The best looking, even the most stylishly dressed actor at the Oscars 2023, was not Idris Elba, it was our very own Konidela Ram Charan Teja, wearing a sharply cut asymmetrical Shantanu & Nikhil three-piece black ensemble. Accompanying him on the world’s most watched champagne carpet was his pregnant wife, Upasana Kamineni, equally elegant in a white sari (the couple’s combined net worth is an estimated 02,500 crore). As the S.S. Rajamouli gang exulted after winning the Oscar for the turbo-charged superhit song, ‘Naatu Naatu’ from RRR, there must have been countless Indian cinema movie buffs, who sat up and asked themselves, “Why have we not seen more of this talented man?” Frankly, I had felt the same way after watching RRR and trying the tricky hook step of ‘Naatu Naatu’. It was only after Ram’s appearance at the Oscar’s that I connected the dots and recalled a common friend gushing over the superstar. He had slipped into Mumbai most unobtrusively for a promotional shoot, and the local paps had left him alone—they had failed to click his airport look, nor was there a contingent tailing him to the studios. He had gone largely unrecognised, even though RRR had generated a huge buzz across India and emerged as one of the biggest hits ever. For all his mega success and popularity down south, three Filmfare awards, and making it to the Forbes’ India Celebrity 100 list, Ram Charan, with an impressive Instagram presence of 12.9m followers, remains a comparatively unknown movie star outside his zone.
All that is likely to change with his Oscar’s appearance. Strange how one single, high-profile moment in an illustrious and prolific career can suddenly alter popular perception? That goes for Jr NTR as well. Two enormously talented young men—both, sons of legendary movie stars.
This is not another column on how the south has conquered the north—far from it. It is more about the power of media in creating and projecting stars from Bollywood at the expense of far more successful (even in terms of what they earn) actors who exist outside Bollywood’s insular orbit. Ram Charan owns a polo team, is a co-owner of TruJet, and at 37, not just a leading actor, but a producer and entrepreneur, as well. He is married to his school sweetheart, who is carrying their first child. All this makes for excellent copy, but I have still to read Ram’s interviews or marvel over his bon mots, soundbytes or fashion spreads. Why so?
I asked his media team in Mumbai about the absence of Ram’s publicity of the kind generated by a Ranbir Kapoor or Ranveer Singh each time they step out. I was told Ram prefers it this way and is not keen to go flat out to woo the paps. And that he values his privacy and abhors the pomp and show of strutting around Mumbai with an entourage of beefy bodyguards. This attitude alone warrants an award in a city that thrives on headline seekers who make a career out of outraging prudes and posturing in public.
Here is a man who seems to go about his life and business with far more discretion and dignity, sensibly focusing on making movies that leave a huge impact on the box office. To date, Cherry (Ram’s pet name) has acted in 30-odd films. He is also self-aware enough to give himself an annual break when he undertakes the 41-day Ayyappa deeksha at Sabarimala Temple, as a spiritual and self-disciplinary programme to destress and detox from the demands of his profession.
When I saw a galaxy of top stars from the south gracing the cover of India’s glossiest celebrity magazine, and heard the most wonderful stories about each and every award winner at the glitzy night in Hyderabad, I said to myself, “About time, too!” The awesomeness of people like Rajamouli is a given. Now we have a Ram Charan making it to the best dressed lists of The Wall Street Journal, Variety and others. Way to go—you are indeed the Cherry on the Oscar’s cake, Ram Charan! Hollywood is waiting with open arms to grab you.