Teja (film director)

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Teja in 2012
Born Dharma Teja
(1966-02-22)22 February 1966
Madras, India
Nationality Indian
Occupation Film director, producer, screenwriter, distributor, exhibitor, entrepreneur.
Years active 1985–present
Notable work(s)
Home town Hyderabad
Religion Hinduism
Spouse(s) Srivalli (m. 1992)

Teja is a popular Indian film cinematographer turned director, predominant in Telugu and Hindi cinema. He made a slam bang entry into Tollywood with a string of blockbusters, including Chitram, Nuvvu Nenu, Jayam and Nijam.[1] After working in Bollywood from 1984 to 2000, he made his directorial debut in Telugu cinema with Chitram.[2] He introduced over five hundred actors, technicians including Uday Kiran, Nitin, Kajal Agarwal, Navdeep and Sunil. He has garnered many awards, notably- Andhra Pradesh State Nandi Award for Best Director and Filmfare Award for Best Director – Telugu for Nuvvu Nenu.[3]

He is not only famous for his film work, but also infamous for his short-temper and eccentricity.[4] He is known to often use unconventional ways to obtain satisfactory performances from actors on sets.[5][6][7][8][9]

Teja in an ABN-interview named various persons responsible for his younger son's death, he also further stated that he had done all sorts of odd jobs for survival, including illegal frying and sale of marijuana.[10][11][12][13]

Life and career[edit]


Teja was born in Madras, Tamil Nadu, India. His father, Jasti Balaram Krishna, was a Japan based businessman. His family was one of the richest in Tamil Nadu.[14] Teja only at a very young age was involved in his family export business, majorly in hair export from Tirupathi, Andhra Pradesh to Narita, Japan.,[15] Having lost both his parents at a young age, he was forced to live with his relatives. His paternal uncle, Jasti Madhav Rao, dismantled/destroyed their family business and tortured Teja and his two sisters. Unable to bear his uncle and aunt's harassment, Teja ran away from home. He slept on pavements.[16] He did all sorts of odd jobs for survival, such as truck and car wash, rickshaw pulling, illegal frying and sale of marijuana.[17] Teja joked that he used to work for All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) party in Chennai, and used to black mark any Hindi text found anywhere, either on billboards, posters or on walls, and later it was the Hindi film industry that became his bread and butter. Teja in many interviews recollected many traumatic events in his childhood, including being chased by gay police men, his sister Vinny being left at an orphanage by their uncle, him sleeping in rains on pavements, etc.[18]

Teja in 1994, shooting for Ghulam

Early work: 1980 to 1991[edit]

Teja worked in Tamil film shoots as a spot boy, who ran all types of errands. With his hard work he was able to slowly work his way up. After working in lighting and sound departments he moved into the camera department and worked under Ravikant Nagaich, and W.B. Rao. He then took up assignments for documentaries presented in National Geographic Channel.[19] Teja started growing popular among film personalities, after shoots and during breaks he used to tell his gang of friends short stories and movie ideas, one of whom was Ram Gopal Varma, Ramu impressed with Teja's ideology, took Teja along with him to work on his directorial debut Shiva. Teja was the first assistant director for the film, he also designed posters and handled the publicity. He also played a pivotal role in the filming of the major action sequences of the film, those including the extremely famous cycle chain scene and others. He designed new types of posters, those including silhouettes and also changed the colour in which film titles were written. He later collaborated with Ram Gopal Varma on Kshana Kshanam, Rangeela, Raat, Raatri, Drohi, Antham, Gaayam, Money, Govinda Govinda, Rangeela and others.[20][21][22][23][24][25][26]

Cinematography: 1992 to 1999[edit]

Teja debuted as cinematographer in 1992 with Raat, for which he won Nandi Award for best cinematography. He worked as cinematographer for many of Ram Gopal Varma's films. He later stopped working in the south and moved to Bombay. Aamir Khan, impressed seeing Teja's work gave him his next big break and employed him as the cinematographer for Baazi. After which he went on to do films such as Teerpu, The Don, Jis Desh Mein Ganga Rehta Hain, Krodh, Krishna, Shsahtra, Rakshak, Tere Mere Sapne, Vishwavidhaata.[27] He garnered twenty six Awards for best cinematography. Teja became extremely popular in Bollywood, when he shot night scene in Sydney airport with only two torch lights. He is said to have ghost directed one film in Hindi before making his directorial debut.[28][29][30][31][32][33][34][35]

Directorial debut: 2000[edit]

