Vijayashanti, first day first show

By T S Sudhir

She was always known as the hero in her films. For carrying the film on her shoulder. `Lady Amitabh’ was a sobriquet that was bestowed on this angry young woman of Telugu films at the peak of her career. Vijayashanti was forever Telugu cinema’s Heroine number one. Among the first actresses to get her remuneration in crores.

Years went by, the film roles dried up, Vijayashanti became a politician. After a decade of being stuck in the swamp with the lotus party and after that a Talli Telangana party that never quite took off, her political fortunes glowed in the pink of health last year when she became MP from Medak on the TRS ticket. A constituency that had once elected Indira Gandhi now had chosen Ramulamma, another one of Vijayashanti’s popular screen personas. Vijayashanti had arrived.

But old habits die hard. Vijayashanti still lives in the world of `Action’ and `Cut’. It was at one such meeting of TRS party workers earlier this week that Vijayashanti got seduced by the prospect of crowds clapping and whistling to her punchlines.

“Anyone who opposes Telangana should be slaughtered,” she thundered to a constituency of hundreds of women party activists. It got her bouquets from admirers and brickbats in the form of a notice from the Election Commission, asking for an explanation by 4th July. The reason : Bypolls are to be held in 12 assembly constituencies on 27th July and a code of conduct has to be followed by all political parties, including the ruling party in the seat of government.

An overenthusiastic Hyderabad police sprung into action to arrest her. High drama as they swooped down on her residence. The anti-climax: she was not home. In filmi style, Vijayashanti drove in minutes after the police left. She claimed she had been admitted to hospital. What followed was Vijayashanti’s medical history and vitriol against the police, broadcast all over Andhra Pradesh by some 15 Telugu TV news channels. Friday’s first day first show, full of emotion and action, was a hit. Housefull.

Saturday was sold out too. The police, smarting at being outsmarted just like they show in films, arrested her in the face of stiff opposition and she was packed off to Chanchalguda prison for women for 14 days.

Like the publicity blitz before the release of a film, all this tamasha has only come in handy for Vijayashanti and the TRS in the build-up to the bypolls. The Congress government got painted as the villains, who let loose the men in khaki to drag an ill person into jail. Tch tch. Vijayashanti who was rumoured to be considering doing Katrina Kaif’s role in a remake of `Rajneeti’ can dump the idea. Acting in real life, sans make-up and beamed live, albeit on the small screen, seems to have a better strike rate.
The TRS workers out in full strength by Vijayashanti’s side, to thwart attempts by the police to take her into custody, was in fact amusing.¬†Because just a few months back, the same pink panthers were badmouthing her. That’s because after the poor performance of the TRS in the 2009 Lok Sabha and assembly elections, Vijayashanti had started seeking fresh pastures, scripting a love story with the Congress and even met YSR a couple of times. TRS leaders had vowed they won’t allow her to tour the Telangana region.

But YSR’s death in September was a kahaani me twist. And brought the unhappy actress scurrying back to KCR, who had once called Vijayashanti his tenth sister. The rift was dismissed as just a storm in a T-cup and for public consumption atleast, everything has been hunky-dory.

Those who know Vijayashanti well, say falling out is nothing new for the mercurial actress. No one in fact dares to ask Vijayashanti ko gussa kyon aata hai. In fact, her three decades in the world of pancake and glamour were marked by not the best of relations with many of her leading men. She in fact alleged in a chat with me two years ago that some of them even conspired to cut her roles and remuneration.

“They were jealous. In the south, I don’t think the heroes can come to terms with the heroines being paid more. They did not say anything directly. They backstabbed me. They did not have the guts to come in front of me.”

When her hero in 19 films, Chiranjeevi, entered politics, none of the love onscreen translated into affection off it. In fact, she offered the Megastar some free advice, perhaps from her own experience. “It is not easy in politics. In films, you can do whatever you want, you can say whatever you want but in politics, it is impossible.”

With the TRS expected to do well in the byelections, Vijayashanti probably now feels impossible is nothing. A National award winner for her role as a police officer in `Karthavyam’ in 1990, Vijayashanti ironically has been handed a lifeline by the police and the law. It almost seems someone in this Congress government knows exactly how to shoot itself in the foot and create unrest in the Telangana region.

Like many of her ilk, the lady hopes to have a successful second innings as a power centre in a Telangana state of tomorrow. Where she could be a superhit just like her films did well in the Nizam’s territory, geographically almost the same as the Telangana region.

Produced and directed by Vijayashanti, the star is also writing the script, screenplay and dialogues for this political thriller.


About t s sudhir & uma sudhir

Uma Sudhir and T S Sudhir are senior journalists, based in Hyderabad. Both work for NDTV. Uma is a Tamilian, who was educated in
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