Actor Jagapathi Babu opens up about his look that took Tollywood by storm

Playing 'grey'
Jagapathi Babu
Jagapathi Babu

Grey hair, they say, is a sign of maturity and wisdom. But many people, for years, have tried to cover their natural hair with chemical dyes that do more harm than good. Things, however, seem to be changing with celebs like Jagapathi Babu refusing to shy away from flaunting their real and raw mane. The seasoned actor has been acing the salt-and-pepper look, encouraging many others to embrace their true selves.

The actor believes that not being a mainstream actor has worked in his favour. “It gave me the freedom to live my own way, which is natural, real and thoughtful. I like to think that I carry myself better when I’m being true to my natural self,” he says. Mincing no words, he adds: “I feel stupid when I dye my hair or do anything that makes me look different from what I am in real. It makes me feel like I’m living a lie. That’s a big trap people have been falling into these days, especially with the rise in social media platforms.” People look at ageing and greying as a sign of weakness, but the actor begs to differ. “Everybody trying to hide or cover what they call ‘flaws’ must realise that nobody is perfect.”

On his salt-and-pepper look, Jagapathi says, “I wasn’t the first to sport the look in India, but fortunately when I started it in Tollywood, it came at the right time, and people welcomed it. It wasn’t a conscious decision to start some trend; I think I just got away with it because it looked cool.”

We ask him how easy or hard was it to fight the temptation to look young, and he says, “It wasn’t hard at all. I did lose out on some films when I told directors that I wanted to keep the look. It all started when I wasn’t doing any film at a particular point in time and began growing a beard. A photographer asked for a photo shoot, I obliged. But, he asked if I could dye my hair and I refused. He said I didn’t look like a ‘hero’ and I politely told him I wasn’t a hero, I was just an actor. He didn’t have a choice, we went ahead with the shoot and people loved my new look!”

The actor thought that his decision to stand his ground on not altering his reality would affect his career, but slowly, he received the new kind of roles he was looking to play. “I got better roles, even ‘grey’ ones, and the fan following suddenly grew. Some of my best characters in films such as Legend, Srimanthudu, Nannaku Prematho, Goodachari, Oh Baby!, Rangasthalam and Aravinda Sametha... came because of this look. People started to realise that I can do other roles than just a regular rom-com or action film.”

But he also laments about the problem of stereotyping. “Once a bad guy, always a bad guy, believes Tollywood. While I’m tired of playing the villain, I’m definitely looking for meaty and unique roles, not in terms of screen space or money, but just character and variations.”

The actor believes that mainstream actors today, male and female, must aspire to be brave and embrace their real selves, for it can do wonders to people who look up to them. “I still carry the guilt of youngsters taking up smoking after they saw me do it in the film Antahpuram. That’s a sad reality, it shows the kind of responsibility a lead actor carries on his/her shoulders.

We need more raw and mature characters, it’s time we move over hero worship. People from all over the world are watching our films, we don’t need directors to write scripts with a ‘hero’ in mind, the script must be the hero.” The actor will soon be seen in films like Radhe Shyam, Pushpa, Akhanda, Salaar, Ghani and Good Luck Sakhi.

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