Tollywood has been the Grim Reaper in the past few months as it bid goodbye to actors Srihari, AV Subrahmanyam and Dharmavarupu Subrahmanyam. And on Monday night, yet another actor breathed his last. However, while the other unfortunate deaths were shocking for their suddenness, what makes the last tragedy even more sad was the fact that the actor chose to end his own life.
Bursting into the industry with his sprightly dimple-cheeked smile in 2000, actor Uday Kiran was found hanging from his ceiling by his wife on Monday night. Declared brought dead at the hospital, his drastic measure has left quite a few shocked by his actions.
A promising actor, Uday Kiran personified the phrase meteoric rise. His first film was Chithram which an instant hit. He followed it up with Nuvvu Nenu and Mansantha Nuvve, both of which again turned out to be resounding successes. With his first three films doing so well, he was touted as the next big star of Tollywood and given the moniker ‘hattrick hero’. In 2003, Kiran was engaged to current Union Minister for tourism, Chiranjeevi’s daughter, which seemed to further cement his position in the industry. However things turned sour soon enough.
It started with the engagement being called off, followed by his films not doing so well. While the actor managed a release every year, post 2003, he sunk just as fast as he rose, if not faster. For two years, between 2008 and 2010, Uday seemed to regroup and wasn’t in the industry limelight, but came back with the film Pen Singham in Tamil, hoping the shift in industries might do the trick. While Tamil cinema did seem to buoy his career a bit, Uday pretty much became a struggling actor.
In June last year, Jai Sriram was released in Telugu (a sequel to his earlier film Sriram), rebranding Uday from the chocolate-boy-next-door image to a more physically robust and rougher image. But the film yet again didn’t do much for his standing in the industry. Amidst the lack of success, on the personal front, the 33-year-old married his long-time friend Vishitha in October 2012. Just a year and some since, it seems like his problems took a toll on him which may have led Kiran to such a ghastly end.
Ironically, industry friends and colleagues remember the young actor as a fairly positive person. Music composer R P Patnaik who rose to fame in parallel with the actor, especially for his tunes for Kiran’s films, says the man always struck him as person with a rather happy disposition. “He was always smiling and cheerful. Despite the slump in his career, he gave the impression that he believed he would make it one day. That moment of despair is challenging and it takes a lot to be strong enough to pass through it. If he had the required support at that time, maybe he wouldn’t have taken his life.”
Those familiar with Uday’s early years in his career will remember that the combination of him and RP Patnaik was an oft favoured one, making the soundscore of even relatively unsuccessful films like Holi, popular.
“There was indeed a craze for our association. It was a good run. But Uday always regarded me as his guide and mentor, not friend.”
A family friend in those days, Patnaik feels the lack of support from his own folks may have also lead to the tragedy. “After his mother’s death, Uday’s father remarried and the relationship dwindled. His sister was like his best friend but is currently in the UAE. Maybe if he had more family support it would have helped. Whatever may have been his problems, I still believe that death is never the answer.”
Given that Kiran had a much better start than most actors, the absence of the initial struggle to make it in the industry may have hurt his overall career much worse.
“He saw the heights of stardom as soon as he came. But nobody stays at the peak for too long. It’s a cycle. For Uday, dealing with this period may have been tougher because he’s never been through it before. But he still seemed positive. In fact, I met him three months ago and he was discussing how he could market his next film and what would work best. He seemed convinced he’d make it again,” shares the composer.
Actor Srikanth who made his way to the hospital on Monday night upon hearing the news, expressed the same notion. Calling Uday his ‘brother and friend’, the visibly distressed actor says, “I’m shocked to know that he is gone because he was too stubborn to take such a tragic step. He was too young to be gone. Moreover, he was an established actor with several hits. We lost three fine Telugu actors last year and now in the beginning of 2014, Uday is gone.”
With success and failure common to many stars in the industry, Tammareddy Bharadwaj, president of the Andhra Pradesh Film Chamber, feels that the youngster took things too harshly. “The industry is as such and both success and failure is common to any actor. It’s hard but actors should be prepared to face both and not take failure too seriously as well.”
Film-maker Teja who directed Kiran in his debut film was very close to the actor and was another close confidante besides RP Patnaik. Just as shocked, Teja shared the same sense of disbelief. “Uday and I started our careers together with Chitram. It was a very special film for both of us and we enjoyed its success together. He was a passionate actor,” he remembers of his pal with whom he recreated magic in the film Nuvvu Nenu.
“When I received the call about his death, I was speechless for a few minutes. I didn’t know how to react because I had lost someone very close in my life,” he adds.
While the lack of films was definitely a sour point in Kiran’s life, most say they didn’t foresee the usually happy man resorting to such an extreme step. “I still can’t understand what made him commit suicide. We didn’t talk recently but when we did the last time, he didn’t talk about anything that may have been bothering him,” Teja says.
While friends still struggle to come to terms with the news, some feel that it isn’t just Uday Kiran, but anybody going through a bad bout could be driven to such a dark place.