Srihari: An artiste par excellence

The actor, who passed away yesterday, was the best character artistes and stuntment in Telugu cinema. He was recently seen in Zanjeer aka Toofan

Popular Telugu actor Srihari went from being a stunt master to comedian, villain, lead actor and eventually one of the finest character actors of the Telugu industry. While he may not have impressed audiences with his acts of buffoonery in the initial years of his career, as a villain and comedian he still resides in people’s hearts with his strong character roles in films such as DheeNuvvostanante Nenoddantana and Magadheera.

“He was one of the best character artistes this industry ever had. He was sincere, extremely hardworking and very supportive. I’m extremely upset that he is no more, but I also take the credit for introducing him to the industry through my film,” said producer Mahendar.

After years of struggle of playing minor roles, Srihari got his lead role in Mahendar’s 1999 Telugu action-drama Police. In a career spanning two decades, he starred in nearly 100 films. As a lead actor, he was seen as a policeman in a handful of films such as Okkade, SrisailamDasanna and Bhairava.

As a character actor, he is best remembered for brother and don roles, both negative as well as comic. One of his finest performances was in Telugu romantic-drama Nuvvostanante Nenoddantana – his role as a doting brother to Trisha Krishnan was lauded by audiences and even earned him Nandi as well as Filmfare awards.

In the 2009 Telugu blockbuster Magadheera, Srihari mesmerised everybody with his performance as Sher Khan. The scenes between him and Ram Charan Teja were some of the best moments of the movie. He also showed his comical side in films such as King and Don Seenu.

He was one of the fittest actors in the industry. “Since he started his career as a stunt master, he was extremely fit. He continued to be fit for several years and landed several villain roles because of that. However, he lost weight in the last few months due to some health issues. He never told me what it was,” Mahendar added.

In 1998, Srihari married Telugu actor Disco Shanti, who quit acting after marriage. They were blessed with two sons and a daughter named Akshra, who passed away recently. In the memory of his daughter, Srihari started Akshra Foundation and adopted four villages in Medchal district in Andhra Pradesh.

Actor Sarath Babu, who is shattered after Srihari’s demise, remembers him as a very friendly actor. “I’m saddened to hear about his death. It’s unbelievable because I met him recently in Hyderabad. As an actor, he was disciplined and very friendly with co-stars. I still remember during the shooting of ‘Magadheera’, he used to mouth pages of dialogues in one shot,” said Babu. “The industry has lost one of the best actors. I don’t think we can ever find another Srihari because he is irreplaceable,” he added.

Srihari recently expressed interest to join politics. He had also announced that he would contest on behalf of Congress party in upcoming elections.

His recent best role was from Ram Charan Teja-starrer Toofan aka Zanjeer. He essayed Sher Khan, which received thumbs up from audiences and critics alike. Srihari’s last release as a lead actor was Telugu crime-thriller Police Game, which released last week. The actor died Wednesday at Lilavati Hospital in Mumbai due to liver ailment and cancer. He was 49. He is survived by wife and two sons.