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Chiranjeevi recalls ‘humiliating’ experience at National Awards when South cinema was sidelined

The veteran actor remembered the time in 1989 in the national capital when only Hindi films seemed to be considered Indian cinema.

Our Correspondent

Around the time the controversy over the misconception of Hindi as India's national language broke out last month, at a film event, Chiranjeevi recalled his ‘humiliating’ experience at the National Awards when South cinema was sidelined in favour of the Hindi industry as Indian cinema.

The veteran actor, who was promoting his latest film Acharya (2022), spoke on the stage where Telugu filmmaker SS Rajamouli was also present. The director is single-handedly responsible for launching the Telugu industry in the global news with his Baahubali franchise and RRR (2022).

Chiranjeevi praised Rajamouli for breaking the language barrier with his films, and recounted his experience at the 1989 awards ceremony.

In the viral video created by Brut India, the actor said in Telugu, “In 1988, I made a movie called Rudraveena with Naga Babu. It received the Nargis Dutt award for Best Feature Film on National Integration. We went to Delhi to receive the award.”

He attended a high tea event preceding the awards ceremony which was being held later in the evening. “The walls around us were decorated with posters showcasing the grandeur of Indian cinema," he recalled. "There were some brief notes. There were photos of Prithviraj 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 various directors and heroines.

“And we thought they would also talk about South Indian cinema in such great detail. But they just showed a still image of MGR [the late MG Ramachandran] and Jayalalithaa dancing. They described it as South Indian cinema. And Prem Nazir, who played a hero in a record number of films in the history of Indian cinema, they showed his picture and that was it,” he said.

The actor said there were many veterans from the Southern industries like Dr Rajkumar, Vishnuvardhan, NT Rama Rao, A Nageswara Rao and Sivaji Ganesan who could have been highlighted as well, but they seemed to have been forgotten.

“They were demigods to us,” he stated in the video. “And there were no pictures of them. For me, it was humiliating. I felt very sad. They projected only Hindi cinema as Indian cinema. And they dismissed other industries as regional language cinema. They didn't even bother to acknowledge its contribution.”

He returned to Chennai and spoke to the media about this experience, but besides The Hindu newspaper, no one raised the issue. “After so many years, today I feel so proud, I can thump my chest,” he added.

“Our industry proved that we are no longer a regional cinema. Telugu cinema has removed these barriers and become part of Indian cinema. Everyone is amazed at our success. We have overcome the discrimination,” he said proudly.

Chiranjeevi is currently filming for the feature film Godfather, which features Salman Khan in a cameo. The Telugu film is a remake of the Malayalam blockbuster Lucifer (2019), starring Mohanlal.

Related topics

National Awards