Telugu film director-turned politico Dasari Narayana Rao is known for picking controversial topics like corruption and social injustice for his films. Two of his movies-MLA Yedukondalu (1983) and Osey Ramulamma (1997)-stand testimony to this.
Now, Dasari, who is considered as the doyen of the Telugu film industry and who holds a Guinness World Record for directing the highest number of films (150), has been caught in a scandal himself. He has been accused of receiving Rs 2.25 crore from Congress MP and steel baron Naveen Jindal for allocating a coal block to one of his companies.
This former Union minister of state for coal, who held the portfolio between May 2004 and April 2008, however, does not seem too worried about his name surfacing in the Coalgate scam. He is currently busy giving shape to his new film, Assembly Lo Dongalu Paddaru, which ironically is a political satire about thieves gaining access to the Legislative Assembly.
Dasari, who is known for providing the screenplay and penning lengthy dialogues for his films, is using some of his professional expertise in real life too. He issued a pithy press statement on June 12, 2013, claiming his innocence.
"Nenu Boggula Puli ni Kadhu ... Bobbhili puli ne," (I am not a coal tiger but a tiger from Bobbhili, a place in Andhra Pradesh whose people are known for their valour), Dasari quipped after some local newspapers playing on the title of his 1982 blockbuster Bobbhili Puli, which he had directed with late Andhra Pradesh chief minister NT Rama Rao and Sridevi in the lead, called him a Boggula Puli (coal tiger).
Stating that the first information report of the Central Bureau of Investigation was a conspiracy against him, Dasari in his statement maintained that he would come out untarnished. "The truth will come out soon," he said, while requesting his fans to stay calm.
However, for Dasari, who was born in Palakol in the West Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh in 1947, being at the centre of controversies is nothing new. Especially in the film industry, Dasari is known to be a person who calls a spade a spade. The director, who also has several Hindi films like Swarg Narak, Jyoti Bane Jwala and Pyaasa Sawan to his credit, has never shied away from lashing out at the film fraternity or at people of his own Kapu community ( they are believed to have migrated from Kampilya near Ayodhya).
At a press conference in December 2012, he came out heavily on a few Tollywood (as the Telugu film industry is called) personalities and even threatened to author a book exposing the true colours of some of the film stars. "I have seen the lives of many people in the Telugu film industry. However, many of these people are criticising me instead of admiring me," he had said, adding that he could hardly find any creativity in films that were being made by them.
While many believed that Dasari made these comments targeting actor Chiranjeevi, now Union minister for tourism and who also belongs to the same Kapu community, Dasari was quick to react the very next day, saying Chiranjeevi was like his son and his words were not targeted at any individual. Dasari, instead, took potshots at the media for misinterpreting his comments.
There were also reports in early 2012 that YSR Congress, floated by former chief minister YS Rajasekhara Reddy's son, YS Jaganmohan Reddy, who is now cooling his heals in the Chanchalguda jail on corruption charges, was in talks with Dasari to rope him in a bid to capture the sizeable Kapu vote bank. But Dasari proved to be a tough nut and could not be persuaded.
These days Dasari is keeping a low profile and confining himself to the film industry, mostly attending film launches and working on his own directorial ventures. He is also believed to be miffed with the Congress leadership for not re-inducting him into the Union ministry in the second term of the UPA government. Given the sudden turn of events, Dasari's future now is anybody's guess.