INTERVIEW WITH NAGARJUNA AKKINENI, TELUGU FILM STAR AND AUTO ENTHUSIAST
Nagarjuna is one of the well known names and faces of the Telugu Film industry.
He is the son of thespian actor Akkineni Nageshwara Rao who is a Padma Bhushan Award winner as also the Dada Saheb Phalke Award. Nagarjuna’s name and face are also well known to the rest of the country due to his having made films in Hindi, Tamil and Kannada apart from Telugu films. While these details about him are reasonably well known there is one side of his personality that not too many know. He is an auto enthusiast. In his home city of Hyderabad, some close to him know of his love for cars and motorcycles, a love that has been there with him for almost as long as he can remember. Riot Engine caught up with him to explore more of this lesser known facet of his.
Riot Engine: Good Morning. Thank you so much for talking to us while you have a break in your shoot.
Nagarjuna: Not a problem. I do like talking about automobiles.
RE: Is it true that you are a car and bike enthusiast?
N: Most definitely.
RE: Since when have you been an automobile enthusiast?
N: From my younger days, actually for as long as I can remember.
RE: Can you tell us the names of the vehicles that you have owned?
N: I have owned among many cars a 1969 model British Daimler, the 1974 Porsche 911 Turbo (considered by many to be the greatest 911), a Triumph 2000, a Mitsubishi Shogun/Pajero, the previous generation Mercedes S Class, a Porsche Cayenne, a previous generation BMW 7 series and now a BMW M 6.
RE: Is that an exhaustive list of all the cars you have owned?
N: Not really. I had owned a few cars and bikes while I was studying for my post-graduation in the USA. There I had a Datsun 240Z and a Datsun 260Z apart from a Saab 900 Turbo. Saab was considered to have a very good turbo technology and the Datsuns were great handlers.
RE: What is it that drives you to buying a certain car?
N: The cars will have to combine visual appeal with driving appeal.
RE: Do you prefer driving your own cars?
N: Most definitely. Good cars are meant to be driven.
RE: Apart from visual and driving appeal what is it that makes you an auto enthusiast?
N: For me cars and automobiles represent a perfect combination of art and engineering. They are the embodiment of technological brilliance coming together with artistic flair. When you see a car or a bike you know that it is a true work of great art and the fact that it is capable of locomotion is the added thrill.
RE: You have also talked of owning bikes, which are the ones that you have owned?
N: Of the cuff, I can remember a Suzuki 650 4 cylinder bike, a Kawasaki 250 dirt bike when I was in the USA, a Honda CBR 1000 RR Fireblade, a Kawasaki Ninja GPz1000 and a Yamaha R-1.
RE: Which of these did you enjoy riding most?
N: Actually all of them, each one had its own individual character and I liked all of them.
RE: Which of the two do you prefer more, driving cars or riding bikes?
N: In my very young days I preferred riding bikes. Later on as I also needed my privacy when out in the open, I moved on to cars. Also the lack of proper roads made my decision to go towards cars stronger. Some of the roads have such pot holes that biking with big bore bikes can become a problem.
RE: Which of the vehicles that you have owned are you emotionally attached to?
N: I do not get emotionally attached to any of the vehicles that I own or have owned?
RE: Why is that so?
N: I like to constantly explore new cars and bikes. If one gets emotionally tied down to a particular car then one will not explore further. For me it is important to move on and sample all the good cars and bikes that are out there.
RE: Thank you so much for speaking with us and for your time.
N: No problem. It’s my pleasure.
INTERVIEW WITH NAGA CHAITANYA AKKINENI
Naga Chaitanya is the latest scion of the Akkineni family to have joined the Telugu Film industry. His first film ‘Josh’ has been released a little while ago. He is the son of Nagarjuna Akkineni and like his father shares a love for all things automotive. He too is an enthusiast and probably more so than his illustrious father, if that is possible.
Riot Engine: Thank you for agreeing to speak to us about your passions with automobiles.
Naga Chaitanya: (Smiles)
RE: Can we say ‘like father, like son’?
RE: Meaning that you take after your father, in wanting to be an actor and also in being an auto enthusiast.
NC: Yes that is very true.
RE: What do you like more, bikes or cars?
NC: It is not as if I do not like cars but bikes are what I prefer.
RE: Any specific reason for that?
NC: The reason is quite straightforward. There is a certain rush that you feel when you ride a bike and that is not there is driving cars. But like I said, it is not as if I do not like cars. They have their own ways of exciting people but the raw adrenaline rush that you get when you ride a bike is much more potent than anything else.
RE: Which bike did you start on?
NC: Like most youngsters my initiation into bikes happened on various 100 cc bikes. It was a little later that I started getting my quota of big bikes.
RE: So which was your first big bike?
