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MAN OF THE MOMENT – TEJA SAJJA

MAN OF THE MOMENT – TEJA SAJJA

Teja sajja

Pragmatic, grounded, and realistic. These few words would be apt to describe Teja Sajja, the young star who emerged as a dark horse in the first wave of releases in 2024 with his breakthrough hit, Hanuman. Teja Sajja, the star of the year’s first blockbuster, speaks exclusively to Hashtag magazine about his movie, his stint as a child actor, and why he feels he is in for a long innings with Mallik Thatipalli.

The 28-year-old star of the super-successful movie is basking in the glow of his film, breaking records across India and proving that content is the only king when it comes to winning the audience’s heart. For its young lead, though, this was an affirmation of his struggle over the past eight years when he returned to the arc lights to make his mark as a lead star after a stellar career as a child artist.

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Reacting to the success of Hanuman, he says, “I am extremely relieved, as I have lived with the movie and the associated pressure for almost two years. The success still has to soak in, and I sometimes feel blank when I look at the reviews or hear the numbers. Also, while I was confident that a superhero with Indian roots would be well-received, the extent of its success has taken us by surprise.”

A SUCCESS STORY

The toast of the country, the movie was spawned off a single premise the actor had—why couldn’t a superhero wear a Kurta pajama instead of spandex? —and the result was this movie, which combined action, mythology, and storytelling in one template.

“We had limited resources when we started the movie. When Prashanth narrated the script, which combined stories from Indian mythology via a superhero, I was hooked on it,” he recalls and adds, “The initial reports were positive. We sold the movie to different territories, from Burma to Berlin and Nepal. We invested the money into the movie, as we had full faith in the story.”

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Regarding the success of the movie in the Hindi belt, the actor says he wasn’t surprised. “Some early Hindi exhibitors loved the movie, so we were confident that the movie would hit a chord with North Indian audiences. I think Telugu Industries shares stories of human relationships very well, so when we combined that with a universal theme, we knew we had a winner on our hands,” he shares.

The youngster is clear about the sky-high expectations that will arise from his next movie after the success of Hanuman. He states, “We never expected this movie to do so well, so I believe there was a divine play here. If something does very well in the future, I will be thrilled, but irrespective of the success, if I bring something new to the silver screen each time I come out with a movie, I will consider it a success.”

Everything about the movie was done diligently and differently, from the posters to the teaser, the first glimpse, and the trailer. While the success of the movie excites the actor, he is hopeful that this will be a turning point in his career (much like Khaidi was to his favourite actor Chiranjeevi and Simhadri was to Jr. NTR), giving him a long and exciting career.

For him, the biggest takeaway from the movie was clear: the audience’s reception, and he credits only his director for that. “When people say this movie breached the 100-crore mark or the 200-crore mark, it doesn’t excite me. What moved me was the reaction from the first show when the crowd loved the movie. The math is secondary as far as I’m concerned.”

Also telling about the movie’s success is how rooted it was in its making; it was shot in a village (Vattinagulapalle) just on the fringe of Hyderabad, and its VFX was made by a city firm, proving that all you need for success is determination and passion.

BACK AFTER A BREAK

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For Teja, the movie’s success is a shot in the arm. A very successful child artist in the 90s who acted in over 50 films, he completed his Masters and came back to make it as a hero in 2013.

While movies like Zombie Reddy and Adbhutam and a supporting role in Oh Baby got him success, this marks his significant return to the silver screen. He treasures the fact that Samantha (his Oh Baby co-star) called and raved about the movie, as did Telugu superstar Ram Charan.

The Telugu industry is full of star kids and is notorious for making it difficult for outsiders to make their mark. The young star is measured when he thinks of his reply and says, “Yes, for them (star kids), the entry is easy, but their pressure and expectations are huge. The entry is difficult for us, but until we prove ourselves, the expectations are lower. The only difference is that newcomers find it more difficult to get new directors, but then everyone faces challenges. No journey is easy.”

When asked if the film’s success puts all his struggles over the past decade into perspective, he smiles and says, “I’m thrilled about the accomplishment, as it has given me the foundation to build a career, but success in the film is a curious mix of hard work, talent, and a bit of luck. I’ve had my share of struggle, failure, and disappointment, and I hope fate is kind to me.”

Currently, the actor is keen on returning to the big screen soon, whether it is a sequel to Hanuman or his next movie, an action-adventure that will go on floors soon.

Given his practical outlook, sensible thinking, and enthusiasm to share new stories, one only expects great things from one of India’s first legitimate onscreen superheroes.

Quick Takes   Favourite actors: SRK, Hrithik Roshan, and Karthik Aryan  
A movie you can watch over and over again: Dhoom 2  
Directors on your wish list: Rajamouli and Sukumar  
Inspiration: Chiranjeevi

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