Sanjay Rao is coming into his own slowly but surely. Even as the son of popular actor Brahmaji, he is carving his own identity. With a great actor like his dad as inspiration, Sanjay has the fire within him to become an actor celebrated for his acting more than anything else. He treasures his creativity and is determined to surround himself with it. His love for the creative field led him to push himself. This has put him on the right path towards happiness and self satisfaction.
For all those who feel life seems like a series of monotonous days, Sanjay’s unique perspective might bring a fresh idea. Having troubles might be very normal, but rising above them shows our true inner genius. Such is the story of this honest and straightforward actor. Let us delve into his thoughts and find out a little bit about him.
Sanjay Rao was born in Calcutta in the year 1990, on May 29th. As his grandfather was a port commissioner there during those days, he was born in a government house, at his grandparents house.
In fact, many in his mom’s family are part of the Merchant Navy. He remembers hearing many stories from that time, though he doesn’t remember much personally.
This was during his dad Brahmaji’s struggling phase in films. Mom was an established Architect/interior designer, managing everything. Sanjay’s parents gave him the best education, come what may.
Notwithstanding their financial condition, he was sent to the best schools. His parents rightly expected that he should be a good student, so he was a model student until the 7th class. His schooling until the 6th was at Padma Seshadri Bala Bhavan Senior Secondary School (PSBBSSS) in Chennai, where many industry kids studied. He heard from his mom that he excelled in education, academics, sports and extracurricular activities.
When it was time for the annual awards for students in different categories, the school brought out a new category for this bright kid for excelling in all of them. He was presented with the all rounder award.
For reasons unknown, studies were not so bright after 7th class. “Studies went out the window,” Sanjay chuckles. St. Johns International, on the outskirts of Chennai was where he finished his 7th in a hostel. This was because his parents were transitioning from one city to another.
Sanjay Rao immediately found himself homesick and resorted to sneaky activities to come out of the hostel. He amusingly shares that he complained about the food, or more likely the lack of non-veg. It was one of the best schools there and his parents visited him during Sundays.
To ensure he is removed from the school, he used to even break pipes in the washrooms. He confessed to his crimes hoping for rustication. Still, he was only punished. There was a period when all his batch mates were contracting the conjunctivitis condition known famously as ‘Madras eye.’
The affected kids spent a few days with family at the hospital before recovering. Sensing an opportunity, Sanjay Rao used the eye drops belonging to others. Ironically, he never contracted the condition that entire season.
He, unfortunately, suffered from Jaundice just before the final exams and returned home. He wrote his exams later, but his mom decided to take him out of the hostel for fear of a repeat of his shenanigans. He then joined his family in Hyderabad.
Once in the city, he was admitted into Jubilee Hills Public School.
Impact of family
Sanjay Rao is an only kid to his parents. But, on his mother’s side of the family, there are two cousins, one each from an uncle and an aunt. He spent much time in Calcutta during summers and winters with his grandparents and cousins.
They comprise a sister and a brother. He was and still is extremely close to his cousin sister Rishika, who he considers his own blood sister.
They share such a deep bonding that many may not find in their lives. They share all of their secrets and protect each other fiercely.
During his many ups and downs, including dark phases, she had always stood by him. Hence, he calls her his true sibling. The strong bond endures despite not living in the same city. Always in touch with her, he says “it is an unsaid thing that no matter what happens, wherever we are, we’ll be there for each other, rainy days or good days.” He could take a bullet for her and he knows she would do the same for him.
He says when his sister was born, he remembers being happy and protective of her. Describing her as the light in the family, he spent a lot of time with her.
As kids, they used to play with her Barbie kitchen set while Sanjay Rao got her leaves, flowers, atta and other miscellaneous stuff. He fondly remembers those days at his grandparents’ home. Sadly, growing up brings maturity, responsibilities and life is not the same.
Talking about how his family impacted him, he divulges that he was surrounded by strong women. They had a large influence on him.
His mother was a major deciding factor in his life, having taken care of him most of the time. Dad was seen as an unseen, protective force. It was mom who taught him swimming and driving. Dad was mostly away for work, resulting in the special mother-son bonding.
Sharing a memory, he takes us back to Chennai. Their house there had a huge balcony, where they clogged the water outlet and let the rain water fill up. They then played in the water, joined by the neighbors and their kids.
When Sanjay’s mom went to Singapore for an interior designer course for a year, he travelled with her. Then, he was put in PSBBSSS, a famous school that churned out intelligent individuals. This was followed by his stint in the hostel. From 8th he studied in Hyderabad’s Jubilee Hills School until 10th.
For this 11th and 12th, his family sent him to Narayana Junior College, Ameerpet to complete Intermediate. This was not his cup of tea as it is common knowledge how nearly 100 students are stuffed into a ‘pigeon hole’ of a classroom.
