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Dasari Narayana Rao - Interview
ATA Conference, Chicago
Vasu Reddy from Chicago
Interview Date: July 2, 2004
7:30 PM at Sofitel Hotel
Sri Dasari Narayana Rao was present in Chicago as the Chief Guest of ATA. He looked fresh despite just arriving a couple of hours ago from the airport. A group of people from the eminent Chicago Telugu Community including Iftekhar Shareef, Keerti Ravoori, Satish Muddamalle, Jayachand Pellukonda, RamRaj Avadutha were discussing a wide variety of issues with Mr. Rao. As usual Dasari was quite engaging and articulate, involved and very interested.
The interview was informal and engaging, while Dasari was addressing the room full of people with complete attention. He was his usual self, several times reminding me of his age (60) and his continued dedication to common issues. This gentleman of modest beginnings has come a long way with his achievements, and now being appointed a union minister is an extra ordinary accomplishment. He is very approachable and easy to speak to. Wears clean whites, has a few shirt buttons open with his chains showing, wears glasses and looks straight at you when responding. I started off my discussion by giving him a small instruction how to use a phone card to call India and this is where I began my questions. I informed Dasari that I was taping the entire conversation, which lasted over 30 minutes. There are some sentences in the interview I transcribed in Telugu, so please look out for my Telugu transcribes. Dasari needs no introduction from me, so we go straight to the discussion.
Vasu: Did you get some rest, would you like some coffee or something?
Dasari: No need now. I am doing well. I am used to working 72 to 84 hours continuously with out any rest. I am 60 years old but I work in full swing continuously. (Some additional comments from the room praising Dasari, including Keerti saying he doesn’t look sixty.) I work in full swing 18 hours daily with out any problems.
Vasu: I thought you were around fifty (Shareef Bhai helping me here with agreeing that Dasari was no more than 50. We were trying to get comfortable for an impromptu interview with this very accomplished gentlemen). Over 25 years ago to now you look absolutely the same. When I was kid growing up in India I loved to watch your movies, and the experimentation you presented.
Dasari: I had a wonderful life. I don’t drink. I don’t smoke. I only Work, work, work. I don’t take anything on my mind. No Tension. I will switch off. There will be lot of tensions, but I don’t worry.
Vasu: I only have one question about your new career. The discipline you had in making movies to politics, I know that the movies you made had much more discipline than others. How does the chaos of the politics environment affect some one as disciplines as you are? And how do you distinguish it and how do you work with it?
Dasari: It’s like this. Man to man it differs and the experience. The environment makes the personality. Because I struggled at a lot, my life itself is a struggling life. My life is a lot of struggles, right from 8 years old. I had to survive and experience on my own. I used to work and I studied. My life experience started in my 9th year. For most people parents and elders provide until they are 21, but life was starting on my own much earlier. So what do you say that Kasi (lots of suggestions from the room for a English word) is what reflects in my work. I have that Kasi to show that I can do things.
Vasu: Actually your entire work reflects experimentation, and also predetermined approach to making movies. I believe they were well planned. I really want to distinguish that first of all your continued support of Congress as the rest of the industry is associated with BJP or Telugu Desam, and also how a disciplinarian like Dasari can function the political environment?
Dasari: My vision is this. Right from the very beginning I believe in hard work and I play respects to the people who helped us. So ippudu kuda again Kasi. As you asked why you are alone with Congress while the entire industry is with Telugu Desam. Congress is the party that did things to help the film industry. Dr. Chenna Reddy is responsible for giving many benefits to the industry when in power. I am responsible for Dr. Chenna Reddy to do many helpful things, and we worked out a policy to shift the total industry to Hyderabad. I am responsible; it is my brainchild to help move the industry. This Rama Naidu, Nageswara Rao enjoyed. They have taken land from the congress government, they took loans from the congress government and they enjoyed the benefits of congress government, and the scenario changed and when Chandra Babu Naidu came into power they shifted their loyalties to Telugu Desam. How can sit here. I don’t care for any one. I am a fighter. I fought with Ramoji Rao at times; I fought with Rama Rao at times, I fought with Chandra Babu Naidu at times because I am a fighter.
Vasu: I think you do care about people. It reflects in your movies and the messages are quite clear.
Dasari: I care more for justice.
Vasu: After the election are you getting response from the industry and your peers from the industry?
Dasari: Naturally you see wherever the power is there is industry. I told before the elections that you are with Telugu Desam, what will you do when Congress comes into power? The entire industry will come. They will come to us. They will garland us. They are shameless fellows. Whenever power is there they will jump to that.
Question: Sir, what is your idea of industry affiliations to political parties?
