He isn’t known as a living legend for nothing. Nagarjuna is to Telugu cinema what Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan are to Tamil cinema. A bracing blend of brawn and brain, Nag is capable of being cute and compelling at same time. These performances prove it.
1. Geetanjali (1989):
Nagarjuna in Geetanjali
When Nagarjuna worked with Mani Ratnam, there was magic. He dived into a majestically morbid tale of two terminally ill people who fall in love. The film could have been a real downer what with the scrip demanding a macabre joy in pain and suffering. But Nag’s innate sense of positivity with some help from his co-star Girija Shettar elevated this sob story into something sublime and life-enforcing.
2. Siva (1989):
During the same year when Geetanjali showed Nag’s supreme sensitivity, he also did a somersault (and added a few kicks to it) in Ram Gopal Varma’s raw guttural campus actioner where Nag played the angry boy-man with a vibrant virility. The performance and the film rank among the most powerful studies of the distortions in the student-politics nexus. This was not a film, it was an adrenaline-pumping treatise on youth unrest. Wonder what happened to Varma! Why did he make the horrendous Officer with Nag 28 years later? More importantly why did Nag agree to be in it?
3. Govinda Govinda (1994):
Nagarjuna in Govinda Govinda
An absolutely crazy film by Ram Gopal Varma meshing mythology, fantasy, crime and comedy, tantra and telekinisis, this one works like a charm if you are a Sridevi fan. Director Ram Gopal Varma was. He infuses every frame with an idolatory giggle. Nag pitched in with his own devil-may-care James Dean-meets-MGR kid of swaggering performance as a taxi driver who helps the diva in distress.
4. Zakham (1998):
Nagarjuna in Zakham
In Hindi cinema Nag was not quite the outsider that Chiranjeevi proved himself to be. His rapport with Mahesh Bhatt yielded some intense work, none more so than Zakham where he played a filmmaker torn between two women. The role was based on Mahesh Bhatt’s own life. Nag played it straight. No frills. No melodrama. He is incapable of melodrama.
5. Manmadhudu (2002):
In this beautifully laid-out rom-com, Nag starred as a misogynist who lives to regret falling in love, until he meets Ms Right Sonali Bhendre. Now, 17 years later, Nag is back in Manmadhudu 2 playing a guy who simply LOVES women. If you have seen any traces of aging since the other film, let me know. I didn’t.