From 2000 to 2013, barring few films which managed to garner high profit margins, small budget films have had a poor run at the box office. Most filmmakers who make films on low budgets dream of repeating the success story of one of the first low-budget films which got a profit margin to the scale of 20:1 i.e. for every one rupee spent on the film, the producers grossed a return of rupees twenty. Almost unimaginable. The film which accomplished this feat was Chitram. It also marked the debut of Uday Kiran and Reema Sen.[36][37][38][39][40]

Working as cinematographer, Teja used to frequently schedule Hindi film shoots in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh as to spend more time with his wife and son. Many schedules were planned in Ramoji Film City. As Teja was shooting in Film city, an elderly man came up to him and thanked him for all the business he was giving them, Teja not paying much attention continued shooting. Later realising that, that elderly man was Ramoji Rao, he went up to his office to apologise. In conversation with Mr. Rao, he said it was possible to shoot an entire film completely in Film City with a very small budget of thirty to forty lakhs. This materialised into Chitram. Chitram initially released only in eleven theatres, but after the great talk it garnered, overnight they were printing hundreds of reels in Usha Kiran production offices. The film, Chitram, became a huge hit and revolutionised Telugu cinema. Chitram paved way for a variety of new age romantic/love films in Tollywood. It starred Udhay Kiran and Reema sen, both of whom became superstars in early 2000s. All the actors and crew members who worked on this film were only paid an amount of eleven thousand rupees, but after the film's huge success the cast and crew were gifted gold chains by Mr.Rao.[41] The movie's plot (two students end up having a baby and later get married…and it all happens while they are still in high school), was then considered very futuristic, seven years later a Hollywood flick Juno, was made with a similar story line. Critics praised Chitram and said Teja was a director ahead of his time.

After this, there was no turning back, Teja's next venture was Family circus, Starring Jagapathi babu, Rajendra Prasad, high comedy-drama. It had an average reception, but was given 4 star rating by Deccan Chronicle, a popular English daily. Although Family circus had an average run at the box office, it was huge success on cable TV and other home viewing networks.[42]

Rise to prominence: 2000 to 2002[edit]

Teja Directed Nuvvu Nenu, in 2001, it is an all time blockbuster, and was the year's highest grosser. Uday Kiran and Anita Hassanandani played the lead roles. The supporting roles were done by Benarjee, Tanikella Bharani, Dharmavarapu Subramanyam, Telangana Sakuntala etc. "Gajuwaka Pilla" is a super hit song in this film. Music was given by R. P. Patnaik. A popular Deccan Chronicle critic gave the film a very poor rating and joked that "Nuvvu Nenu evaru ee cinema choodakudadhu", on the two hundredth day of the film's run, Teja arranged a special screening of the film for the critic. Nuvvu Nenu received six Nandi Awards and had a total run of three seventy five days.[41] With this film, Teja introduced now popular actor and comedian Sunil to the industry. After Nuvvu Nenu, Teja and Udhay kiran became household names, and it marked Teja's rise to prominence.

Nuvvu Nenu was remade in Hindi starring Tushar Kapoor and Anita Hassanandani, although it was huge success in the south, it failed at the Hindi box office.

Teja at Universal Studios.

Stardom: 2002 to 2005[edit]

Jayam (2002), is Telugu film directed and produced by Teja, starring Nitin, Sadha, and Gopichand in the lead roles. It was a massively successful at the box office. It broke all records and was declared biggest hit of Tollywood, whose records were later broken only by Pokiri. The film was shot on very low budget of rupees two crore, It had a gross revenue of rupees thirty eight crore, It is the most profitable Telugu film till date. This movie was produced under Chitram Movies, Teja's home production company. It was later remade into Tamil with same title as Jayam (2003), starring Jayam Ravi and Sadha in lead roles which was debut in Tamil for both of them. It also starred Senthil, Gopichand, Mayilsamy, Suman Shetty and Ramesh Khanna. The Tamil version was also an all time box-office blockbuster. 'Jayam', was prefixed to the film's lead Ravi's name, now he is popularly know as Jayam Ravi.[43] A unique publicity campaign was launched for Jayam (Telugu), a hand mark of blood, was put all over the state, underlined with a text stating "Jayam choodandi".[44]

Teja gained tremendous popularity post the release of Jayam, he gained star power equivalent to that of leading actors. The name "Teja" became a huge crowd puller. As all of Teja's films up till then starred debutants, he became the face of all his movies, which was rather unusual in Telugu cinema as normally the director is overshadowed by the lead actor. Because of tremendous popularity he was put on his subsequent film posters.[45]

