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Jairaj: 'Telangana Bidda' who was a star in Hindi cinema for seven decades

Jairaj: ‘Telangana Bidda’ who was a star in Hindi cinema for seven decades
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Jairaj: ‘Telangana Bidda’ who was a star in Hindi cinema for seven decades

Highlights

Long before the southern film heroes of the 1980s and 1990s like Kamal Haasan, Rajinikanth, Chiranjeevi and Venkatesh went on to take up film assignments in Hindi, there was an eager aspirant, hailing from Telangana who travelled to Bombay (as it was known then) and stayed on as a film star there for a record 70 years. Surprised? You better be!

Long before the southern film heroes of the 1980s and 1990s like Kamal Haasan, Rajinikanth, Chiranjeevi and Venkatesh went on to take up film assignments in Hindi, there was an eager aspirant, hailing from Telangana who travelled to Bombay (as it was known then) and stayed on as a film star there for a record 70 years. Surprised? You better be!

The legend in question is none other than PaidiJairaj Naidu (1909-2000), popularly known as Jairaj, who was blessed with a longevity under the spotlight from 1930 till the year 2000. For the first 35 years, he was a hero in over 140 films and for the next 35 years, he played the character artiste in 120 films. Straddling across genres, his imposing personality lent heft to historical roles for which he would be remembered forever, writes T Sreekanth in a loving compendium of the titan's works as a coffee table book titled – ' To Bombay With Love' aggregating P Jairaj's life, times and films.

The book has a foreword by iconic ShyamBenegal who compliments the author of this biographical work by saying that he 'has brought to life the warm and wonderful personality of Jairaj'. Benegal praises Jairaj's versatility, his long career span and work range from stunt films to historical epics to contemporary social dramas. A mention about the college – Nizam College – from where Jairaj graduated is also mentioned.

Commencing his arduous journey in 2010 when a quotation of Swami Vivekananda inspired him to take up the project of profiling Jairaj, Sreekanth describes succinctly in his preface how he went about the onerous task. Of course, this involved multiple trips to Mumbai, regular contact with many members of the Hindi film industry of that era, nostalgic wrap-ups with legends of the bygone times and putting together the monumental material in a cogent, easy-to-read format.

Since the author is also a designer with an earlier book on Telugu hero Kantha Rao taken up a few years earlier, the visual planning and designing works out to be easy on the eye. Splitting the 260- odd pages into three distinct sections on the hero's life and times, his range of films and a filmography to go along, the book is a treat for lovers of archival, old world Hindi cinema.

Jairaj had an impressive range of heroines with whom he co-starred including the all-time favourites like Madhubala and Nargis. Yet, as the author himself mentions, Jairaj's stature could not be measured as his films were low-budget productions, the songs in them were not very popular and the hero himself was not very successful in the song and dance routine formats of social entertainers. Still, as Sreekanth mentions that Dilip Kumar, the living great of Hindi cinema went totally nostalgic and emotional when asked about Jairaj, a tribute to the kind of an association our man from the Deccan plateau made in Bombay. As far as awards and encomiums go, Jairaj was conferred with the DadasahebPhalke Award in 1980 and also is featured in the Guinness Book of World Records for his career span of seven decades.

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