Naga Chaitanya claims he previously turned down Bollywood roles because he lacked confidence in his Hindi
Naga Chaitanya is a star in the thoughts and emotions of Telugu viewers. Since his early successes with Josh and Ye Maaya Chesave, the actor has carved out a niche for himself in the Telugu film industry, producing hits such as Majili and Love Story. And now, more than a decade after his cinematic debut, he is branching out into Hindi films with Laal Singh Chaddha, starring Aamir Khan. Chaitanya discussed his Bollywood debut, the adaptation of Forrest Gump, and the decline of linguistic barriers in Indian cinema with Hindustan Times.
When asked why it took him so long to make his Hindi debut, Chaitanya states that he has been intentionally avoiding Hindi films, or, in his words, “shying away” from them for some time. He elaborates, “I was raised in Chennai before moving to Hyderabad. Therefore, my Hindi is not the best. I’ve felt somewhat uncertain about that for a very long time. This is the reason why I have sometimes declined offers to appear in Hindi films. When I informed them that my Hindi is quite ‘South Indian,’ they actually paused for a moment.”
Then why did he agree to marry Laal Singh Chaddha? According to Chaitanya, the answer is that the linguistic barrier is written into the screenplay. “When I received the offer for Laal Singh Chaddha, I provided the same disclaimer,” he explains. Aamir sir felt completely at ease with this, as I am cast as a South Indian youngster who travels to the north, which is where our trip begins. They wanted me to talk with a South Indian accent. I do speak Hindi in the film, but slipping in a Telugu word or adopting a Telugu accent was perfectly acceptable. In fact, we inserted a few Telugu phrases here and there for flavor.”
Chaitanya, or Chay as his fans call him, is not the only south Indian actor who will soon make his Bollywood debut. Rashmika Mandanna will star in Mission Majnu, Vijay Deverakonda in Liger, and Nayanthara in Jawan. Obviously, the keyword there is’star’. All of these actors play the main character in these flicks. On the other side, Chaitanya has a cameo in Laal Singh Chaddha. “Personally, I don’t mind being a character in a film if that character is driving the plot and I can affect the audience even if I’m not there for too long. I believe Laal Singh Chaddha provided me with this opportunity,” he says.
Given his linguistic anxiety, the 35-year-old actor chose to begin his Hindi film career with a minor role. He states, “I believe I required a transitional film such as this. We recorded sync sound, and I received my lines well in advance. This entire experience has bolstered my confidence to produce a Hindi film and be featured on a Bollywood platform. But the real test will occur on August 11. I must get the audience’s acceptance. If I pass this examination, I will seek out further chances.”
The official version of Tom Hanks’ Oscar-winning film Forrest Gump is titled Laal Singh Chaddha. Chaitanya’s character Bala is modeled loosely on the original’s Bubba. The actor emphasizes that the adaption is so desi that he never felt the need to imitate or Indianize the original film or character. “They have updated the film such that the framework of the original remains, but the substance and events have been radically changed.” My character’s entrance into and exit from Laal’s life closely resembles Bubba and Forrest’s relationship.
But my aim, my roots, and my background are quite distinct from those of Bubba. It is about Bubba’s desire to start a shrimp company. I do not like to divulge, but this is something very extraordinary, deeply rooted, and common in South India. These items were wonderfully redesigned. “I don’t believe there will be any comparisons to the original,” he says.
The film will be released on August 11, but Chaitanya has already seen it numerous times, thanks to the private screenings organized by Aamir. “This is the procedure for Aamir, sir. According to Chaitanya, he shows the film to a variety of people from various walks of life. One of these screenings was particularly memorable for Chaitanya, as his father, renowned actor Nagarjuna, as well as Chiranjeevi and filmmakers SS Rajamouli and Sukumar, were in attendance.
Chaitanya states, “We are unfamiliar with such screenings. I have never sat in a room with them all while they viewed my work. I believe Aamir sir incorporated their extremely valuable suggestions for the revision. As an actor, it was a very unforgettable experience to be in the room. It was a magnificent moment that I will never forget.
Chaitanya’s father Nagarjuna is one of the few south Indian actors to achieve success in Hindi cinema. In the 1980s, Nagarjuna acted in hits such as Shiva, Khuda Gawah, and Criminal. He is returning to Hindi films with the fantasy epic Brahmastra. Given his accomplishments in Bollywood, does he offer any advice for his son’s debut? Chaitanya says, “He told me to use this platform to do things I cannot do at home” (Telugu cinema).
I do not know how well I will be welcomed in specific roles because we already have a reputation and the audience expects certain kind of entertainment and roles from us. I don’t know how well a part or picture centered only on character will be received here. Therefore, I can experiment with what I cannot do here. In Hindi films, I am still largely apathetic towards the audience. I have that opportunity, a blank slate.”