Just when the conversation was about to take off, he answers a call. “Hi, how did you write the exam? Was the paper tough?” He was talking to his driver, who was giving graduation exams. A little later, I realised that the actor is funding for his driver’s education. That’s Sai Dharam Tej for you! He is very content about the space he is currently in. And why not, after delivering a hit film ‘Supreme’. “I’m happy the way my career is progressing,” says the dashing actor as he gets ready for a chatathon with Sashidhar Adivi.
Prankster in school
I was born and raised in Chennai but later moved to Hyderabad. I was a knotty kid and a prankster in school (smiles) and good at cultural activities. My mom wanted me to become a doctor but somehow it did not work. After I completed internship (MBA) in London, I was confused and didn’t know what to do. I was getting anxious. I went to my friend’s company to get a feel of the office culture but I was horrified with the chaotic atmosphere. I was stressed out and unable to take a decision on my career. It was then the thought of coming into films triggered because I can be whatever I want (roles) and don’t have any restrictions for my body language.
I share intimacy with Kalyan garu (Pawan Kalyan) since my childhood. He was the one who raised me, so I had that freedom to express. Then I went and told him about my interest in films. He asked, ‘You want to become a hero or an actor’? I replied saying I want to get into films and explore opportunities. Soon, he guided and funded my acting classes, body weight training, martial arts, gymnastics, etc. Then I got my first film offer ‘Rey’ under director YVS Chowdary.
Childhood full of Chiru memories
As a kid, I remember Chiranjeevi garu (uncle) took care of me well. Me and my cousins (Ram Charan, Bunny and Sirish) used to enjoy together and visiting his shooting spots in Bangalore and Ooty. My second foreign trip was with him, he took me to Switzerland and Dubai. Whenever he gets a chance he used to spend a lot of time with us and chill out. My childhood was filled with his memories. When I was in plus 2, I went for the 175 days function of ‘Indra’ in Vijayawada. I know that Chiranjeevi garu is a megastar but never saw the aura surrounding him. When I saw Lakhs of people were hooting and cheering for him and I was starstruck and realised his power. I went and hugged him. After coming into films, he gave me three thumb rules to adhere to – Take care of the producer, satisfy the director and entertain the people. I’m just blindly following those instructions. Coming from such a strong family has it’s own benefits and shortcomings. I can’t go to the heights my uncles reached. I’d rather be happy upholding their legacy.
Branded as the unluckiest hero
The release of my supposedly debut film ‘Rey’ was getting delayed. But I was patient because I know what the scenario was. I moved on and signed ‘Pilla Nuvvu Leni Jeevitham’. When the film was nearing completion, Srihari garu, who was playing an important role in my film, passed away. So the film was halted abruptly, and it came to me as a rude shock. At that point, a Chiranjeevi fan called me and said, ‘please stop doing films and don’t let down our megastar’. My debut film didn’t release and my second movie came to a grinding halt, so I was branded as the unluckiest hero. Thankfully, things have settled down slowly and the same guy called and appreciated my performance later. My friends and mom showed a lot of confidence in me and that made me stronger.
Gifted mom a Mercedes
When I told my mom about my decision to get into films, she was little sacred initially. But later she was supportive. At one stage, my film was getting delayed and I did not have money to meet my expenses and survive. I was frustrated. Sensing this, she deposited in my account. I was surprised and asked my mom, ‘Did you deposit? She said, “Yes’! I was so touched that I started crying. It was then I seriously decided to make it big in the industry, come what may. I wanted to make her happy. I gifted her Mercedes Benz with my earnings.
Shared my girl friends list with Pawan
Kalyan garu (Pawan) was the one who actually inspired me to be adventurous. Duing my childhood, we used to go out for camping in Chennai and I was very excited with the groundwork. I used to hide all the knives in the house and take them for camping. My mom was worried when the knives in the kitchen were missing. Also, I used to share all my crushes and girl friends list with him and he used to patiently listen. I remember he took me to New Zealand during ‘Khushi’ filming.
Kissed a girl in Class I
I proposed a few girls and I was disappointed that nothing worked for me. I had a puppy love. I remember in Class I, I saw a girl weeping. I kissed her on the cheek thinking that she would stop, but she started crying loudly. The teacher asked me why did I kiss her? I said my mom used to kiss me whenever I cry and I did the same to her. The teacher laughed at my answer and later told me not to do such things. The girl later sat elsewhere and started talking to another guy. That’s when I got pissed off (smiles).
Marriage @ 35
I’m happy about my single status (laughs). I’ll not marry till 35 and I have already conveyed my decision to my mom. For now, I want to focus on my career and take care of my mother and brother.