NC: My first big bike was a Honda CBR 600 RR. I drove around on it for a year and then changed to a Kawasaki Ninja ZX- 636.
RE: Why Kawasaki?
NC: That is because of all the Japanese motorcycles I find Kawasaki bikes to be the most evocative emotionally. There is a certain connect between the rider and the bike that is unparalleled in other bikes. My Honda was very smooth and I loved it but Kawasaki is a little bit more.
RE: Do you still ride the Kawasaki?
NC: No not any more. I now ride a Yamaha YZF – R1.
RE: Did you change to the R1 because it is a bigger bike?
NC: Not really. I, in fact, prefer riding 600 cc bikes in the city because they are easier to handle. Their power delivery is much softer and the bikes themselves are lighter and therefore are better for the city. My problem was that I was not finding proper service for the 600 cc bikes since they are not officially sold here and since there is no service back up. When Yamaha set up shop to sell their big bore bikes and also offer service I picked up the R1, for reasons of convenience of maintenance.
RE: Are you looking forward to any other big bike launches?
NC: I know that Harley-Davidson is in India and that they will start selling their bikes shortly but I am not into cruisers and therefore I am waiting for Kawasaki big bikes to launched. Now that the Ninja 250 –R has been launched I am waiting for the ZX-10 R. When it is launched I would like to buy that.
RE: So you are a sports bike person?
NC: Most definitely. The thrill of riding a sports bike is unparalleled.
RE: Is your liking only for Japanese sports bikes then?
NC: Let me put it this way. Among all the bike makers and car makers I prefer the Japanese but I certainly do like other bikes and cars as well.
RE: Which are the other models and makes of bikes that you have ridden?
NC: I have ridden quite a few other bikes but the most memorable ones are the Ducati 1098 and the fabulous MV Augusta F4 1000. In fact, I would like to say that the MV Augusta F4 1000 Ayrton Senna limited edition is my all time favourite.
RE: Why so?
NC: There is a mystique to this bike. It is aurally reassuring because of the deep sound and visually enthralling like all of, if not most of Massimo Tamburini’s designs. And when you add a great racer like Senna’s name, what a combination.
RE: Do you like watching racing, now that you mention Senna?
NC: Yes, I like to watch racing. I also like to race myself.
RE: What kind of racing have you done?
NC: Drag racing of cars mainly.
RE: Not bikes?
NC: I have used bikes for weekend getaways with friends but I have mainly raced cars in drag racing.
RE: What cars have you raced?
NC: Most recently I have driven a Ferrari F 430 for timing at a drag race event at Hyderabad. But while I was based in Chennai, I used a Lancer.
RE: Was it a standard car or a souped up version?
NC: It was for track at Sriperumbudur. It was not a standard car. It had a MIVEC engine of the Lancer Evo which I had imported from Malaysia. The car was built up, tuned and prepared by friends at Chennai. I had this car for a while and then changed it when I came to Hyderabad.
RE: Why so?
NC: In Hyderabad there is no real track that I can use a car like that. At that time I also wanted something more practical for daily commute as well.
RE: Which car did you use for that?
NC: I used a Swift that was modified. I incorporated a stock Garret turbo along with high lift cams. The engine itself was ported for deriving greater performance. I also had the suspension of the car stiffened for better handling.
RE: What are the top speeds that you have done with your cars and bikes?
NC: Actually top speed is not too important to me. Better overall times are achieved on the race track with good suspension settings and good midrange power in the engine. Look at various races. You will see the car or bike with the maximum top speed is not necessarily the winner. It is the one that goes around better in the corners, turns and communicates better with the driver or rider that always wins. Handling and nature of power delivery are more important than top speed which is more academic than anything else.
RE: Do you still use this Swift?
NC: No I have sold it because I was finding it difficult to find help for its maintenance in Hyderabad. I now have a Honda V6 Accord.
RE: Is it modified?
NC: Not much other than a Magna Flow exhaust and a cold air intake. I don’t prefer using the car too much. I like riding my R1.
RE: Have you modified your R1?
NC: Other than putting an Akrapovic exhaust system I have not done much else to it. It has way too much power for city roads as it is.
RE: Don’t you find it a problem to ride in the city when you are an upcoming film star and the son a famous film star?
NC: I always believed that one should ride responsibly, which means that one should wear adequate protective gear such as helmets, gloves, shoes etc. Now this is where anonymity also comes in. Since I never ride without protective gear it means that no one knows what is inside the helmet et al. That is what makes it possible to pursue my passion of biking.
RE: Do you like biking alone or in a group?
NC: I like biking in a group. Fortunately I have group of good friends who share my passion for motorcycles and have wonderful motorcycles too. Except while commuting we all go biking together.
RE: Thank you so much for speaking to us. We hope to stay in touch with you in the future.
NC: Sure anytime, that is not a problem.