Sudhakar Betha, a noted comedian with a distinctive diction, started his career as a hero in Tamil films. He appeared in almost fifty films in Tamil before he began his career in Telugu films. Though he produced a couple of films, one with his ex-roomie Chiranjeevi and another with Rajendra Prasad, he eventually decided that production does not suit him and continued his profession as a character artiste. He won Nandi Award for ‘Peddarikam’.
Here is a brief interview with the much-talented actor.
Sri: Hello, Sudhakar gaaru! Nice talking to you. Tell me about your background.
Sudhakar: I was born in Markapuram. My father was a Deputy Collector. So, my education never happened in one place. It was all over Andhra Pradesh. I did my intermediate (plus two) in two places – first year in Eluru and second year in Guntur (laughs).
Sri: And the graduation?
Sudhakar: (laughs) No, I haven’t done any! After completing the intermediate, I went to Madras and joined the film institute.
Sri: Talking about the film institute, people always talk about your roommates!
Sudhakar: True. Chiranjeevi gaaru and Hariprasad were my roommates in the institute. Oh, those days! We used to cook each day, share money orders that we got from our families …share everything… alas, those golden days!
Sri: You first started your career with Tamil films, and with a director like Bharathi Raja! How did it happen?
Sudhakar: One day, I went out to have a coffee and Bharathi Raja gaaru spotted me there and soon a person came asking me to meet Bharathi Raja. I went and eventually got selected. It was a dream for anyone. I was on cloud nine, of course! The film ‘Kizhakke Pogum Rail’ was a super hit. (That’s the first film for Radhika too. This movie was later remade in Telugu as ‘Thoorpu Velle Railu’ and in Hindi as ‘Savaare Waali Gaadi’)
Sri: But you didn’t know the language. How did you manage the first movie that way?
Sudhakar: Bhagyaraja gaaru was an assistant director for that film. He knew Telugu, and thus he explained to me all that I needed to know. I used to write dialogues in Telugu and Bhagyaraja gaaru also helped me with the diction part. The film was a huge hit and I was flooded with films.
Sri: How many films did you act in Tamil?
Sudhakar: I think some 45 or 48 films, out of which 35 of them enjoyed a 100-day run.
Sri: You and Radhika were a hit pair in Tamil in those days, I heard.
Sudhakar: Yeah, we did eighteen films together as hero and heroine. Most of them were super hits of the time.
Sri: And, then, what brought you to Telugu Cinema, while you enjoyed a comfortable hero status in Tamil?
Sudhakar: Some politics in Tamil filmdom made me come to Telugu films. No good comes out of talking of the past….(He refused to talk any further on the record.)
Sri: What was your first film in Telugu?
Sudhakar: ‘Srushti Rahasyalu’ with Kommuri Venugopal Rao gaaru, a famous doctor from Vijayawada. The film was a good hit. Then came ‘Oorikicchina Maata’ with Chiranjeevi, ‘Bhogi Mantalu’ etc. followed.
Sri: I was not aware of Srushti Rahasyalu, maybe because it was an adult film, but I guess Oorikicchina Maata and Bhogi Mantalu did get you a good name…
Sudhakar: Yes, Chiranjeevi and I had equal footage in the former. The latter got me a good appreciation too. It was a novel translated into a movie under Vijayanirmala’s direction.
Sri: What made you switch to comedy/character roles?
Sudhakar: That’s destiny! Nothing is in our hands, and everything we get is by God’s grace. I took all offers that came to me, and I tried to improvise them to make my roles more entertaining and enjoyable.
Sri: You made Yamudiki Mogudu with Chiranjeevi, along with your film institute classmates Narayana Rao and Hariprasad, on Dynamic Productions banner. Why was there no other film after that?
Sudhakar: Because Chiranjeevi gaaru could not give dates after that. By the way, Narayana Rao is not our classmate, he was our senior. Hariprasad and I were classmates, yes.
Sri: You’re the youngest among them, right? How old were you when you became a hero with the ‘Kizhakke Pogum Rail’?
Sudhakar: Yes, I was the youngest of all. …I was eighteen when my first film was released.
Sri: Tell me about your marriage.
Sudhakar: It was an arranged marriage. I have a son.
Sri: And, coming back to movies you produced, what happened with Parugo Parugu?
Sudhakar: We made the film ‘Parugo Parugu’ with Rajendra Prasad under the direction of Relangi Narasimha Rao. The film was based on Mallik’s super hit novel with the same title. It was a comedy-based film. Due to various reasons, the film got delayed and it flopped finally.
Sri: Was that a low-budget film?
Sudhakar: It’s a high-budget film at that time, made with sixteen lakhs. As a comparison, if that film was made today, it’d cost a crore and a half!
Sri: You worked with almost all the heroes in Telugu. How’s your relationship with various heroes?
Sudhakar: I have a good relationship with all. I have no hang-ups and they are all nice to me.
Sri: Most other film celebrities have a PRO or someone to interact with media, but you do not interact with media much. Why is that?
Sudhakar: Maybe true. I am not good at maintaining publicity or relations with the media. There is no particular reason for that.
Interviewed by Sri Atluri
Compiled and Edited by Nachaki
(The article was originally published on Feb 18, 2006.)