A victorious innings
He was born with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth. Venkatesh, the younger son of movie moghul and Dadasaheb Phalke-winner D Rama Naidu, first debuted as a child actor in his father’s Hindi film Prem Nagar, the remake of his Tamil hit Vasantha Maligai way back in 1971.
Armed with a management degree from an American university, he decided to get back to his roots. He soon attracted the attention of Telugu filmmakers eager to launch new faces. The handsome young man, who during his career earned the sobriquet ‘Victory’ Venkatesh, after a string of hits established him as one of the top heroes in Tollywood, made his debut in the runaway hit Kaliyuga Pandavulu, released in 1986.
The film featured Venkatesh as the pampered son of a rich industrialist and also netted for him the Best Debutant state award. Twenty-six years later, with over 68 films under his belt, Venkatesh continues to be in the forefront and has been able to sustain his career and the admiration of his fans.
One reason for his longevity on screen has been his willingness to experiment with different genres especially those that suit his age and personality. Audiences have appreciated him as a young Romeo in romantic thrillers, and also in light comic roles. Venkatesh has also excelled in action-oriented films.
Quite early in his career, he had the good fortune of working with the hugely talented and respected director Vishwanath in his film Swarnakalam, which did well at the box office. Venkatesh played a painter, a good samaritan who falls in love with a dancer played by Bhanupriya and his performance won him a Special Jury State Award.
A few of his later films nose-dived, but Venkatesh came back strongly with Bobbili Raja, a musical where he was paired with the comely Divya Bharti, and Shathruvu, where he played the role of a hot-headed young lawyer.
Venkatesh also hit the bull’s eye with Ramgopal Varma’s Kshanam Kshanam. He has often been the first choice for remakes of successful Tamil films and Chanti, the remake of the Tamil superhit Chinnathambi, was the film that set the ball rolling.
Venkatesh also made a foray into Bollywood with Anari, the remake of Chanti, which also fared well at the box office largely due to the feet-tapping music score. However, Venkatesh has since remained loyal to the Telugu screen and has done just one more Hindi film Taqdeerwala.
Films like Kandapalli, Raja and Abbaigaru also tasted commercial success, but Premichukundam Raa turned out to be even better. A dual role in another Tamil remake Suryavamsam and Chinnarayudu, the remake of Vijaykanth’s Chinna Gounder, also fared well, and Venkatesh could recover lost ground and come back on par with the big guns like Chiranjeevi.
The dual role in Suryavamsam was a tall order as Venkatesh had to play both father and son and this was the first time the actor had to enact an aged character. Venkatesh did not disappoint and notched up a fine performance. Notable films where he played the main role included Ganesh, Kalisundam Raa, Nuvvu Naaku Nachavu, Vasantham, Malleswari, Chintakalaya Ravi and Eenadu, where Tamil superstar Kamal Haasan also played a guest role.
Kalisundam Raa scorched the box office breaking all existent records and remained on top for quite some time. Kalisundam Raa, which was produced by Suresh Babu, the elder brother of Venkatesh, and was directed by Uday Shankar, saw Venkatesh cast as the estranged son of a family patriarch played by veteran director Viswhanath, who falls in love with Simran, a pretty village belle.
Namo Venkatesa, Dharma Chakram and Pavithra Bandham also featured him in author-backed roles and enhanced his popularity among the masses. Venkatesh also landed the hero’s role in Nagavalli — the remake of the Kannada hit Aptharakshaka, which unfortunately was Kannada matinee idol Vishnuvardshan’s last film.
His pairing with the lissome actress Nayanthara in films like Lakshmi and Thulasi was well appreciated by audiences and these films also did well where collections were concerned.
Venkatesh has worked with almost all top directors and leading heroines like Meena and Anushka Shetty, among others. Venkatesh also came to the fore in Bodyguard, a remake of the Malayalam film of the same name.
The actor who has remained non-controversial right through his long innings has a few films lined up and these include a cameo in Krishnan Vande Jagadguram, and a parallel role with Mahesh Babu in the Srikanth Addala directed Seethamma Vakitlo Sirimalle Chettu.
The film, which was dogged by shooting delays, will feature Venkatesh and Mahesh Babu as brothers, and while Mahesh will be seen opposite his Dookudu heroine Samantha Ruth Prabhu, Venkatesh will romance the much younger Anjali, who created an impact with the Tamil hit Angadi Theru.
The film is likely to hit the screens by the end of the year. Another film that should see the actor in an altogether different role, if the posters of the film are any indication, is Shadow, directed by Meher Ramesh.
The film is slated to be an action caper with Tapsee Pannu in the female lead. Venkatesh, who shares a good rapport with his fans and co-stars, has now to contend with another hero, his own nephew Daggubatti Rana, apart from several young heroes like Ram and Naani, who are giving stiff competition to the veterans. Venkatesh, however, has always been an optimist who firmly believes that the right roles will certainly come to him.