There are only few actors in the Indian film industry whose career went on for decades. One among them is Sircilla-born Paidi Jairaj (Paidipati Jairula Naidu), who had a successful career in Bollywood as an actor and filmmaker. He was one of the few legendary silent-era heroes who left their mark on the Indian film industry.
He rose to stardom and made a name for himself at a time when the Kapoors ruled the industry. Jairaj was born on September 28, 1909, in Sircilla. He was the nephew of Muthyala Govindarajulu Naidu, husband of Sarojini Naidu, the Nightingale of India.
His family had shifted to Hyderabad in his childhood and he did his graduation at Nizam College. Jairaj has been keen on acting since his early years. He was involved in theatrics during his college days.
At some point, Sarojini Naidu advised him to be independent and prove his talent through his efforts. This made him move to Mumbai in 1928 by not regarding his family’s advice to become an engineer and settle in London.
At that time, the Telugu film industry was not yet set up. Silent films were trending in Bollywood. While the acting enthusiasts from Telugu land were moving to Madras for roles in cinema, Jairaj was ten steps ahead and tried to test his talent in Bollywood.
By the time he landed in Mumbai, there was a lot of competition in the industry. Acting in Bollywood was said to be only meant for people belonging to rich families. He began working as a duplicate stuntman in the Sharda Film Company. From pre-production to post-production work, he was skilled in the whole lot. There was not much that Jairaj couldn’t do.
His magnificent physique, Greek looks and fluency in Hindi, Urdu and English languages turned out to be plus points for him.
One of his childhood friends introduced him to Mama Warerka, a well-known producer. Though the first film, which was produced by Warerka, he acted in was not released, Jairaj later played the role of supporting actor in Jagmagti Jawani (1930) directed by Nagendra Majumdar, a famous director during the silent era. Madhav Kale, the lead character in the film, did not want to ride a horse and fight. Jairaj then put on a mask and wrapped up the lead’s scene.
After that, the same director introduced Jairaj as a hero in Rasili Rani. Based on the English novel The Prisoner of Zenda, the film also starred the then famed actor Madhuri and went on to run for five weeks in the silent era and created a sensation.
He later acted in 11 silent films between 1929-1931. The first talkie film Alam Ara came out in 1931, but Jairaj did not get a chance to play a role in that film as he could not sing.
Later that year, Jairaj played the role of a Buddhist monk in the bilingual film Shikari. He did a variety of roles, including villain and comedian. He was always the first choice for the directors for historic roles. He directed and produced a few films too.
He had also acted in three international films. But, surprisingly, none in Telugu.
In his 70-year career in the industry, Jairaj has starred in 11 silent films and over 156 talkie films. In 1980, he was awarded the Dadasaheb Phalke Award, the highest award for films in India, for his contributions to Indian cinema. Indeed, he was the second Telugu person and the first person from Telangana to have been honoured with this award.
Jairaj, who breathed his last on August 11, 2000, at the age of 90, has been a lifelong contributor to the development of Indian cinema with his style of acting and cinematic success.
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