The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Telugu Thagore is graft-buster

Hyderabad, Sept. 28: The Andhra Pradesh government may find the fight against corruption tough going, but a celluloid hero modelled on the chief minister has no trouble at all in rooting it out, as well as other ills.

Telugu matinee idol Chiranjeevi’s latest film, Thagore, attempting to depict . Chandrababu Naidu’s crusade against corruption and poverty, opened to packed theatres on Friday.

The film has broken all records in the south Indian film industry, grossing over Rs 8 crore on the opening day. This figure is the same as what Chiranjeevi earns for one movie — his earnings for this film will be much higher though, as he is the producer as well.

The movie was released in 430 theatres across south India and has nearly 300 prints in circulation.

Thagore sees Chiranjeevi playing college professor Ravindranath Thagore, who wages a relentless battle against corruption. The film dwells on corruption in government offices, the police department and corporate hospitals.

Shreya, a social-activist-turned-admirer of the Rabindranath Tagore-spouting professor, falls in love with Chiranjeevi and helps him in his crusade. Jyothika, the younger sister of actress Nagma, plays Chiranjeevi’s sister in the movie.

Chiranjeevi’s fight against corruption is supported by his college students, who even back some of his actions.

The unprecedented publicity surrounding the film and the excitement generated among members of the 2,000 Chiranjeevi fan clubs across the state led to a stampede at theatres in Rajahmundry in East Godavari and Mangalgiri in Guntur district. Four people died in the stampede. Police had to open fire at crowds in 22 places, including at a few theatres in Madanapalli and Chittoor.

Chiranjeevi visited the bereaved families along with his family members. He presented an ex gratia of Rs 200,000 to the next of kin, marking another first for the film industry.

The megastar’s last hit, Indra, which grossed over Rs 5 crore in its first week on its release last year, had been regarded as his ticket to politics. But even that impressive figure pales in comparison to Thagore’s numbers.

Thagore also marks the silver jubilee of the star’s acting career and is now being touted as Chiranjeevi’s stepping stone to politics. The actor has spurned attempts by the Congress and the BJP to rope him into politics, but is tipped for a Rajya Sabha seat courtesy Naidu.

A Kapu, Chiranjeevi hails from Mogalthur in West Godavari district, and has taken up a number of social activities, including setting up blood banks and eye banks.

His brother, Pavan Kalyan, is popular among teenagers. Pavan hit the headlines in April after staging a dharna in front of the office of the English-language daily, Deccan Chronicle. The actor accused the daily of resorting to “character assassination” by publishing stories maligning his family.

Chiranjeevi shot into fame with Kaidi, the Telugu remake of the Sylvester Stallone hit, First Blood.

His action sequences and dancing prowess helped him carve a niche for himself.

Chiranjeevi starrers like Rudra Veena and Swayam Krushi have set new standards for the Telugu film industry.

But the megastar’s foray into Bollywood with films like Pratibandh and Aaj ka Goondaraj proved unsuccessful. His attempt to test Hollywood waters with an English version of his Telugu blockbuster Kondaveeti Donga came a cropper, with the film failing to see the light of the day.

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