Teja next venture was Nijam (English: Truth), released in 2003, starring Mahesh Babu and Rakshitha in lead roles. The film was dubbed into Hindi as Meri Adalat and was remade into Oriya as Arjuna which was an all time blockbuster. The movie was praised by critics but was average grosser at box office. Teja before its release said, "It is also a love story, which has two kinds of loves. One is between a boy and girl and another between a boy and the country. This film would be having one hero and two heroines. And it's going to be very very (Teja emphasizes on using two very's) violent. That film might be certified 'A' as well. I want to show my solution for a corruption-free India. But I don't give any message through this film. I want to only entertain for two and half hours".[46]

Exhibition and distribution : 2006 to 2007[edit]

Teja later ventured into exhibition and distribution. He bought few cinemas including the famous Ramatalkies located in the centre of visakhapatnam. Ramatalkies is prime property and is valued over rupees hundred crore. The junction in which it is located was renamed Ramatalkies junction.The orange Hanuman flag flies on top all of Teja's theatres. Teja also setup chitram-movies distribution offices in Hyderabad and Vizag. He distributed films such as Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Spider-Man 2, Spider-Man 3, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift and many others in Nizam and other districts.[47]

Teja working in a construction site.

Slump: 2007 to 2009[edit]

In the following years, Teja made Jai.[48] Actor Navdeep's debuted with this film, he was paired with Santhoshini and Ayesha Julka. It was dubbed in Tamil as Jairam. The film had an average run in both languages. The story tries to marry romance and patriotism. Teja later made Dhairyam, and Avunanna Kadanna, simultaneously. He stated that the producer N. Sudhakar Reddy had changed and edited a part of his film Dhairyam, which lead led to many differences between the two. Teja fed up, returned his remuneration, arranged a press meet and declared he had nothing to do with the film. Dhairyam failed at the box office, whereas Avunanna Kadanna had a decent run and was declared a hit. After This Teja made Lakshmi Kalyanam (2007). Kalyan Ram plays the lead role alongside Kajal Agarwal. The film released on 15 February 2007, It had an average run at the box office. Teja's quest for a much needed blockbuster continued. Many hoped Keka starring veteran lyricist Seetha Rama Sastry's younger son Raja would change this. Keka was a much-hyped film, failed miserably at the box-office. It was the biggest flop in Teja's career. It was produced on Teja's home banner, and it landed him in huge financial mess.[49]

Alleged trespass: 2010 to 2011[edit]

Cases were registered against Teja for allegedly trespassing into the house of film producer Chadalavada Srinivasa Rao.[43] According to the police, pr, Srinivasa Rao, had bought an independent house belonging to Teja at Plot No. 1363, on Road No. 45, Jubilee Hills for rupees thirteen crore. He made an initial payment of Rs 30 million. An agreement was made to this effect and a sale deed executed in favour of Srinivasa Rao. But Rao had been evading payment of the balance amount of Rs ten crore, police said. Soon after the agreement, Teja vacated the house and Rao took possession of it. Though Rao was not residing there he engaged a watchman to guard the premises. Jubilee Hills police inspector K Narsing Rao said ``According to the complaint lodged by Srinivasa Rao, Teja forcibly drove the watchman out and took possession of the house’’.

``Last night, around 11 pm, hundreds of goons barged into my house. They forcibly occupied it and are refusing to vacate it. They were sent by Teja,’’ Srinivasa Rao told Express. He also alleged that Home Minister P Sabitha Indra Reddy was supporting Teja and that the police slept over his complaint last night. ``Teja claims that Srinivasa Rao has to pay him the balance ten crore,’’ the inspector said. Teja later met the press and released copies of sale deed, sale agreement, GPA and others, and stated he was the sole and only owner of the house, and no agreement was made with Rao. Teja is currently residing in this house.

