Actor Chiranjeevi opened up in a recent speech that for a long time only Hindi movies were portrayed as Indian cinema, and it was extremely embarrassing for him as a Telugu actor. He credits films like ‘Baahubali’ and ‘RRR’ for overcoming linguistic barriers and making them proud. The passionate speech by the celebrity, made at a pre-release ceremony for his latest film 'Acharya', comes amid a backlash in South India over claimed attempts to impose Hindi as a national language.
Chiranjeevi is heard narrating his travel to Delhi to win a national award for 'Rudraveena' (1988) in a video uploaded by Brut India. "Rudraveena, a film I co-wrote with Naga Babu, was released in 1988. It was nominated for the Nargis Dutt Award for Best Feature Film on National Integration. We travelled to Delhi to accept the honour," he said in Telugu at the 'Acharya' pre-release event.
He also mentioned that during the aforementioned awards ceremony was in the evening and there was high tea before that. "In the hall, we were drinking tea. Posters displaying the grandeur of Indian film adorned the walls surrounding us. There were a few quick notes. There were pictures of Prithiviraj Kapoor, Raj Kapoor, Dilip Kumar, Dev Anand, Amitabh Bachchan, Rajesh Khanna, Dharmendra, and other celebrities. They displayed their photographs and explained them in detail. They lauded a variety of directors and heroes,” he said.
"And we didn't expect them to go into such depth into South Indian movies. However, all they displayed was a still shot of MGR (MG Ramachandran) and Jayalalithaa dancing. They called it "South Indian cinema". And Prem Nazir, who has portrayed a hero in a record number of films in Indian cinema history, was shown his photo and that was the end of it." Chiranjeevi's eyes welled up as he said.
The actor then went on to highlight the famous personalities from South Indian cinema who were not included at all, like Dr Rajkumar, Vishnuvardhan, NT Rama Rao, A Nageswara Rao, and Sivaji Ganesan.
"To us, they were demigods. There were no photographs of them either. It was humiliating for me. I was depressed. They solely displayed Hindi films as Indian films. Other businesses, such as regional language cinema, were also discarded. They didn't even bother recognising its contribution," he said.
Chiranjeevi went on to claim that films like ‘Baahubali: The Beginning’, ‘Baahubali: The Conclusion’, and ‘RRR’ have made Telugu cinema proud. Standing alongside him was SS Rajamouli, director of the movies, and the acclaimed actor added, "Today, after so many years, I am so happy that I can beat my chest. Our industry demonstrated that we are no longer a localised film industry. Telugu film has broken down these limitations and has become an integral component of Indian cinema. Everyone is astounded by our achievement. We have triumphed over prejudice. Because of ‘Baahubali’, ‘Baahubali 2’, and ‘RRR’," he said.
Chiranjeevi's passionate remark came just days after a scuffle between Bollywood actor Ajay Devgn and Kannada actor Sudeep. While Sudeep emphasised that Hindi is not our national language, Devgn questioned why movies in south Indian languages are dubbed in Hindi. The encounter prompted a social media controversy, with politicians also participating. A portion of Karnataka leaders claimed that Mr Devgn blabbered like a BJP spokesman.
However, the opposition to Hindi is not limited to the film industry. Following Home Minister Amit Shah's effort to spread Hindi last month, numerous south politicians cautioned that any move to impose Hindi would backfire. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin, Kerala counterpart Pinarayi Vijayan, and Telangana minister KT Rama Rao were among the figures who came out against Mr Shah's statements, emphasising that India's strength is its unity in diversity.