It was definitely not how a creative person like Sanjay Rao perceives education. Here, there was more emphasis on quantity than quality education.
He remembers a bitter incident while he was there. It was the norm to separate boys and girls into different buildings. Evenings were usually spent in the library with friends. They were joined by their peers from the girls’ building, some of whom were his schoolmates in Hyderabad. They regularly talked in the library and then left for their respective places using carpooling.
On one such day, the librarian treated him rudely saying he didn’t have the right to talk to a girl. Irked, he answered back and the man nearly hit him. While his anger rose, his friends took him away.
Later, when he expressed this to his parents they felt that this was not the education they expected and promptly rejoined him in Jubilee Hills Public School. After 12th, he asked his parents time to decide what to do with his life, maybe travel. Fearing no stable decision would be taken, his mom advised him to join the Merchant Navy.
Hence, he gave the entrance exam and got into a college in Chennai. In a repeat of an earlier phase, he got homesick and conveyed his woes to his friends. He wanted them to convince his mom to take him back home and told her he instead had an interest in architecture. With his mom being stern, he completed that tumultuous first year.
After that, however, things got better. He had a lot of fun in college. Calling them the ‘good days’ he completed B.Sc in Nautical Science at Academy of Maritime Education and Training. Campus placements resulted in him joining a company called ‘AngloIndian’ and finishing training on board for 1 year. He eventually got promoted as 4th officer.
Not satisfied with the way the officers were treated, he joined ‘Berge Bulk’. He loves this company and completed his tenure here. If he ever rejoins the Merchant Navy, he would prefer this company. Here he reached the post of Second Command.
A life shaping learning process
At this point, he had an epiphany. He realized that he was just earning money with nothing else to look forward to in life. Saying “what is the point” with such money, he quit and returned home once again. He clearly told his parents he wanted to do something in the creative line. When his dad questioned him in what capacity, he said he would figure it out.
Soon he found a contact, Alok Ulfat, his Guruji who trained him in Mumbai. The Guru had earlier trained entertainers like Manoj Bajpai, Lavanya Tripathi, Shruthi Hassan, Ashish Gandhi and other big names. Sanjay Rao trained under him for a year and a half and feels this time was one of the best in his life.
Even as he agrees that acting is a continuous learning process, he states that he learnt all about acting from him. Following this, he also trained under Devdas Kanikela for 6 months learning about the Telugu Film Industry style of filmmaking and acting.
Marking his entry into the Industry, he joined as an assistant director for the movie Nakshatram, directed by Krishna Vamsi. He found it very new, shocking and hectic. But the knowledge he gained here through the director is unparalleled. Sanjay Rao is thankful for the experience and attributes learning the various nuances of movies so far because of Krishna Vamsi.
Practical knowledge above everything
Sanjay Rao is understood among his loved ones as having a unique perspective of life. He looks at things in a way different from others. For him, experiences teach us more about life than cramming text books.
Classroom experiences and friends contribute more to “real education” and grooming as anyone can learn the basics from a book. Teachers may also guide us to help ourselves self-educate with books. Although he respects teachers and has two favorites, Sanjay did not have any impact from such methods.
He feels most of his education was due to his experiences and from his parents, sister and friends, all of whom are different. He says he has seen the best as well as the worst in life. Any studies in college simply went towards passing the exams. While the basics helped him on the ship, the rest was lost in translation. Practical knowledge gave him much more than any textbook could. He calls the Indian education system as more stern than strong.
A brief outline about the major events from history is enough, he says, rather than a detailed essay about individual events. He calls for a more practical based approach for education to teach kids about life skills required in the present. Importantly, Sanjay learnt about finances only in the recent past.
Managing money and investments was learnt through parents and friends through conversations. He asks whether it is the education system’s responsibility or not to get us ready for life.
Though his formative years itself Sanjay Rao realized that the education system was futile for him. He instead focused on sports and extracurricular activities. A mischievous kid, he used to do things that got him in trouble and shocked his family. They were dragged into the troubles too.
In the Navy college, he was allowed to go out only on Sundays from 7am to 9:30pm. Amusingly, he and his friends sneaked out the night before to stay outside and watch movies.
Once they went for a late night show on a Sunday and didn’t find any taxis to return to college. Their college was nearly 100kms away from the city. So, they decided to hike or take help from passing vehicles. The highway found them sitting at the back of a lorry loaded with sand.
In another incident, they faced heavy rains and a flood in Chennai that resulted in the closing of the college. The paddy fields around the college got clogged.
To go back home, they sneaked out, jumped the wall into the neck-level water and waded through it with their bags on top of their heads. At the nearest bus stop, they changed into fresh clothes and travelled to the railway station. They came to Hyderabad in the general compartment of the only train.
During the third year, he was invited to meet a friend who was leaving abroad. His mom wouldn’t have allowed it during college. Sanjay Rao told his batch mate and head boy that he would sneak out to Hyderabad for 5 days. His friends got him a bus ticket, promising to manage his absence. He then lived with his friend, who was just one lane away from his house, without his parents’ knowledge.
