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'I feel blessed to do a movie like Shirdi Sai'

Last updated on: September 4, 2012 16:07 IST

'I feel blessed to do a movie like Shirdi Sai'

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Radhika Rajamani in Hyderabad

Life couldn't be better for Akkineni Nagarjuna, who has completed 25 years in films. As he himself says, "My life is getting better and better. The best is yet to come."

Nag, as he is known, now plays the role of Shirdi Sai in a film directed by K Ragahvendra Rao.

The superstar waxes eloquent about this film which releases on Thursday, September 6.

What made you do Shirdi Sai?

I've been hearing about Shirdi Sai for the last 10-15 years.  People say you should go to Shirdi. Miracles are happening there.
Shirdi Sai was against caste and religion, one of the things that I too believe. He spread this message of harmony a hundred years ago. I like that.

I see faces light up when they go to Shirdi. There must be something to it. There are photographs of him. I felt it must be very interesting for me to get into it.


Image: A scene from Shirdi Sai


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Some scenes have been dramatised in the film'

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You have done two devotionals -- Annamayya, and Sri Ramadasu--and now you are ready with Shirdi Sai. How has this journey been?

In the first two films, I played a devotee whereas in this film I play a Sadguru. Most of his followers believe Shirdi Sai is God.
Annamayya was largely created as there are no references besides his songs.

As far as Ramadasu is concerned, there is a record of the construction of the temple and the rest of the film was conceptualised. So a lot of cinematic liberties were taken.

With Shirdi Sai, we can't deviate much and yet we had to make it interesting and show something not shown before.
The director has gone into the philosophy of Shirdi Sai from his Shirdi Sai Tattvam. There was a phase when he came to Shirdi and disappeared, and then reappeared. No one knows where he went. Here some cinematic liberties were taken and the scenes were dramatised.


Image: A scene from Shirdi Sai


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'I have given my own interpretation to the character'

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How did you approach the role?

Mostly based on what the director said.

Did you turn vegetarian?

I did that for Annamayya and Ramadasu. For Shirdi Sai  they were not cooking non-veg food as we were outdoors.

Not drinking alcohol or eating non-veg didn't come into this as far as Shirdi Sai was concerned. He never preached against all this. He himself was in torn clothes and not dressed up in splendour.

How did you prepare for the role?

Actually the preparation was only how to look like him. The rest depended upon the director completely. He is a very enlightened, healthy man, full of energy, so I have also given my own interpretation.


Image: A scene from Shirdi Sai


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'I didn't watch the earlier Sai films'

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Have you seen any of the earlier Sai films?

No, I didn't see either Manoj Kumar's or Vijay Chander's films. Somebody gave me DVDs to watch but I didn't watch them either. I played the role in my own way.

How did you get the calm look on your face?

The environment that was created, the dialogues you are emoting, the songs, everything helped. Definitely you calm yourself down. Your body language becomes calm.



Image: A scene from Shirdi Sai


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'Shooting for this films has been the easiest of all'

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At a press conference you had said that you kept seeing Sai Baba in some form; his images arrived at your house, you saw him on autos, in temples etc.

Maybe you never notice these things. I never did. Once I started this film, it's like he came into my life. I looked around and he was there. I pick up somebody's phone, he is there.

An idol came to my house, but I don't know who gave it. I came home after midnight one day and when I opened the door there was this radium Shirdi Sai at the centre of the table and glowing.

The effect shocked me. I was silent for a minute. How did it get there? Where did it come from? That's why I said, he came into my life. When I was going in an auto, I saw him blessing with his hand. Then you suddenly pass by a temple, and you hear bhajans. I felt he was everywhere.

Did you visit Shirdi before you began shooting?

Yes, before and after.

While filming, did you feel any divine presence?

Nothing. I felt good, peaceful, knowing it was his samadhi. It was like imagining that was where he sat down, cooked and meditated etc.

How would you describe the experience of shooting the film?

It was very peaceful, one of the easiest shoots I have had. It was over in 55 days. There were no obstacles.
Personally, too, there wasn't any effort in, for example, the clothes and hairstyle etc. I had nothing to do except colour my beard black and white.


Image: A scene from Shirdi Sai


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'The second half of the film will move everyone emotionally'

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Which part of Sai's philosophy appealed to you the most?

His teachings are simple: no caste, no creed and no religion.

He asks us to be good and love people around us. So I could connect with his teachings very well. I feel blessed to do a movie like this.

What are the lessons you learnt from the film?

Everybody in the film was motivated. The work ethic, from the light boy to the assistant director, actor, producer, was strong. I wish we could do that in every film.

Everyone was on time. Before stepping in for the shoot, everyone offered prayers to a big Sai Baba photo.

A pujari did aarathi. Raghavendra Rao made it like a temple. Everyone had a Sai card (like an identity card).

What should people expect from the film?

The film is touching and uplifting. The second half will move everyone emotionally. I'm confident people will like it.


Image: A scene form Shirdi Sai


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