JP: The Legend Of Chandrababu is the title of the biopic on the yesteryear comedian-hero. It will helmed by director K Rajeshwar, as an Indo-Russian production.
Rajeshwar, the director of Kovilpatti Veera laxmi and Amaran, says that the incredible story of Chandrababu is what prompted him to take it up. “Chandrababu had a surprising life on and off screen. He lived at the time of great actors like Sivaji Ganesan and MGR and gave them tough competition. He had a dramatic rise to the top and equally dramatic decline. At the time of his death, he was living in squalor. He had no electricity and huge bills to pay,” Rajeshwar tells Silverscreen.
Chandrababu was born as Joseph Pani Maya Maatha Pichai, and later changed his name. He was the son of the freedom fighter JP Rodriguez, and he rubbed shoulders with icons like Kamaraj and Sathyamurthy during his childhood. But his passion for cinema brought him to a different world altogether.
At one point, he was paid a salary greater than the star of the films he acted in. Rajeshwar says, “That itself says something about his powerful presence. He was a comedian with a conscience. He could play dramatic roles as well. But he also had a lot of untapped potential.”
The director believes Chandrababu was a generous man at heart. His huge spirit and helping nature endeared him to all. Ultimately, it proved to be his downfall too. He says, “He had huge dreams for himself. He tried to make a film called Maadi Veettu Yezhai with MGR. The actor did not turn up for shooting on time and this led to several issues. The film remained unreleased and made Chandrababu a pauper. He once built a fancy house on Greenways road. But his death only brought back memories of the title of his directorial. He died like a maadi veettu yezhai.”
Rajeshwar says that his biopic on Chandrababu will not be entirely fact-based. “I have written a scene where I show MGR and Chandrababu interacting with each other. This is my version of the events, and not entirely accurate. But that is necessary,” he says.
The biopic will see famous personalities like Kamaraj, MS Viswanathan, MGR, Sivaji Ganesan, Savithri, Kannadasan as well. Casting is on to find appropriate faces for the roles, says Rajeshwar. But the most important task for the team is to find a suitable, ‘mainstream’ actor to essay the role of Chandrababu. Rajeshwar says that the team is in talks with a few actors for the role and nothing is final as yet. “Chandrababu was a very unique personality. Even if we can’t find someone who looks like him, we have to atleast try and secure an actor who can capture the essence of him. That is very important,” Rajeshwar says.
Chandrababu grew from a humble origin to become the biggest star in the fifties. “His is the story of an underdog who fought against all odds to rise to the top. This success did not last and he died a broken man. I believe that this must be documented. His comic timing was amazing, and his confidence to flit between dramatic and comic roles was unparalleled. When so many stars straddle different spheres now with ease, it is because Chandrababu paved the way for them,” says Rajeshwar.
Due to a series of bad decisions, Chandrababu’s career went into a decline. Nagesh had already made inroads into the movie world by then and was more in demand, says Rajeshwar. “But Chandrababu will always remain a legend. He was born before his time. Now, he would be an icon. My film is an attempt at showing him as the legend he is,” he adds.
Popular songs rendered by Chandrababu will also feature in the film. Rights to these tracks are being secured by the production firm.
An official launch of the project is expected soon.