Alexander, the forthcoming film of the renowned theatre personality Jaya Prakash Reddy, is a detailed transformation of a theatrical play by the same name (which, by the way, is not about the historic Greek king). Directed by Davala Satyam, Alexander the film has Jaya Prakash acting as the protagonist as well as producing it.
Incidentally, as a theatre artiste, Jaya Prakash has even performed the mono-act play over 70 times in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
As we begin our interaction, the actor reveals that the play called Alexander was actually inspired from the late actor Sunil Dutt’s 1964-solo-act drama, Yaadein.
“I was further enthused to do the role when I learnt that actors such as Anupam Kher, Shabana Azmi and Ashish Vidyarthi have also done ‘one-man shows’ in Marathi and Hindi,” reveals Jaya Prakash.
The actor then approached the eminent theatre personality, Nadira Babbar (actor Raj Babbar’s first wife), who wrote the play, to translate it into Telugu.
However, Jaya Prakash was never to meet Nadira Babbar. As time passed, one day his childhood friend who is now no more, the late Pusala Venkateswara Rao, suggested that they come up with their own imaginative personality for Alexander in Alexander the play.
A tribute to theatre
Talking about the cinematic version of the film, Jaya Prakash tells us that he had apparently wanted to give the play a cinematic makeover for a long time.
“This play is very dear to me, so I discussed with Pusala the idea of making a film of it. He then penned a fictional story for the film, in which I played the title role as a retired Major of the army, who comes up with a helpline number via which he advises people on how to solve their problems,” explains the actor.
However, besides adapting the play to the silver screen, as a tribute to theatre with its highs and lows, making his presence felt in the film for all those 100 minutes of the film was just as big a challenge for Jaya Prakash.
All said and done, the experiences taught Jaya Prakash that theatre is where he belongs. “I have worked in hundreds of plays in over 40 years I have acted in. In fact, all that I am today is because of my theatre stint,” he adds.
Even so, the genesis of those passions Jaya Prakash credits solely to his father, recalling how he encouraged Jaya Prakash to perform theatre plays even as a child.
“While parents usually reprimanded their kids for not studying, my father yelled at me for not working in plays — such was his passion,” he says nostalgically.
Even as he worked in theatre, Jaya Prakash took on the job of a teacher in the Municipal High School in Guntur. Then, in the late ‘80s, he entered showbiz, where he appeared in a few films in blink-and-missroles.
“As I couldn’t survive on what I earned with such roles, I went back to teaching,” he recollects with an easy chuckle.
Then, fate smiled at him in 1997, when late producer Rama Naidu offered him the role of the antagonist in his film Preminchukundam Raa. The film was a blockbuster, and Jaya Prakash’s performance was highly spoken of.
In 1999, after tasting super success with that year’s film, Samarasimha Reddy, Jaya Prakash decided to take voluntary retirement from his teaching profession at Guntur to make a career in showbiz.
Yet, despite the number of films he’s acted in and the applause he has found for his works there, Jaya Prakash claims his first love to be theatre. “The contentment I get as a theatre artiste is beyond words. Even today, I keep organising and act in plays,” he tells us as he signs off.