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Happy Birthday Nagarjuna: Five pathbreaking films where the star thrived while taking risks

Nagarjuna, over his career spanning 35 years, has consistently defied trends and took risks that none of his other contemporaries would’ve dared to venture into

Happy Birthday Nagarjuna: Five pathbreaking films where the star thrived while taking risks
Nagarjuna, the risktaker
  • Srivathsan Nadadhur

Last Updated: 04.41 AM, Aug 29, 2022


Actor, producer Nagarjuna, who turns 63 today, rarely earns the credit for backing some of the most pathbreaking Telugu films that were ahead of their times and defied trends. Right from his days of Shiva and Geethanjali to his recent Wild Dog, Nagarjuna broke box office rules and thrived when he was challenged. We look at five such instances in this list.

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Shiva wasn’t only a gamechanger for the career of Nagarjuna but transformed the way the entire country looked at Telugu cinema. From Ilaiyaraaja’s music to the sparkling sound design and the filmmaking, the film has aged like fine wine and continues to be a fan favourite. Marking the debut of filmmaker Ram Gopal Varma, the film discusses college politics and how goons misuse students for their benefits. The film also starred Amala Akkineni, Raghuvaran, JD Chakravarthy among others.
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Nagarjuna was coming after the high of an industry hit like Ninne Pelladutha and had every reason to play it safe at the box office. Defying trends, buoyed by the trust that filmmaker K Raghavendra Rao had in him, Nagarjuna played the poet Annammaya with an unmatched earnestness in the film and the results are for everyone to see. No wonder, his father and legendary actor ANR called him a complete actor after this devotional film.
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Loosely inspired by Amitabh Bachchan’s Main Azaad Hoon, Azaad is a taut vigilante thriller that was quite ahead of its times. The film about how a common man is accidentally perceived as a messiah across a series of events and takes it upon himself to save the nation from a group of terrorists. Though commercially unsuccessful, the film remains widely watched and celebrated even today. The Tamil remake of Azaad, Velayudham starring Vijay, proved to be a huge hit.
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Could you imagine a Nagarjuna film where he didn’t get to woo women on the screen and merely stuck to his job? Gaganam, the aviation thriller helmed by Radha Mohan, tapped into the performer in Nagarjuna to perfection. The star, who played Major Raveendra, trusted the audiences’ intelligence in a rarely explored genre that didn’t offer any scope for cinematic liberties and relied on a gripping screenplay.
The Telugu remake of the French film The Intouchables had him play a paraplegic for the first time in his career and the star literally proved how he could make women go weak on their knees with his eyes alone. The star was a class apart while cast in a part where he couldn’t bring his body language into play and let his facial expressions do the talking. His bromance with Karthi in the Vamshi Paidipally directorial still makes for a delightful watch.