For a long time, only Hindi cinema was projected as Indian cinema and it was “very humbling” for him as an actor of the Telugu film industry, famed actor Chiranjeevi has said, crediting films like Baahubali and RRR with breaking language barriers and make them proud.
The superstar’s emotional speech, delivered at a pre-release event of his latest film Acharya, comes amid a backlash from South India against alleged attempts to impose Hindi as the national language.
In a video shared by Brut India, Mr. Chiranjeevi can be heard talking about his trip to Delhi to receive a national award for Rudraveena (1988).
As the language debate continues, Telugu star Chiranjeevi recalled the time when South Indian cinema was sidelined at an awards ceremony… pic.twitter.com/sMALFJTldl
— Brut India (@BrutIndia) May 1, 2022
“In 1988 I made a film called Rudraveena with Naga Babu. It won the Nargis Dutt Award for Best Feature Film on National Integration. We went to Delhi to receive the award,” he said in Telugu.
He added that the awards ceremony was in the evening and that there was a high tea before that.
“We drank tea in the hall. The walls around us were decorated with posters showing the greatness of Indian cinema. There were some short notes. There were pictures of Prithiviraj Kapoor, Raj Kapoor, Dilip Kumar, Dev Anand, Amitabh Bachchan, Rajesh Khanna, Dharmendra and so on. They showed their pictures, they described them beautifully. They praised different directors and heroines.”
“And we thought they would also talk about South Indian cinema in such detail. But they only showed a still image of MGR (MG Ramachandran) and Jayalalithaa dancing. They described it as South Indian cinema. And Prem Nazir, who a hero starred in a record number of movies in the history of Indian cinema they showed his picture and that was it,” Mr Chiranjeevi said with eyes welling up.
The actor then went on to name the big names of South Indian cinema who found no mention at all – Dr. Rajkumar, Vishnuvardhan, N. T. Rama Rao, A Nageswara Rao and Sivaji Ganesan.
“They were demigods to us. And there were no pictures of them. For me, it was humiliating. I felt very sad. They only projected Hindi cinema as Indian cinema. And they rejected other industries as regional language cinema. They didn’t.” even bother to acknowledge his contribution,” he said.
Mr. Chiranjeevi further said that movies like Baahubali 1, 2 and RRR have made Telugu cinema proud.
SS Rajamouli, director of the films who stood next to him, said the famous actor: “After so many years I feel so proud today that I can pat myself on the chest. Our industry has proven that we are no longer a regional cinema. These barriers and become part of Indian cinema. Everyone is amazed at our success. We have overcome the discrimination. Thanks to Baahubali, Baahubali 2 and RRR,” he said.
Chiranjeevi’s emotional speech came days after a heated exchange between Bollywood actor Ajay Devgn and Kannada actor Sudeep Sanjeev.
While Mr Sudeep pointed out that Hindi is not our national language, Mr Devgn questioned why South Indian language movies are dubbed into Hindi.
The exchange sparked a debate on social media, which also included politicians. Devgn, a section of Karnataka leaders claimed, had “babbled like a mouthpiece for the BJP”.
However, the pushback to Hindi is not limited to cinema. Last month, following Home Affairs Minister Amit Shah’s speech to promote Hindi, several southern leaders had warned that any attempt to impose Hindi on India would backfire.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin, his Kerala counterpart Pinarayi Vijayan and Telangana Minister KT Rama Rao were among the leaders who spoke out against Mr Shah’s comments and emphasized that unity in diversity is India’s strength.