Those were the days in the mid-70s when talents passing out of FTII, Pune were creating one sensation after the other in the film industry. The home for South Indian cinema, Madras too aimed to nurture talents from the other part of the country, after which the South Indian Film Chamber of Commerce commenced an exclusive acting course. A young, dreamy-eyed man in his 20s was among the 100 applicants for the fifth batch of the course in this institute. Only 42 among them were shortlisted for an interview. The shortlisted acting aspirants were given a dialogue to perform in front of a jury comprising DVS Raju, Dasari Narayana Rao, K Viswanath, Y G Parthasarathy to name a few.
By the time, this youngster had his turn, the jury was increasingly getting tired of hearing the same dialogues repeatedly and asked him if he could do anything different. The acting aspirant wanted to showcase his dancing abilities. There was no tape recorder or any music system in the vicinity, yet the man, sweating profusely, got his rhythm right, murmuring random tunes in his mind and danced with immense enthusiasm. This youngster was none other than Konidela Siva Sankara Vara Prasad, then nicknamed Prasad, who was among the 8 people to have been selected in the course that day.
One of Prasad’s roommates, while he was doing his acting course, was (actor-turned-comedian) Sudhakar, who received two offers at once – a Telugu film named Punadhirallu and a Tamil project Kizhakku Pogum Rail to be directed by Bharathi Raja. When it came to a point where Sudhakar could choose only one of the projects, he chose the latter. Sudhakar had asked Prasad to accompany him while he went to tell Punadhirallu’s producer (Gudapati Rajkumar) that he could no longer be part of the film. As luck would have it, the producer asked if Prasad could replace Sudhakar in the film, given he informed the news in very short notice. Prasad asked for some time, unable to choose between his acting course and the film offer that came out of nowhere.
After some deliberation, Prasad made up his mind to do Punadhirallu. His parents, brothers were overjoyed about the first film opportunity. When it came down to choosing his screen name, there were many names in consideration, but none of them was finalised. Prasad took a quick nap in the meanwhile, where he had a dream about a young girl calling him Chiranjeevi and asking him to vacate the temple premises. The dream was fresh in the mind of Prasad and the name Chiranjeevi happened to intrigue Prasad.
Prasad even asked his mother Anjana Devi if the name Chiranjeevi would work as his screen name. The reply was a resounding yes! He was a devotee of Lord Anjaneya and Chiranjeevi happened to be one of the many names of the God too. Additionally, the fact that Anjana Devi was also referred to as the mother of Lord Anjaneya as per mythology, made the name a perfect choice. And that’s when Konidela Sivasankara Varaprasad came to be known as Chiranjeevi in the filmland. Now, it’s a name that shall remain in the history books as long as Telugu cinema is alive.