He, charmingly, never missed meeting his dog, a German Shepherd named Brute. He bribed the watchman for secrecy to let him play with his dog for half an hour every evening during his walk. Luckily, no one from college noticed he was missing.
Most supportive people
Until 5 years back, he had many friends. He had to go through a rough, dark phase in his life. It was during such trying times that he realized who his true friends were. With money and a fun filled lifestyle, there would be many associations. But, his dark times brought the count down from over 35 to 10. After cutting many ‘thorns’ from his life, the ones that remained are his most genuine support system.
Still, the major impact in his life were his parents and sister who stood by him without giving up. Here, he talks highly about his wife, Anukrithi Dixit, who is the one person who had a huge influence on him. “I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for her,” he shares. He reveals he would have fallen over the edge if she hadn’t entered his life.
When he was down broken into a million pieces, she had patiently picked up each piece and put him back together. His wife gave up a job as a pilot in Miami when he needed her. His life is now comfortable because of her.
Despite an initial hiccup before their wedding, she fought both their battles to be with him. He even joyfully expresses that his in-laws are like no other and that they would do anything for love.
Their family has now become his own, treating him just like a son. Before he met his wife, he never believed in perfection. She changed that definition with unconditional love.
Sanjay Rao claims he has played all kinds of sports. But the ones he plays very well are Football and swimming. He also loves reading novels, listening to all kinds of music from any language.
Recently, he got addicted to fitness. Travel is another must for him. He has travelled much of the world and now plans to explore India and its every corner.
A positive philosophy
Here is what the actor has learnt and follows, “Ups and downs are part of any field. Ups are always rosy, no discussion. When you are down, you analyze the problem, work around it, find a solution and get the work done. That’s the ultimate goal.”
Sanjay says he loves what he is doing and wouldn’t be anywhere else. He was always passionate about creativity. He had considered the roles of a director or actor, but his Guruji saw certain potential and advised him to be an actor. “You’re a pure actor, be that, own it,” he had said. That is how his choice had come about.
Role models from the Industry
Sanjay is a huge admirer of actress Alia Bhatt. He idolizes her performance more than her obvious beauty. He says it is up to the mark and that there is no flaw. Heaping high praise, he feels Indian Cinema hasn’t seen a heroine who can match her.
His father has become a role model in recent times. His movie ‘Krishna gaadi veera prema gaadha’ changed his perception of his dad as an actor. Sanjay loved the movie as a whole, with Nani and his dad performing well.
He also considers Allu Arjun and Ranveer Singh his role models in the Industry. Allu Arjun, he says, has put in a lot of hard work to reach his position with focus and passion. “They are how actors should be, how artists should be.” Besides these actors, Sanjay is fond of Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Irfaan Khan, Manoj Bajpai and Amish Tripathi, who he calls geniuses and not just actors. “You get to see geniuses in one lifetime,” he expresses.
As far as he is concerned personally, Sanjay feels one has to keep observing other people on screen and offscreen to find inspiration to play a particular role. Even diplomacy is an important skill. Sanjay wants to improve on it because he is very straightforward and truthful.
Film that catapulted him
O Pitta Katha is his first film. It took 4 years to materialize. After many struggles and times of dejection leading to thoughts of quitting, the film finally materialized. His director as well as dad put in a lot of hard work and approached Bhavya Creations. It was well received, after which there was no stopping. We can see the “awesome” response to the movie. It had the fastest 100 million views on Amazon Prime by a Telugu movie. This movie helped him improve himself in various areas while teaching him how to deal with people.
Sanjay wants to exclusively thank his dad for his persistence, wife who always pulled him up and mother who pushed him. He thanks his director Chandu also for never giving up on the project. As the learning curve never ends, he plans to use all that he has learnt in his next movies.
Sanjay feels he is still finding his path towards success. “I have a very long road ahead,” he states. According to him, even Amitabh Bachchan would never agree that he had succeeded or learnt everything. He would say that he is still on the path to learn as everyday is new. If such a man can say that, someone like Sanjay cannot claim to have found success.
Sanjay agrees that the Industry is a tough place with a lot of competition. One has to do things differently. He plans to continue believing in himself and do what he’s doing with his support system behind him.
In his words, support from the home front is very necessary in a field like this. It is tough to survive otherwise. With the support it is possible to thrive.
Sanjay is a part of two upcoming films. One is an action/romantic movie and the other is a new-age romantic drama.
Even as he was transforming his body now, the action movie gave him a bigger push to continue doing that as the role demands a certain body. The third movie is a different concept about two married couples and their new-age problems, which is why he liked it. Sanjay feels it is a little outside the usual norms and is meant for an open minded audience. “We are trying to show reality and truth is always bitter,” he conveys.