The year was 2021, when lockdown forced many movies to seek an OTT release – and this was also the beginning of new age Indie cinema in Telugu marked by some landmark films. One of them was ‘Cinema Bandi’. Set in a village on Andhra – Karnataka border casting new actors, some of them locally sourced speaking in a distinct dialect of the region, cinema Bandi produced by Raj & DK and directed by a newcomer Praveen Kandregula fired the imagination of the audience and the film fraternity alike. A small film whose success inspired several young film makers to think outside the box, it cast actors who made a promising debut. Amongst them was Rag Mayur – who stole hearts with his passionate portrayal of Maridesh Babu, the village barber who gets cast as the hero of a film that an auto driver decides to shoot when he gets his hands on a video camera. The role and the dialogues of Maridesh Babu have attained a cult status over the time, and Rag Mayur who many mistook for a boy from Chittoor region – has had a dream launch that continues to keep him relevant in the hearts of people through memes, mentions, awards and records even after two years.
No wonder Rag Mayur preferred to wait for yet another dream role before he signed for a movie – because he knew a good film and role would be expected of him. And, then the national award winning director, actor and writer Tharun Bhascker happened to him. He worked with Tharun in two advertisements in the last two years and he was also cast in one of the episodes of Modern Love Stories Hyderabad directed by Venkatesh Maha. And then the moment arrived when he got a chance to work in Tharun Bhascker’s film – the mad thriller – Keedaa Cola that releases in theatres on November 3. In the film he plays the role of Lancham – a Telugu word for bribe – and his tag line reads he would do anything for money. The film with a bunch of lead characters gives equal footage and prominence to all roles and Rag Mayur stands out as this money minded local boy who speaks Hyderabadi Telugu. In addition to working with Tharun the film helped him realise yet another dream – of working with comedy king Brahmanandam.
Working with Tharun Bhascker
Working with Tharun Bhasker was my dream for the last 10 years that I had been manifesting. I first met him on Club House which he may not remember but it was my star moment. During the time of lockdown I was on many chatrooms discussing Cinema Bandi. My role of Maridesh Babu was so impactful and the iconic dialogue became so popular that it sustained my image even though my volume of work wasn’t as much.
Later, Tharun wanted me to audition for a film that is yet to happen. Meanwhile, he called me for a Mc Donald’s advertisement and then Paytm advertisement when I knew I was still in the right direction. It was during Covid that I was asked to audition for a role in Keedaa Cola. The audition went well, but the team wanted to fool me and did not inform me about the result for a month. It was after lockdown when I went to Tharun’s office to check about the role, and he confirmed that I got the role. Once I knew I had the role I decided to give it my 100 percent. I did not want any distraction as this was my chance to prove myself.
If it’s Tharun’s film, a certain quirkiness is expected. When he announced the title – I knew it would raise curiosity. The film turned out to be a huge entertainer and the best team to work with. We used to have so much fun while shooting Life during and after Maridesh Babu. There is a story behind how I got the role of Maridesh Babu. When I did the role of Maridesh Babu in Cinema Bandi, I knew the role would get laughs, but did not expect it to become so big. And, whoever admired me – they did so with all their heart. And, they expected good work from me and I wanted to do quality work and so I waited. During this time Venkatesh Maha – yet another director I wanted to work with casted me in Modern Love Stories directly without even auditioning. While there were many who wanted to cast me in rural comedies after Cinema Bandi – he spotted the sophisticated city guy in me, which is the quality of a creative director like Maha. Based on what he saw with the way I carry myself in my personal life – he offered me the role.
I was directing short films, and doing theatre while auditioning for roles, when I had the opportunity to work with the now legendary Raj & DK in Cinema Bandi, which continues to keep me relevant. We went with the film to the international Film Festival where we were one of the few films to have walked the red carpet. Even today I come across memes on Maridesh Babu. My role in Tharun’s film ‘Keedaa Kola’ is going to be interesting as well. There are no heroes in the film. Each character is important. My character’s name is Lancham in the film. Keedaa Cola is a crime comedy and the audience will be laughing throughout and will be coming back for the missed parts.
I am a Hyderabadi boy and belong to RTC X Roads area – the mecca of Telugu cinema. I did my schooling from Padma Rao Nagar. I got State rank in EAMCET and studied Computers from OU Engineering College, did my Masters in the US. However, cinema was with me all along. I have been a huge Shahrukh fan as well. However, I continued to work in Bangalore even while waiting for a role. However, now I have shifted to Hyderabad to complete my projects and seek more.