Excerpts from a conversation between Baradwaj Rangan and actor-couple Naga Chaitanya and Samantha Akkineni
Naga Chaitanya: My grandfather had that kind of romantic image. It was later carried on, but that’s not how I look at it. I can’t do only love stories all my life. People will get bored of me if I do that. Yes, I want to do Arjun Reddy-s and RX 100-s.
Samantha Akkineni: I came as a nobody. I’m answerable only to myself. So, that gives me a chance to take many risks. But that’s not the case with him. He needs to double check every decision he’s taking. For him, it’s difficult to please so many people.
Is that how it works? Like, when you choose a role, do you always have to think that “I’m responsible for this brand” or is it just “I want to do this role”?
Naga Chaitanya: Fortunately, my father lets me take my own decisions. Yes, the mix of responsibility is there. There are so many people who love your granddad, your dad, and now you. They have a vision for you. But, I don’t want to let them down too. I feel I’m lucky to have them.
The word nepotism comes up a lot in Hindi cinema. Though it exists in Telugu and Tamil as well, the media here doesn’t seem to be talking about it.
Samantha Akkineni: Nepotism surely exists. But, when I fall, only my parents know. And when it happens to a star kid, it is disappointing to an entire State. Both have their ups and downs. Basically, nobody has it easy in the industry.
Naga Chaitanya: Especially today, there’s so much talent around. If you’re not doing well, there’s definitely someone to beat you.
With films such as Arjun Reddy and C/o Kancharapalem, everyone says that Telugu cinema is changing. Do you think these are the exceptions, or are things really changing?
Samantha Akkineni: They existed before as well. But now the frequency is increasing. Also, I think the Telugu audience has become very open and accepting. There’s a fall of nepotism (laughs).
Naga Chaitanya: When I entered the industry, makers used to tell me about formulae and calculations. But in the last few years, films made with unique ideas on compact budgets are becoming the ‘big’ films, and the big films that have spent a lot of money are not doing well.
So, do you think the age of the blockbuster Telugu film is coming to an end?
Naga Chaitanya: The content in that model is very different.
Samantha Akkineni: Even Rangasthalam (which she acted in) followed a template seen before. But the presentation is very new.
Naga Chaitanya: The perfect blockbuster is when they combine a commercial template with new-age writing.
Vinnaithandi Varvaaya had a bittersweet ending, but things ended well in the Telugu version Ye Maaya Chesave, starring both of you. If it was made today, would it be possible to retain the Tamil version’s ending?
Naga Chaitanya and Samantha Akkineni: (in unison) I don’t think so.
Samantha Akkineni: Even recently, we had Arjun Reddy, where they chose the happy ending.
Naga Chaitanya: I think the Telugu audience is like, whatever happens in the film, we should walk out of the theatre happy, and it’s nice. There’s nothing wrong in that. We all are happy people, we want to see happy endings. I would still stick to the Telugu climax.