Balakrishna pulled my shirt. How I reciprocated grabbed eyeballs

                            Balakrishna pulled my shirt. How I reciprocated grabbed eyeballs

All this happened in front of hundreds of people.
They had all been invited from different parts of the country. The event was big. Former chief minister N T Rama Rao launched his film ‘Brahmarshi Viswamitra’ at the Ramakrishna Horticultural Studios at Nacharam in 1989 and I had gone there to cover the event for the newspaper I was working for.

Balakrishna was hyperactive that day. Perhaps the enormity of the event was too big to handle for the 29-year-old actor. Perhaps there were too many issues that he was sorting on location as his father was on the stage talking about the film. Or simply because Balakrishna was just being himself and doing what came naturally to him.

I was there with my photographer Devadas (who, sad to say, passed away a few years ago). Both film photographers and photographers from newspapers and magazines were there to record the big show of the film launch. And then the fracas with Balakrishna began near the podium.

Let’s hang there for a moment while I recount an incident that happened prior to that at the same venue. We took our place in the chairs arranged for all the invitees. Meenakshi Seshadri arrived. Resplendent and glowing. She was to play Maneka in the film. She passed by us and was escorted to the stage. After a while, there seemed to be some confusion. Some commotion. ‘Menaka’ had lost  one of her earrings! Word spread among the invitees about the lost earring of ‘Menaka’. We also participated in the search operation. And the earring was found just close to where we were seated! Meenakshi Seshadri got back her earring. The programme began after NTR’s arrival.

We walked towards the stage where all the action was. And that was where we encountered Balakrishna (who also happened to be me elder brother’s classmate in Nizam college). Not only that NTR’s make-up man from Chennai was our neighbour near Ramakrishna Cine Studies at Golconda cross roads. The make-up man’s sons were frequent visitors to our house – for the simple reason that my father could speak Tamil and both my elder brothers too could.

NTR himself, on most occasions would stand on the balcony in a building at the Ramakrishna Cine Studios and would acknowledge if we waved to him when I was going to school and college. He went on to launch his Telugu Desam Party(TDP) and came to power within 11 months of launching it. Despite his popularity, he was dethroned and Nadendla Bhaskar Rao became chief minister. NTR got to his chariot and huge crowds thronged him wherever he went in the following days. My elder brother and I went on our bicycle and waited for him as he returned to the Ramakrishna Cine Studios at Golconda cross roads. There was a sea of humanity. The crowds shouted slogans expressing their support to him. With folded hands, NTR acknowledged them. The coup of August 1984 brought more support for the actor-turned politician.  He was reinstalled. NTR came back to power with a thumping majority when he went in for polls in 1985.

The NTR who was so-near-yet-so-far for me was now someone with whom I was sitting across the table and talking. I had become a journalist in 1988 and straight away went to covering the chief minister’s office (CMO) and the Secretariat, the seat of power. At that time, Secretariat beat journalists could simply walk into the CM’s chamber and he would be gracious enough to sit with the reporters and answer questions. It once proved too burdensome for me when NTR placed his hand on my shoulder, leaned comfortable and spoke standing with us. How could you ask the CM to remove his heavy hand!?

NTR was NTR. Balakrishna was NTR’s son. So, let’s get back to the Ramakrishna Horticultural Studios at Nacharam, where ‘Brahmarshi Vishwamitra’ was launched. There was a hoard of photographers as I mentioned before. Everyone, of course, wanted to click pictures of NTR on stage and also have the crowd in the same frame. It was decided that all the photographers would congregate backstage and each one would be allowed – one at a time – to get on to the stage, quickly take a picture and come down giving time for the others in queue to do the same.

Balakrishna appearing out of nowhere pushed some of the photographers, including my own photographer. He wanted to set things in order and impulsively did what he felt was best to deal with the situation. The language that he used upset some of the other photographers. In polite terms, I told him that one had not expected him to use the choice of words he used. He became irritable and pulled me by my shirt.

There was a reason why we were in the front of the group of photographers. I was working for the evening newspaper “Citizen’s Evening”. I was literally pitted against him. The plan was to quickly take the pictures, rush to the office as there was a deadline for printing of the newspaper which came out in the afternoon itself. Chances were that, perhaps, even before the function ended, the newspaper would be out splashing photographs of the evening and also the news – with copies of it making it to the venue.

Where were we? Yes, Balakrishna pulled me by my shirt. It indeed was getting out of hand with no one even making an attempt to intervene. I had no choice but to reciprocate in my own way. That was when everyone around, who otherwise, were watching the goings-on as if it was a show by itself, decided to intervene – of course, as a defence for Balakrishna. He left the grasp on my shirt. And I let it go. He adjusted his collar and left. 


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