being offered.” His focus shifted towards politics and philanthropy for over a decade.

“I didn’t want to merely continue in films just to make money. I had a strong start to my career and I felt I would be received well whenever I returned. I was secure. I entered the BJP, purely for political beliefs and found my purpose through my charitable activities, sometimes risking my life too. I returned to films only when I was mentally ready.”

The second innings in Telugu cinema was more rewarding (than the first), it helped that he no longer had to shoulder the financial prospects of a film. “The industry was moving into a newer direction and I felt alive working with a group of filmmakers aged between 25 and 35.” Successes like Mee Sreyobhilashi, Drushyam, A..Aa, Guntur Talkies cemented his position as a character artiste.

He actively worked for the Movie Artiste’s Association (MAA) soon, did his bit to resolve issues commonly faced by his fellow actors within the industry, even helping the needy during COVID-19 lockdowns. Besides dabbling with television, he forayed into the OTT space – his web originals like Mayabazaar for Sale, Oka Chinna Family Story, The Great Indian Suicide have received their due.

The actor is now successfully dealing with the day-to-day affairs of Vijaya Krishna Green Studios, ensuring top-class facilities for film production. “We revived the Vijaya Krishna Movies banner with Malli Pelli last year. As a production house, quality is our top priority (over quantity). I will be announcing another project under the banner shortly.”

Amidst the newfound joy from his marriage to Pavitra Lokesh recently and his professional highs, Naresh faced multiple personal setbacks, losing several family members in the last two years – his mother, Krishna, step brother Ramesh Babu and step mother Indiramma. “It was indeed a depressing phase. The ambience of the house changed overnight.”

“Working continuously has helped me get over the lows thankfully. I continue to begin my day bowing down to the statues of Krishna and Vijaya Nirmala at my residence. I take all crucial decisions of my life in their presence,” Naresh shares, on a philosophical note. He’s also starring in multiple films as a lead in 2024 and is keen on doing meaty villain roles in the times ahead.

Meanwhile, his elder son Nawin (who acted in Nandini Nursing Home, Oornatha Anukuntunnaru) is all set to wield the megaphone for a feature film soon. “I was disappointed when his acting career didn’t shape up well. I feel he has all the qualities to be a good director. His short film Satya is going places, he has a bunch of interesting ideas and is a good writer. I don’t have any advise for him, but I guess he’s here to stay.”

Top 5 Films (as picked by Naresh)
Pandanti Kapuram (Special Mention)
Nalugu Sthambhalata
Srivariki Premalekha
Jamba Lakidi Pamba
Police Bharya
Guntur Talkies
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