CID investigation[edit]

Bhanu Kiran, gangster and alleged killer of Maddelacheruvu Suri, in his reported confession to CID said that he was approached by Teja to settle a property dispute.[50] In his confession, Bhanu, however, told the CID that he did not play a direct role in settling the issue. He reportedly told the CID that his associate Ediga Srikanth Goud had said that he would look into the issue. Director Teja told Times of India that he had never approached Bhanu or any of his associates. "There is no truth in it whatsoever. If the issue was settled, then why did the matter go to court? This itself means that there was no attempt from my side to get anybody's involvement in it to settle the property dispute," Teja said. The matter pertains to a property dispute between Teja and another producer Chadalavada Srinivasa Rao.[43] When allegations against Teja surfaced last year, the CID had summoned the filmmaker and questioned him about the issue. Teja said he met CID officials second time but the officials reportedly said there was no need to question him again. "If I am called again, I will certainly cooperate with the investigating agency," Teja said. The investigation was eventually stopped after zero evidence was found.[51]

Son's death: 2011[edit]

Teja's three-year-old son Aurov Teja died of prolonged illness in Hyderabad on Saturday, 19 March 2011. Aurov had been suffering from breathing problems and cerebral palsy since birth. Teja travelled to China, America and Germany with the three-year-old for treatment but in vain. Last week, Aurov's condition deteriorated and he was admitted in Rainbow hospital. Despite best efforts, his son died. Teja's family completed the last rites of the baby in Panjagutta crematorium. Members of film industry consoled Teja and expressed their condolences to his family for the loss of the baby boy. Teja is said to be deeply saddened and adversely affected by his son's death.[48]

Teja blamed Chadalavada Srinivasa Rao being responsible for his son's death. He said he couldn't take his baby for further treatment to Germany because he was forced to stay in the country as he had to attend court proceedings of cases filed against him by the former. Teja further said it wasn't only the criminal charges and being dragged to court but the mental stress and pain the former caused disabled Teja from taking proper care of his baby.[52]

Acquittal from all criminal charges: 2012[edit]

Multiple criminal charges against director Teja were struck down by Nampally criminal court on Wednesday, 25 April 2012.[52] The Judge said the house grabbing, trespass charges, links with anti-social elements were all bogus, he gave a judgement greatly in favour of the accused. The entire judgement paper was procured and published by Sakshi, a Telugu new channel.[53] All CID/CBI inquiries were shut down. Although Teja is still fighting few civil cases relating to the same in lower courts.[54]

Return to films: 2013[edit]

After his victory in court, Teja made a comeback to Telugu film industry in 2013. He directed and produced 1000 Abhadhalu starring Sai Ramshankar, Ether, Nagababu, Venu, Naveen Neni and others. Though the film released with much hype, it didn't fare well at the box office.[55]


Year Film Director Story Screenplay Dialogues Producer Cinematographer Actor Other Language Notes
2013 1000 Abhadalu Yes Yes Yes Yes Telugu
2012 Neeku Naku Dash Dash Yes Yes Yes Yes Telugu
2008 Keka Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Telugu
2006 Lakshmi Kalyanam Yes Yes Yes Yes Telugu
2005 Avunanna Kaadanna Yes Yes Yes Yes Telugu
Dhairyam Yes Yes Yes Yes Telugu
2004 Ek Se Badhkar Ek Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Hindi Delayed release
Jai Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Telugu
Jairam Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Tamil
2003 Nijam Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Telugu
Sambaram Yes Telugu
2002 Jayam Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Telugu
Pitaah Yes Yes Yes Hindi
2001 Yeh Dil Yes Yes Yes Yes Hindi
Nuvvu Nenu Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Telugu
Family Circus Yes Yes Yes Yes Telugu
2000 Chithiramm Yes Yes Yes Yes Tamil
Chitram Yes Yes Yes Yes Telugu Debut as director
Jis Desh Mein Ganga Rehta Hain Yes Hindi
1999 Sangharsh Yes Hindi
1998 Ghulam Yes Hindi
1997 Vishwavidhaata Yes Hindi
1996 Prem Yes Hindi Special Thanks
Tere Mere Sapne Yes Hindi
Raja Hindustani Yes Hindi
Rakshak Yes Hindi
1995 Baazi Yes Hindi
The Don Yes Hindi
Money Money Yes Telugu
Rangeela Yes Hindi Story/Screenplay department
1994 Govinda Govinda Yes Telugu
1993 Money Yes Telugu
Gaayam Yes Telugu
1992 Drohi Yes Hindi
Antham Yes Telugu
Raatri Yes Hindi
Raat Yes Hindi Debut as cinematographer
1991 Kshana Kshanam Yes Yes Telugu Director of chase sequences/Camera second unit
Hairaan Yes Yes Hindi Director of chase sequences/Camera second unit
1990 Shiva Yes Hindi First asst. director/Publicity design
1989 Siva Yes Telugu Director of action sequences/Camera second unit/Publicity design


