BJP’s ‘Look South’ push gains strength with award to Tollywood Megastar Chiranjeevi

In rare comments on politics, Megastar Chiranjeevi on Sunday said he hoped to see brother Pawan Kalyan in a 'bigger position'

BySNV Sudhir

Published Nov 21, 2022 | 9:35 AMUpdatedNov 21, 2022 | 9:58 AM

narendra modi chiranjeevi ys jagan

The National Film Development Corporation (NFDC) conferring the Indian Film Personality of the Year award on Tollywood’s own and original Megastar Chiranjeevi, has reaffirmed BJP’s “Look South” push.

The conferment of the award sparked animated discussions, especially in Andhra Pradesh, as the saffron party appears to be wooing Tollywood — traditionally considered close to the TDP — with a vengeance.

Its leaders have, in the recent past, met with Junior NTR and producer Ramoji Rao, apart from Jana Sena’s Pawan Kalyan, a politician who is close to some of the BJP’s national leadership — but also a star who has several releases lined up in the coming months.

Of course, Megastar Chiranjeevi is in a different league altogether, being immensely popular in both the Telugu states. That apart, he also hails from the numerically strong Kapu community.

Look South policy

The cinema and entertainment sector, which has huge traction in the South, seems to be the BJP’s chosen route  of wooing the region. Barring Karnataka, all the states have eluded the saffron party.

The past year has seen another South superstar, Rajnikanth, being given the Dada Saheb Phalke award. And, in July, four notable people from the South were nominated to the Rajya Sabha.

Popular music composer Ilaiyaraja from Tamil Nadu, who has fan base running into millions across all the southern states, acclaimed screenwriter of Baahubali fame V Vijayendra Prasad, former athlete PT Usha from Kerala, and spiritual leader Veerendra Heggade in Karnataka were nominated to the Upper House.

Related: Modi stonewalls Pawan Kalyan proposal of BJP-TDP-Jana Sena alliance

Modi-Chiru bromance

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s second visit to Andhra Pradesh in less than six months on 11 and 12 November once again brought to the fore the BJP’s plans to expand its base in Andhra Pradesh. He met the party’s core group members in Vizag and gave clear-cut directions on how to improve the party’s presence in the state.

In Andhra Pradesh, BJP appears to be betting big on Chiranjeevi’s glamour and charisma, even as his younger brother Pawan Kalyan’s Jana Sena — whom Modi met during his visit — is considered close to the party.

During his previous visit to Andhra Pradesh — to Bhimavaram in July to unveil a statue of freedom fighter Alluri Sitarama Raju on the occasion of his 125th birth anniversary — Modi shared the dais with Chiranjeevi, a special invitee to the event, and was seen enjoying a rapport with the Tollywood megastar.

The visible bonhomie between Modi and Chiranjeevi added to the excitement of the audience. Modi was seen holding Chiranjeevi on his shoulders, cracking jokes and laughing. The megastar, meanwhile, looked humbled and he bowed with folded hands.

Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, present on the occasion, also hugged the megastar. In his speech, Jagan described Chiranjeevi as his big brother. The crowd erupted in applause, reflecting the actor’s popularity.

Incidentally, though an invitation to the event was initially extended to Pawan Kalyan, he skipped the Bhimavaram meeting.

Chiranjeevi received a personal invitation to attend the meeting from Union Tourism Minister G Kishan Reddy.

The importance given to Chiranjeevi and his latest award sparked animated discussions in the state’s political circles.

“No doubt, with such a long and illustrious career spanning more than four decades, Chiranjeevi deserves the IFFI honour, but the timing is what is important and to ponder over,” a political analyst told South First.

“This comes at a time when BJP is aggressively working to gain a strong foothold in the South. Both the Telugu states are important in such an endeavour,” he added.

Related: YSRCP not bothered about any likely TDP-Pawan Kalyan alliance

The political stint

Chiranjeevi has had a not-so-successful stint in politics. His political journey began in 2008 with the launch of Praja Rajyam party and ended in 2018 after the completion of his Rajya Sabha tenure.

In the 2009 general elections, Praja Rajyam won just 18 of the 294 seats in then united Andhra Pradesh Assembly. He himself contested from two seats, Tirupati and Palakollu, winning the former but losing the latter.

Two years late, in 2011, Chiranjeevi merged the Praja Rajyam Party with the Congress at a time YS Jagan Mohan’s YSRCP was taking root and the Telangana agitation was gaining strength. He was nominated to Rajya Sabha in 2012 and served as Union minister of state (independent charge) for tourism. His term ended in 2018.

He has since returned to the movies and acted in several Telugu films, and has been studiously staying away from politics, studiously refraining from commenting on happenings in the state, even those involving his brother.

Chiru finally talks politics

But he appears to have shed some of that reticence.

Megastar Chiranjeevi with brother and Jana Sena supremo Pawan Kalyan. (Supplied)

On Sunday, 20 November, at YNM College in Narsapur in West Godavari district where he was chief guest at the alumni association meet, Chiranjeevi made some rare comments on politics and his brother.

According to media reports, Chiranjeevi said politics was “not an easy place for sensitive people” as “one has to bear the severe criticism and even cuss words. One also has to use such words for opponents”. It was field where one has to be “rude and tough”.

On Pawan Kalyan and his political journey, Chiranjeevi, who maintains a good relationship with Chief Minister Jagan Reddy, his brother’s arch rival, the star said: “We’ll see Pawan Kalyan in a bigger position one day with all your blessings.”

He felt Pawan was the right fit for today’s politics as he can not only take criticism but give back as good as he gets.

Chiru a  veteran of 150 films

In an illustrious film career spanning more than four decades, Chiranjeevi has starred in over 150 feature films in Telugu, as well as some films in Hindi, Tamil and Kannada. He is regarded as one of the most successful and influential actors in Telugu cinema.

In 2006, he was honoured with the Padma Bhushan, India’s third-highest civilian award, for his contributions to Indian cinema.

Film luminaries like Waheeda Rahman, Rajinikanth, Ilaiyaraja, SP Balasubrahmanyam, Amitabh Bachchan, Salim Khan, Biswajit Chatterjee, Hema Malini and Prasoon Joshi have been honoured in the past with the award Chiru has been conferred with.