With over 50 films to his name, and harbouring a natural ability to leave the crowd cackling with laughter, actor Edara ‘Allari’ Naresh needs no introduction. Born in Palakollu in 1980 and moved to Chennai at the age of 9 months, this talent has carved a niche in the Telugu film industry.
Little Naresh was selectively naughty – only with family and close friends; and for the rest of the world, he was a reserved, laidback backbencher. Talking about boyhood mischief, he recollects maths test, “So I wrote down some formulas on my hand. After the exam, my friend and I were running in the corridor. And out of nowhere, a lecturer came out, and I froze! I put my hands up; it was only after he grabbed my hands that I realised that the formulae were still there. Though it was scary and embarrassing at the time, it was actually quite funny.”
Steps into the industry
With a career spanning close to 18 years, Naresh has given some memorable hits. Surprisingly, the actor denies there was ever a pressure to get into the industry. “When my father began directing, I was nine. Ninety per cent of our vacations were usually to my dad’s shooting spots and it was the train journeys that kept me excited – hopping seats and compartments.”
The Maharshi actor feels if not for being an actor, he would have found a career in the industry itself. Naresh started his industry days as a cashier for his dad’s film Chala Bagundi. “It was the film’s success meet, and Amitabh Bachchan garu was the chief guest. While distributing mementos, he learned that I was the director’s son. He called me and enquired what my height was, to which I replied 6’2 ½” and he told my dad, ‘arey yeh toh Abhishek ke height ka hai, iss ko try kar sakte hai movies mein’ and that made my day. Till then I was hesitant to ask my father about it but his comment gave me the push I needed.”
The Allari prefix
Ravi Babu’s Allari, was Naresh’s debut, a comedy that later became his identity. “People still call me ‘Allari Naresh’ because of the film; and probably would, even in my late 90s so I’d still feel young at heart.”
The actor however, attributes his Allari tag to the press, “While shooting for Dhanalakshmi, I Love You, the film had senior actor Naresh as a part of the team. To avoid confusion, media started calling me Allari Naresh.”
Widely known for his comic roles, the Kithakithalu actor talks about challenges that the genre brings. “With limited emotions, comedies are where magic overpowers logic; the script is written to meet the constant need to make people laugh. I say yes to the script only when I feel the audience can connect to it.”
Quirky character names
The names of his characters have always been slightly quirky. Naming Gaali Seenu as his favourite, he says, “The lead characters names were Abhiram and Janaki, like in the epic, and I was ‘Gaali’ Seenu (like Lord Hanuman) who bridged their gap. The character in Gamyam established me as a performer. It was because of Gamyam that I got Shambho Shiva Shambo, which in turn gave me Maharshi.”
Family is power
“After my father passed away, my brother became a father figure. Even today, for every decision I make, he is my go-to person. While growing up, I’d steal his shirts when going out with friends and he’d get to know only when people asked him why he was wearing my clothes,” he chuckles. I was close to my parents but after my father’s demise, my bond with my mother and brother grew by leaps and bounds.
A match made in heaven
Naresh married Virupa Kantamneni in May 2015 and calls her his best friend. “We genuinely enjoy each other’s company.” Talking about how they met, the actor says, “It was an arranged marriage. She comes from a business background, unlike me.”
The first thing he asked her was if she had watched any of his films, and was shocked when she said no, because by then, he had done over 40 films. “The first thing I did after getting married was making her watch a few of my films,” the actor shares.
“She has me wrapped around her little fingers,” Naresh says while talking about his two-and-a-half-year old tot, Ayana Evika Edara. “These two years with her, watching her grow up has been a real treat. I still remember the day I first time that I held her. She was shorter than my arm and I was speechless. I wanted to cry and laugh both at once. Watching her smile and her ‘allari’ makes me want to make her proud. While my wife plays strict sometimes, I get to play the hero,” he adds with a laugh.