“Be a fighter! Be a survivor! Be a winner!” If you thought these are the words from someone who has seen everything in life, you’re absolutely right! We’re talking about Jagapathi Babu or JB, as he wants to be called. We met him at his plush high-rise apartment and discovers that contrary to his reticent image, he’s doesn’t have any unnecessary airs. And boy, his candour is refreshing. Sashidhar Adivi unravels what the actor had to go through to regain his lost glory.
“I did not think I was good looking”
For someone who thought becoming a hero for just one film was enough, life has come a full circle. Today, the actor has more than 100 films to his credit in a career spanning around 25 years. JB shares, “Oh boy, it’s been a wonderful journey. Initially, I wasn’t excited about showbiz. Just because my dad was a producer, I didn’t want to come into films. But I started to self introspect like do I look handsome? Can I make it in films? But I did not think I was good looking. So it was an impulsive decision to act. Come on…it’s a bloody wild dream. I believe the time had come and it happened (smiles). I believe cinema is magic. But my parents were against my decision to enter films.”
“I had the best car in the industry”
The actor cemented his place in the industry and was well off. At a time when doing films had become a mere routine, dark clouds loomed. “Yes, I earned and spent it all. If you are scared of money, you’ll save it but I’m not. I was arrogant with the belief that I’ll earn money somehow and that’s how I borrowed money. But I went bankrupt and was at cross roads. I knew I couldn’t get my money back to repay. I was looking down the barrel not knowing what to do for three years. Not a single person helped me. I thought I was done. But that’s where I learnt, not to expect anything from others. I had the best car in the industry. But one day, I sold it just like that. I also sold my house (to clear debts) in the same way and even today, I don’t regret it. I think I have inherited this never-say-die attitude from my mother; perhaps it helped me to overcome my difficulties. I wanted to break the rules. I went into a depression and nothing was going to serve my purpose. I thought I was finished. I was even ready for soap operas. That’s when director Boyapati Sreenu offered me an antagonist’s role opposite Balakrishna for the Telugu film ‘Legend’. Rest is history. So again it’s ‘cinema’ that gave me another opportunity,” he reveals.
“A light boy asked me to leave this industry”
Cinema has taught JB everything, literally. “I knew no one was interested in taking me because I did not have the market. Naturally, people started to ignore me. For one of the films, I couldn’t command respect. A light boy came to me crying and said, ‘sir, please leave this industry, it doesn’t suit you being the son of a producer’. I said I want to learn and let me learn life the hard way. This is the worst phase, so it’s the best experience for me. I should know where I stand; when I have a market and when I don’t. So when I started accepting all these, getting the best out of the experiences, I was laughing and started enjoying it. It’s hard and after a point it was depressing (laughs). People think I was born with a silver spoon but I lead a typical middle class life. I went to school and college in public transport and I have seen the lives of my car drivers when I shared lunch with them. All the experiences helped me to come back to winning ways,” he recalls.
Dad’s death, an emotional moment
What’s endearing about the actor is that he ascribes his successful stint to his parents.
“Initially, my parents were against films. One day, when my mom learnt that I smoked and drank she did not talk to me for seven years. In fact, I promised my mom that I will never enter films; even after I entered films, she did not talk to me for several years.I can understand her concern and she was apprehensive that I might end up marrying two or three women (smiles) and that’s the reason she had not sent me to the US. I learnt things like punctuality, sincerity and hard work from my father. I did not take even a rupee from him after I started earning. During his last days, we decided not to get emotional because dad is someone who never gives up. So when he was in the hospital we were trying to make things light for my mother. But his death was an emotional moment though.”
“Cinema saved my marriage”
The actor feels he’s blessed to have a great family. “My mother, father, brothers, wife and my children never questioned me about spending lavishly. May be because I was arrogant (smiles). My father went bankrupt because of me. I know they feel bad. But I gave everything ; whatever my children asked for. I thought I would overcome all the financial hurdles. My wife is a wonderful human being. She believes in the policy – ‘live and let other live’. Cinema saved my marriage, because of films; I couldn’t spend enough time at home and was away. I believe if you miss your partner, it’s then you’ll love more. She’s very cool. I can’t complain for anything in my life.
Quit drinking and smoking
Life changed a lot after ‘Legend’ and JB feels he’s rocking now and is in a great space. “This is a rare sight and I’m blessed to be able to regain all my glory. What I loved was everybody respected me, even though I was an antagonist. I still don’t know how to act. I never did. I just feel it. I remember ANR garu once said, ‘you’re lucky, whatever you feel comes out in your expression’,” he reveals.
In cut-throat showbiz, JB vows to live by his own rules. “I want to work only from 9 to 6. Filmmakers can cast me only if they’re okay with my timings. Earlier it used to be partying during leisure but now Yoga has taken over. I gave up drinking and smoking because I got bored of them. I’m enjoying Yoga, meditation and gym.”
His take on life is simple,
“Life is fun if you deal with it the right way and that’s the reason I said there are no struggles in life there are only experiences. It’s all in your mindset. I always feel only death can make you cry. You can get back anything except life.”
Call it giving back to the industry; recently he started a portal clickcinecart.com to bridge the gap between talent and the industry. “My story is very important for people to understand how I came into films. Cinematographer Surender Reddy and Vidya Sagar have worked on this concept. So I’m opening the gates of opportunities so that it becomes easy for people to easily connect with the talent. It’s like where opportunity meets talent for all the 24 crafts,” he sums up. Spoken like a true hero!