Dasari: If you are really interested in a cause and sincere in politics you join. Without joining saying this is not good that is not good. Doing what you call a temporary job, part time job. Everybody has got their own rights. Somebody may support Telugu Desam, somebody may support Congress.
Vasu: May I make a request please when you are speaking to the audience at ATA? Remind them of the values of Veeresalingam, lately there are lot problems with people taking dowry from India, that too in the last five six years, one guy killed his wife and put the parts in the garbage.
Dasari: Yah Yeah I saw the news.
Vasu: Please make a message that money is a bi product of success. I know you can articulate very well. Make sure that the youngsters here recognize. Please voice your opinion very strongly about this dowry thing.
(He made specific note on this issue while we paused while he gathered his thoughts)
Vasu: This is a very difficult issue, and even here it is becoming an issue.
Dasari: One thing. It is no surprise to me. Because I think in 86, I wrote a novel called “Acharya America Yatra” It was published in Udayam, my own press, daily serial for one year. It is a two-volume novel. “Acharya America Yatra”. If you read that novel this scene is there. Whatever today happened it is there. I have visualized this just eight years back.
Question: Coming to Udayam, what were the difficulties in running the paper Sir?
Dasari: I am running it. I am going to run it. Problems were created by N T Rama Rao. It was created by one community group. They created it. Because they wanted to support Ramoji Rao.
Question: Do you still have plans to continue the paper?
Dasari: Yeah. I have plans.
Vasu: Would you mind signing your name for me?
(Dasari takes time to sign a note for me, that I transcribed as my summary to this interview below). Thank you so much.
Vasu: Thanks Dasari Garu. I will stop my formal interview and get into an informal mode. I will continue to record the discussion. I appreciate your words on this paper.
Dasari: That should be a mental revolution. Revolution can be evolution.
Vasu: Thank you. I am glad you were able to come. Please be forceful in your speech against the dowry. Especially for the younger people who came in five ten years. Peace and prosperity is good enough, and not somebody else’s money. I am sure they will listen to you. I think lot of people want to. Secondly, I think a lot of effort being made by the youngsters to work for the farmer’s fund. They are all of a sudden thinking it is better to organize fund raising. Even a $1,000 or $5,000 will mean something to one of the families. Those are the issues that will be very helpful for us if you can cover in your address.
(Once again Dasari made specific note on this issue while we paused while he gathered his thoughts)
Question: Gali vana song was excellent.
Dasari: (Dasari was pleased with this question. His face lights up in responding to this.) You know how I wrote that song? One side the recording was going on. Singers and musicians were already in the theater. I am traveling from Hyderabad to Chennai. So recording is going on in Chennai. It is forty minutes journey from the airport. As soon as the I got of the flight, I called on the phone and told them, that I wrote this on the flight. It came out wonderful.
Vasu: Have you completely stopped making any movies? Or is it that time doesn’t permit?
Dasari: You see. It is to do spontaneously. But time doesn’t permit and policy also doesn’t permit. I have to take a permission, but the seriousness is lost.
Dasari: That’s why? I have to keep working on politics full time. But my people will work on the movies.
We now started getting a phone organized for Dasari while in Chicago. Shareef Bhai had mobile for him and got into the informalities of the evening.
Dasari: Congress will deliver the things.
Pat Quinn the Lt. Governor of Illinois walked in at this time and I introduced Pat to Dasari, and the group took over from there. There were lot of suggestions made in the discussion on IT, farmers, politics, Telugu Desam and Congress. What stood out was Dasari’s own vision and thoughts in each statement he made.
Both Dasari and Pat Quinn took a liking to each other, and Dasari immediately invited Pa Quinn to visit India. It was gesture that did not surprise Pat Quinn. Dasari truly displayed truly genuine Andhra hospitality with his invitation to Pat. This made me feel good to be an American Andhrudu. While walking out to the banquet I briefed Pat on Dasari’s accomplishments, which he reflected in his speech to the inaugural banquet.
We had dinner at the same table with Dasari while he enjoyed the evening, and was very affable all evening long, until Shareef Bhai took him to show Chicago at night. I came back to my desk so we can get this out to press.
Dasari obliged me with an autograph “Krushi, Deeksha, Pattudala Manava Purogamaniki Aayudhalu” Dasari Narayana Rao 2/7/04. I will try to get this published in original form when I can. I was touched to receive this from Dasari.
Dasari is a man of great accomplishments, and extraordinary abilities to attract and hold attention of all people. I wish him success as a politician and I hope he continues to display Kasi and determination. God bless him and our beloved Andhra Pradesh and India.
I did the taped conversation and translations with permission from Dasari. As there were a lot of people in the background, some of the discussion was unclear. Dasari was very gracious.
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