January 08, 2012 Y. Sunitha Chowdhary
"I've picked up my audience over my career spanning 25 years in television," says Ashok Kumar who is a household name in Andhra Pradesh. Looking relaxed and content, the actor reminisces fondly the numero uno position he enjoyed for years together on the small tube and avers that money was the last thing on his mind.
"I was into theatre since childhood and even while I pursued law and turned into an advocate I never gave up theatre, I kept it as a hobby. I also never set my sight on becoming a movie artist. The pilots on Tenali Ramakrishna, the first episode onwards made me popular and turned me into a super star of television, those days Doordarshan was the only channel, the entire street would have only one or two television sets. People would rush to have a glimpse of me like they would to a film hero; the success ignited my passion for acting."
Despite so many years on the small tube why didn't he use his experience and connections to become a regular face or perhaps as popular as other character artistes in movies? He ponders over the possible reasons, "The stardom on television had become a hurdle, I had too many commitments.
In movies you should keep trying and some day you'll click, I didn't have the time then and my focus was here. I did work as a hero in a few films but don't know why I didn't click. Most people come into the movies and think about money from day one, since I was already comfortable when I entered this field I stuck to my passion. I instead ran behind, name, fame and good roles. Still I was the highest paid man on television."
Bezawada might have flopped but the actor who outshone others was Ashok Kumar, he avers that if the film clicked his second innings in movies could have begun but there is always a next time. His best role was in Vengamamba wich again didn't work well at the box office.
Ashok Kumar who has completed 24 years in the television industry agrees that there is a lot of variation in remunerations given to artists from movie industry who join television. What the artists who have been working for years together is comparatively less, not fair but says it's all in the game..one must live and let live. He speaks highly of television which has given him a life.
He adds, "TV provides bread and butter for a lot of people who have slipped out of films, it gives retirement options and shelter and also provides overnight name and fame and lot more, a person is busy for 30 days and has no dates to allot to anyone else plus people who seek a career now are more blessed, there are plenty of opportunities."
Ask him for the reason of his long standing career, Ashok Kumar attributes it to being choosy in roles. "The industry can survive without anyone but we should reach such a position that they should think of you only for a certain role, we should remember our mistakes so as to not repeat them. I'm going to direct a film soon."