Telugu cinema is slowly changing as actors are looking for different roles. Gone is the era when lead actors never took up negative roles. Many are now open to antagonist roles, thanks to the immense popularity, increased remuneration and the same importance enjoyed by lead actors.
Naveen Chandra had recently done a negative role in Nenu Local, earning accolades and great exposure. But the trend had begun with Jagapathi Babu, Aadhi Pinisetty and Arvind Swamy.
Interestingly, Jagapathi Babu had started his second innings with Legend as a villain after his previous movies as a lead actor failed to do well. Soon after he starred as a villain, he became one of the most sought after actors in South India.
“It’s actually my second innings; my career was taking a hit when I was offered this role. I accepted it because it was a big production house and I was starring opposite a big actor (Balakrishna),” says Jagapathi.
The film turned out to be a lucky charm for him and his performance earned him fame and better pay. “Now, there are lesser responsibilities and headaches so I can focus more on my role,” says the actor, whose best work is in Nannaku Prematho, Pilla Nuvvuleni Jeevitham and Srimanthudu.
Stereotyping is an old tale now. Far from the age where villains were imported from other industries, young actors of the times are open to experimenting, such as Ranadhir Reddy. “After I started playing negative roles, I got to act in big budget films, which made me popular. My character, too, gets due importance,” he says.
The actor is now juggling villain roles in big films and lead roles. “I want to keep myself busy with work and that’s what’s happening right now,” says Ranadhir.
Naveen Chandra, too, marked a good debut with Andaala Rakshasi, but barring a film or two, he hasn’t seen great success. That is when he turned villain in Nenu Local.
“A strong villain gives a boost to the hero. A negative role is very important and the movie depends on it. The hero might win in the end, but it is because of the villain it happens! That’s why I accepted the role,” explains Naveen, adding, “When I play the lead, I have to take the major burden of the film’s result. But when I play a negative role, there are others to share the burden.”
But he was tensed about Nenu Local. “May be next time onwards, I won’t be so tensed. We all work hard, but when there’s no burden, we perform freely making the result seem better,” he adds.
Aadhi Pinisetty, popular in both Telugu and Tamil, started off as a lead actor, but the baddie act in Sarrainodu was a gamechanger. Suddenly, he became the new stylish villain of Telugu cinema.
All of these actors are receiving a handsome pay for their makeover roles, more than what they used to earn as a lead character. Jagapathi Babu is now charging between Rs 1.50 crore to Rs 2 crore depending on the role. Even Aadhi, Ranadhir and Naveen are making good money. All those who started off wanting to become heroes now prefer anti-hero roles and are keeping themselves busy.