Ram Charan Teja: It took me eight months to say yes to Zanjeer 2.0!

He is megastar Chiranjeevi’s son, but himself an established actor down South and is now gearing up for his big Bollywood debut with Zanjeer 2.0. Excerpts from an interview with Ram Charan Teja

How often do you meet a celeb and end up talking to him without being conscious or hesitant? Not too often but that wasn’t the case with Ram Charan.Yes, it’s just Ram Charan and not Ram Charan Teja. Like many South actors, Ram Charan has no starry airs. In fact, when we met him, his easy-going attitude was the first thing that caught our attention.

Despite being tired ‘coz of all the film promotions, the lad calmly spoke to us and was more than happy to answer our questions. Read on to find out what this Southern hottie has to say about debuting with the remake of an Amitabh Bachchan film, acting with Priyanka Chopra and Sanjay Dutt and lastly his favourite Bollywood actor…

Have you enjoyed your reception in Bollywood with Zanjeer 2.0?

I think it’s been extremely warm. I’m so happy that people are inviting new talent, new faces. Everything is integrating into one cinema, which is very healthy for all of us.

You are a star down South and most of the recent Hindi blockbusters have been South remakes. So what drove you towards Bollywood?

When you decide to be an actor, you only want more and more people to appreciate your work. We want a bigger reach. I want more people to see my films and my work. And that’s the only wish that every actor has.

Did you take official coaching on the sets to learn Hindi?

Not really. Being a Hyderabadi, you tend to speak a lot of Hindi ‘coz of the Nawabi culture of the city. So if want a good plate of biryani, you should speak in Hindi over there and you’ll get it! But when you usually converse, it’s different than when you deliver dialogues onscreen. So for that, I had taken some training. However, I couldn’t dub due to some technical issues. But I hope the next time I dub in my own movie.

Have you come across any hurdles so far? How did you tackle them?

Yes, of course. Being part of Zanjeer, there is lot of pressure ‘coz people have loved the original film. In the South, there was a lot of pressure initially ‘coz I am Mr Chiranjeevi’s son. As I grew up, I learnt how to handle that pressure. I did the same thing here as well. But I would just like to say to the audiences that don’t compare too much because this film is slightly different from the original. Our adaptation is for today’s audience. It’s like a tribute to the actors of the original film more than a remake. It’s a gift to Prakash Mehra and Amitabh Bachchan. Once you see the film, you’ll know there is no similarity to the original as such except for the few key scenes. Apart from that, most of Zanjeer 2.0 has been differently designed.

Was it planned that you would debut in Bollywood with Zanjeer 2.0?

When Apoorva Lakhia came to me, I asked him why Zanjeer and why me when you have so many actors in Bollywood. In fact, I took eight months before I said yes to the film. But I believe you should never say no to any film unless you aren’t convinced with the script. So I told my dad that I heard the script and it is superb and asked him what I should do. Should I do this? ‘Coz it’s going to come with a lot of baggage. He said you do a film only ‘coz you like it and not ‘coz you’re scared. And you should never back out. He said be responsible when you are doing a film like this. My dad is the biggest fan of Mr Bachchan and he said I am very jealous that you got this opportunity, which I couldn’t get. So he wished me all the best for this film. On the first day of Zanjeer, before I did my first shot, somebody came and told me that Mr Bachchan is right next to our floor. That day, I took five minutes to be with him. So before I did my first shot, I went to Big B and took his blessings. He was quite kind and welcoming that we were doing this film.

Your co-star Priyanka Chopra is an established Bollywood actor and has gone international with her music too. So when you first met her, what was your impression about her?

It doesn’t matter how big a star you are, the minute you enter the sets, you are just the character. And Priyanka is so professional. She doesn’t carry that baggage onto the sets and that’s what we love about her. That’s why she is such a big star.

How was it working with Sanjay Dutt?

I wanted Sanjay Sir to do this film. We couldn’t see anybody else playing the role of Mr Pran. We were glad that he was finally doing the film, but when he came on the sets, it was so difficult to stand in front of him and say the dialogues. But the comfort level that I now have with him and the relationship that I share is special. He made it look so easy for me!

Did you have a hard time shooting any particular scene?

There is this scene where Sher Khan enters the police station. It is one of the most important scenes. We were supposed to roll at 9am but I couldn’t do the scene till 5pm. I just couldn’t stand in front of Sanjay Sir and hold his collar and say the dialogue. ‘Coz his persona was so big in my head! But we finally managed to do the scene.

Is marketing as aggressive in the South as it is in Bollywood?

Not really…I guess it works differently in different industries. For some reason, in the South it has never been so huge.

Any other Hindi movies in the offing?

Yes…there are a couple of projects but it’s too early to talk about them. But in a month or two people will come to know about them.

In real life, are you an ‘angry young man’?

No, no… (Smiles) I am a very shy guy. In fact, I feel scared when 10 people are sitting around me.

Would you like to remake any of your father’s films or act in it?

Well, I don’t want any more pressure for now (smiles). I just want to do some new scripts for a now.

Which Bollywood actor do you want to romance onscreen and why?

If I say X then Y will not like it…so everybody is good and they are all doing an amazing job. But yes, my all-time fave is Madhuri Dixit. When I went to Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa 6, I was so quiet and tense, because I was sitting next to this beautiful lady whom I used to look up to. Also, I told her that Dhak dhak song was originally done by my dad in 1990 and later it was remade in Bollywood in 1992.

Which recent Hindi films did you love watching?

I saw Aashiqui 2 and loved it. I also saw Chennai Express and enjoyed it.

And what did you like in Chennai Express?

I think it’s a great entertainer…what else do you need? (smiles)