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HanuMan Star Teja Sajja On Striking A Chord With His Superhero Turn

Teja Sajja, the breakout star of this year’s first big Telugu hit HanuMan, is basking in the glow of his movie breaking records across India, and winning accolades by the day.

HanuMan Star Teja Sajja On Striking A Chord With His Superhero Turn
The success of HanuMan still has to soak in, the film's star Teja Sajja says

Last Updated: 02.05 AM, Feb 11, 2024


“WHY am I not getting as excited as others?” laughs Teja Sajja. The breakout star of this year’s first big hit, HanuMan, is basking in the glow of his movie breaking records across India and winning accolades by the day. For its young lead, though, this was an affirmation of his struggle over the past eight years when he returned to the arc lights to make his mark as a lead star after a stellar career as a child artist.

Reacting to the success of HanuMan, he says, “I am extremely relieved, as I have lived with the movie and the associated pressure for almost two years. The success still has to soak in, and I feel blank at times when I look at the reviews or hear the numbers. Also, while I was confident that a superhero with Indian roots would be well-received, the extent of its success has taken us by surprise.”

The actor credits director Prashanth Varma, with whom he worked earlier in Zombie Reddy, for his vision and execution. The entire movie was shot in Vattinagulapally village outside Hyderabad, and the much-applauded climax was shot over 40 days. In the Telugu film industry, it emerged as the winner in the annual Sankranthi releases, out-performing movies by bigger stars.

Detail from the poster for HanuMan
Detail from the poster for HanuMan

One of the big reasons why the actor okayed the movie when he heard the script was a single thought: “I always wondered why a superhero should always be in spandex; he can wear a kurta pajama as well.”

The 29-year-old adds, “We had limited resources when we started the movie. When Prashanth narrated the script which combined stories from Indian mythology via a superhero I was hooked on it. The initial reports were positive, and we sold the movie to different territories, from Burma to Berlin and Nepal. We invested the money right into the movie, as we had full faith in the story.”

Regarding the success of the movie in the Hindi belt, the actor says he wasn’t surprised. “Some of the early Hindi exhibitors loved the movie, so we were confident that the movie would hit a chord with North Indian audiences. I think Telugu films share stories of human relationships very well, so when we combined that with a universal theme, we knew that we had a winner on our hands,” he says.

After a spate of southern movies dubbed in Hindi not doing well, HanuMan again breaches the Hindi heartland. Much like Kantara and KGF, it came out of the blue and conquered the box office. Teja, however, adds his take and says, “I do not think that there is ‘south’ cinema and Hindi cinema anymore. We saw it recently when a Telugu and Malayalam superstar got together with a Kannada director and gave us a huge hit in Salaar. We saw it when India’s biggest star teamed up with one of the biggest directors from Tamil cinema in Jawan. It's only (about) how good the movie is.”

Still from HanuMan
Still from HanuMan

For Teja, the success of the movie is a shot in the arm career-wise. A very successful child artist in the ‘90s who had done over 50 movies, he pursued his Master’s degree and came back to make it as a hero in 2013. While movies like Zombie Reddy, Adbhutam, and a supporting role in Oh Baby got him success, this marks his big return to the silver screen.

One of his significant roles as a child artist was as the young Chiranjeevi in the blockbuster Indra. He recalls the role and says, “It was just two days of work, but a great experience as Chiranjeevi Garu treated me like his own son. It happened by chance as I met Chiranjeevi Garu on a set, and he told some producers to cast me in the movie. I was barely five years old, but I refused to play this particular role, but he was insistent on my doing it. I am grateful he was, as even today people recall the role as it left such a big impression on people.”

Detail from the poster for HanuMan
Detail from the poster for HanuMan

Growing up on movie sets, Teja was always a movie buff, and even after the years he took off, he was yearning to get back in front of the screen. Now, he wants to build credibility with the audience and jokes that people should say, ‘Teja cinema veldam, edo different ga untundi (Let’s go to a Teja movie; there is bound to be something different)’.

Right now, his focus is on promoting HanuMan to ensure that it reaches all of India, and he says, “It’s too early to say, but Prashanth has a sequel planned. I don’t know in what form and shape, but it is an ambitious story, and I am excited about it.”

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