Hyderabad, Aug 16 (IANS) From a remote village in coastal Andhra to stardom and now to the centrestage of Andhra Pradesh politics, Chiranjeevi has come a long way.
As the Telugu superstar gets set to announce the birth of his political party, millions of fans have gone gaga and predicted that he will be the next chief minister of the state.
Chiru, as he is popularly known among his fans, is set to alter the equations by bringing back glamour to the state politics, which was once dominated by the demigod of Telugu cinema N.T. Rama Rao.
The 53-year-old, who has been into films for three decades, Monday inaugurated his party office in upmarket Jubilee Hills here.
The actor, who dragged too long the suspense around his political entry, will be addressing a news conference Sunday to announce the birth of his party. He will then formally launch the party with the first public meeting in the temple town of Tirupati Aug 26.
Chiranjeevi was born on Aug 22, 1955 in Mogalturu, a small village in the coastal district of West Godavari. His name was Konidela Siva Shankara Varaprasad and he was the eldest of three sons of Anjana Devi and Venkat Rao, an excise department employee.
Varaprasad attended schools in five different places because of his father's frequent transfers. He completed his schooling from P.R. Sharma Junior College at Ongole and graduated in commerce from Narasapur College.
After graduation, Varaprasad moved to Chennai to seek a career in the film industry and joined a film institute in 1977.
'Punaadi Raallu' was the first film in which he had the lead role but it was 'Pranam Kareedhu' that was first released. The year was 1978 and he began establishing himself as an actor. Soon, his style of doing action scenes and dancing became popular.
Chiranjeevi, who belongs to the Kapu community, once had a dream one night in which the Hindu god Hanuman called him Chiranjeevi. On his mother's advice, he changed his screen name to Chiranjeevi, which in Hindu mythology refers to Hanuman.
He married Surekha, daughter of popular yesteryears comedian Allu Ramalingayya, in 1980.
Chiranjeevi's first big hit was 'Khaidi', which was released in 1983 and was inspired by Hollywood blockbuster 'First Blood'. By then he had acted in 60 movies. The films that followed gave him the image of an action hero.
He churned out more hits in the 1980s. 'Pasivadi Pranam', released in 1987, brought him stardom. Going beyond his action hero image, Chiru donned a variety of roles in the 1990s.
He has been virtually ruling the box office by producing big hits like 'Hitler', 'Master', 'Sneham Kosam', 'Annayya', 'Indra', 'Stalin' and 'Shankar Dada MBBS' - a remake of the hit Bollywood film 'Munnabhai MBBS'. His last film was last year's 'Shankar Dada Zindabad', a remake of 'Lage Raho Munnabhai'.
Chiranjeevi has won the Nandi award for best actor thrice and the Filmfare (Telugu) award seven times. He was also conferred the Padma Vibhushan in 2006 for his contribution to Telugu cinema.
Chiru's two brothers Nagendra Babu and Pavan Kalyan are actors too. His only son Ram Charan Teja is also an actor. His eldest daughter Susmitha is married to a Chennai businessman, while younger daughter Srija eloped last year.
The actor, who has fan clubs across the state and abroad, enjoys immense popularity. In recent years he has been involved in social service activities.
Some people compare his popularity with that of NTR who had taken the state politics by storm by coming to power within nine months of floating the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in 1982.
Chiru's fans are confident that history will repeat itself and their hero will become the chief minister after the elections scheduled to be held in March next year.
However, many do not agree. Observers point out the sea change in the political situation since the early 1980s when NTR floated the TDP. They also point out that the two personalities are poles apart.
The state was then dominated by a single party - the Congress - and people were looking for an alternative. NTR showed them an alternative with a slogan of 'Telugu pride'.
'Chiranjeevi, like NTR, has the charisma but the situation now is different. There are also no major issues. His party may win a few seats and mar the prospects of Congress and TDP but he may not come to power,' said a political analyst.
With the Congress appearing to be firmly in the saddle, Chiranjeevi's party is likely to damage the TDP, which is trying to make a comeback. The presence of two parties in the Telangana region also poses a challenge to the actor.
While NTR had a dynamic personality and used to take all major decisions himself, Chiranjeevi relies heavily on his brother-in-law Arvind and some close aides. This was the reason for the long time he took in announcing his entry into politics.
NTR was more popular for his theatrics and knew how to turn tables on his rivals while Chiranjeevi is sensitive and gets emotional in the face of attacks by his rivals. It remains to be seen if the superstar manages to turn his mass appeal into votes.