Getting his groove back

Getting his groove back

Getting his groove back

One of the biggest box-office grossers in the first half of 2014 in Tollywood, Legend not only propped up the sagging career of veteran hero Balakrishna, but also gave a fresh lease of life to actor Jagapathy Babu, who had fallen on hard times after a couple of his films bombed at the box-office.

However, surprisingly, Babu, who has done over a 100 films in a career spanning two-and-a-half decades played the antagonist in the film, his first negative role in Telugu cinema.

Despite his initial apprehensions, the actor managed to steal the thunder under the stewardship of hotshot director Boyapati Sreenu. Obviously, his experience of playing the villain in the Tamil film Thandavam, which had the strapping six-footer Vishal in the lead, paid off in his portrayal of the bad man in Legend.

And, as it happens so often, filmmakers who shied away from casting him in their productions have again started making a beeline to sign him to cash in on his newfound popularity.

Babu was pitchforked into cinema by his producer-director father V B Rajendra Prasad, a reputed name in Telugu cinema. The actor debuted in Simha Swapnam, which had the popular hero Krishnam Raju in the lead. But it was the Ramgopal Varma-helmed Gaayam (1989), where he played the role of a Dirty Harry cop, that brought him into the reckoning.

He soon struck a purple patch and was fortunate to work with the cream of talent in the industry including S V Krishna Reddy, E V V Sathyanarayana, Krishna Vamsi, Gunasekhar, Raghavendra Rao, Kodi Ramakrishna, Puri Jagannath and P Vasu.

Many of these directors often repeated him in their films and Babu never failed to rise to their expectations. Some of his fiery roles have been in films like Antahpuram, Manoharam and Lakshyam. However, the sequel to Gaayam, titled Gaayam 2, failed to cut any ice with the audience. Blessed with a baritone voice and dashing looks, Babu picked up a loyal fan following right from the beginning of his career and his fans have stayed with him during his highs and lows.

The actor, who has won several state awards, made his debut in Kannada with the Sudeep-starrer Bachchan, and has worked in Tamil cinema as well in films like Madrasi, Thandavam and Puthagam and has been penciled in for films like Rudhram and Linga.

However, all these roles are a part of the supporting cast and Babu is yet to land a lead role in these languages. A number of new films are in the making for the charismatic star and these include Rah Rah Krishnayya and Black Money.

He has also replaced the late Srihari in the film Pilla Nuvvu Leni Jeevitham and is also slated to play strong and well-defined roles in films starring top stars Mahesh Babu and Ram.

Films with top-notch directors like

Puri Jagannath and a project with Manoj Manchu too are on the anvil. Babu has however made it clear that he is not keen on sticking to negative roles, and would prefer to revert to his hero avatar where he has established himself over the years.

Although married, Babu found himself in the middle of a controversy when the grapevine linked him to the late actress Soundarya with whom he had done several successful films like Bhale Bullodu, Priyaragalu, Dongalu and Pelli Peetalu.

Even recently, the actor was at pains to clear the air on the issue and has denied any romantic link. Another occasion when the rumour mills went into overdrive was when national-award-winner Priyamani was cast opposite him in the film Pellaina Kothalo, where the duo had to enact a few intimate scenes.

A number of laurels have come the actor’s way, and fortunately for him, most of these were for commercially-successful films like Gaayam, Maavichiguru, Antahpuram, Manoharam and Lakshyam. One of his recent honours has been the conferment of the prestigious Kala Bhushana Award instituted by the TSR Lalitha Kala Parishad.

In a field where a number of young actors have caught the fancy of the audience and are being preferred to the old timers, actors like Babu face a stiff challenge and unless scriptwriters pen stories exclusively for them, these actors may have to reconcile themselves to playing the second lead or character roles.