When it was announced that Chiranjeevi’s brother would be making his debut, most people sat up on their chairs and took notice.
It was a different world back then – there was no internet, neither were there 24*7 entertainment channels. Since reviews weren’t as popular as they are today, the word of a friend or relative was what made you choose a film over the other.
The only way to know about films was to check out newspapers and magazines. Magazines carried gossip, news stories, and the ‘talk’ surrounding an actor, or a particular film. Also, back then, it wasn’t very common for a star to have his brother acting along with him.
Beginning his innings with Akkada Amnmayi, Ikkada Abbayi, Pawan Kalyan began on a rather somber note. The story was an adaptation of the classic Romeo and Juliet conflict, and his next two films were generally well accepted.
It was in 1998, that things took a turn for the meteoric.
His Arrival: Tholi Prema in 1998 truly kicked off the PK mania in the state. As the lovable brat who can’t muster the courage to tell the girl of his love, Pavan Kalyan touched a nerve with every youngster back then. Perhaps it was because it was an era of bashfulness. Perhaps because we all had crushes we couldn’t confess to.
Thammudu was just that ‘unko laddo kavala naiyna’ moment for his fan base which was steadily growing. As a govt. college student, his attempts to woo a rich girl is simply amazing. Then came Badri, the short tempered guy who rubs his neck when he gets angry. This carved an identity for PK and his style of action and those real time fights.Beginning of the Era: Kushi. PK made this seem as if the character was written exclusively for him. We don’t know what magic he put into the character of Siddhu, we all just fell in love with him. His funky and freestyle nature was something we were never used to seeing on screen. Each of his dialogues in Kushi instantly spread like a virus everywhere and still stand classic. As the previous generation was aging, audiences felt there is a better star coming up.
Post Kushi, PK went ahead to direct the movie Johnny with his then sweetheart Renu Desai as the lead. A decent attempt by PK, he tried many things on the technical side of cinema. It failed to attract the audience. However, the hype and curiosity that Johnny created prior to its release was immense. Fans sported Johnny merchandise (hanky, chain, T-Shirts etc).
What set him aside was the fact that PK choreographed his own fights. Known as a martial artist, he made the fight scenes seem realistic, rather than the dishum dishum that audiences were used to.
It was a new hero for a new age. A generation that grew with the fruits of liberalization, and knew how to express its frustrations and desires. Unfortunately, his greatest hit was followed by his biggest debacle. Johnny sank without a trace, and yet it gave rise to a phenomenon unique in Indian cinema – the cult of the ‘Pawan fans’.Following Johnny, every film that arrived was welcomed with hype and hoopla. Invariably, each of the films sank. For 12 years, not a single film of Pawan Kalyan touched the heights of success of his earlier films.
And yet, each and every film was welcomed with the same fervor and fandom. When Gabbar Singh released in 2012, it was a combination of nostalgia – the sight of a kickass, if slightly immoral Pawan Kalyan – and relief.
I have often wondered what kept his fans going, even if there wasn’t a single hit, for more than a decade?
A lot had transpired in that decade. Newer stars established themselves, older ones faded out, and yet PK fans cheered every release, every audio function, and held on to every word that PK uttered.
It is difficult to put a finger on what exactly makes him tick. He certainly isn’t the best dancer, and arguably, there are actors that look better than him. And yet, none of them have earned the kind of single-minded devotion that PK has.
Ask his fans, and they single out one reason – that he comes across as a ‘person’ and not a ‘star’. For the first time, we had a star talking about farmers’ crises, of struggles and revolutions
Though his public appearances are rare, he reflects transparency in what he speaks. When he fights, it is not just a hero punching the daylights out of a villain, but someone who is passionate about it, someone who seems to be giving it his all. When you meet some unknown people through common friends, and hear the words ‘Cinemalo…nenu pawan kalyan fan’, there is a strange bond that springs up suddenly.
‘Nenu kuda PK fan’.
For the age we are in and the cinema we go through, there have been some wonderful actors and cinema over the years. But, when you ask me to lean on a sofa and choose one actor, I don’t mind picking Pawan Kalyan.
For you see, Pawan Kalyan fans are a different breed. They will not mouth numbers and statistics – of days and centres and prints and screens – those are mere numbers for them.
For them, Pawan Kalyan is an elder brother. One they stood by for more than a decade. A hit or a flop is immaterial. And that, truly, is the sign of a ‘true star’.