  1. ^ Teja's 'Keka' in Tamil – Telugu Movie News
  2. ^ Hero Prince indebted to director Teja
  3. ^ http://www.cinegoer.net/telugu-cinema/news-archives/august-2013/teja-s-next-film-to-be-shot-within-a-span-of-30-days-230813.html
  4. ^ Director Teja Approached Nagma For His Next Film | 25CineFrames
  5. ^ Director Teja To Direct Under Sri Productions Banner Again – The Hans India
  6. ^ Director Teja Reveals Negative Talk against Sairam Shankar | aggipulla.com
  7. ^ https://bharatmovies.com/telugu/celebrity/rk-open-heart-with-director-teja.htm
  8. ^ Krishna Teja albums/movies, music directed by Krishna Teja
  9. ^ Director Teja aims at a record – Telugu Movie News
  10. ^ Director Teja Open Heart with RK – YouTube
  11. ^ Director Teja Open Heart With RK | ABN Andhrajyothy
  12. ^ http://www.newsofap.com/newsofap-7720-24-director-teja-producer-chadalavada-srinivas-rao-fight-over-a-house-newsofap.html
  13. ^ Director Teja and Chadalawada's fight over house
  14. ^ Business of Tollywood
  15. ^ http://www.andhraheadlines.com/BrowseArticle.aspx?CatID=6&ArtId=99633
  16. ^ Will not work with stars – Director Teja | ManaTelugu.in – Telugu Daily Serials | Movies | Shows | News | Galleries and Many More
  17. ^ Watch latest Manmohan Singh Videos – x6nVqF4KXjs : Firstpost Topic – Page 1
  18. ^ http://www.atozpulse.com/2013/08/director-teja-talked-about-nijam-movie.html
  19. ^ Down — but not out | The Hindu
  20. ^ [1][dead link]
  21. ^ Teja falls prey to credit card cheat – Times Of India
  22. ^ Naughty Speech by Director Teja at 1000 Abaddalu Press Meet
  23. ^ Director Teja turns to Comedy Movies
  24. ^ Director Teja Speaks About His Movie 1000 Abaddalu Telugufilmnagar » | Telugu Video News – DegaView.com
  25. ^ director teja in samatha degree college for actor hunt | Pictures | Radio Mirchi
  26. ^ director tejaLatest News | Latest Photos | Latest Updates
  27. ^ I am indebted to director Teja: Prince | 123telugu.com
  28. ^ Director Teja offers a role to Nagma :: ApNewsCorNer.Com
  29. ^ Director Teja Comments On Mahesh Babu – Cinema65.com
  30. ^ Astrology: Will Director Teja Regain His Stardom?
  31. ^ Director Teja in Search of New Teenage Face for his forthcoming film 'ATU ITU'
  32. ^ Director Teja — AP NEWS LIVE
  33. ^ Teja: Our heroes know nothing about story
  34. ^ Case against Director Teja struck down
  35. ^ Director Teja`s movie with newcomers
  36. ^ TollywoodAndhra.in Teja to complete new film in 30 days » TollywoodAndhra.in
  37. ^ Chalanachithram.com DB: Director Teja
  38. ^ Kapu Community Burning On Director Teja
  39. ^ ::Heart Attack US Premiers::
  40. ^ Director Teja in Open Heart with RK – 6th May – ManaTeluguMovies
  41. ^ a b Director Teja – Still 8 – 1000 Abaddalu – Desimartini.com
  42. ^ Best Teja movies list, new movie releases (as director) @ MoviesList.IN
  43. ^ a b c No change in teja|No change in teja | Director teja wont change | Director teja will not change | teja attitude wont change
  44. ^ Teja on tollywood heroes | Director Teja Setires on tollywood Heroes
  45. ^ http://www.deccanchronicle.com/.../director-teja-accused-trespass-561
  46. ^ Teja interview – Telugu film director
  47. ^ News : Director Teja to do a quickie?
  48. ^ a b Teja’s new film – TeluguMirchi.com
  49. ^ Director Teja Opens Up On 'Weakness'
  50. ^ Teja|Teja Director|Teja Movies|Teja Bio & Photos
  51. ^ Director Teja to direct Salman Khan? | www.andhrawatch.com
  52. ^ a b Upcoming Movie Releases | Teja | Teja Upcoming Flims – entertainment.oneindia.in
  53. ^ Director Teja – Latest Director Teja News Director Teja Updates Director Teja Photos Director Teja Videos Director Teja Collections Director Teja Interviews | Yevadu Collectio...
  54. ^ Director Teja loves newcomers
  55. ^ Telugu director Dharma Teja's '1000 Abaddhalu' to release in summer

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