Ghanta Naveen Babu (born 24 February 1984), known professionally as Nani, is an Indian actor, producer, and television presenter primarily known for his work in Telugu cinema. Nani made his film debut with the 2008 romantic comedy Ashta Chamma and went on to star in many commercially successful films. His performances in various films earned him two state Nandi Awards, one Filmfare Critics Award for Best Actor – South and two nominations in Filmfare Award for Best Actor – Telugu. Nani also won an award in Best Hero category at the 2013 Toronto After Dark Film Festival.
His successful projects include Ashta Chamma (2008), Ride (2009), Bheemili Kabaddi Jattu (2010), Ala Modalaindi (2011), Pilla Zamindar (2011), Eega (2012), Yeto Vellipoyindhi Manasu (2012), Yevade Subramanyam (2015), Bhale Bhale Magadivoy (2015), Krishna Gaadi Veera Prema Gaadha (2016), Gentleman (2016), Nenu Local (2017), Ninnu Kori (2017), Middle Class Abbayi (2017), Jersey (2019), Nani's Gang Leader (2019), and Shyam Singha Roy (2021).
In 2013, Nani produced his first film, D for Dopidi, which became a commercial success at the box office. In 2018, his second production venture under the banner of Wall Poster Cinema, Awe was also a critical and commercial success. In the same year, Nani hosted the second season of the Telugu reality TV show Bigg Boss. His performance in Jersey (2019) is regarded as one of the "100 Greatest Performances of the Decade" by Film Companion.
Early and personal life
Nani was born and brought up in Hyderabad, India. He did his schooling from St. Alphonsa's High School and then studied at Narayana Junior College, S.R Nagar before graduating from Wesley College.In 2012, Nani married Anjana, after five years of courtship. Their son Arjun was born in 2017.
Career beginnings and struggle (2008–2011)
As an undergraduate, Nani got addicted to movies, citing Mani Ratnam as a major influence. He wanted to become a director; producer Anil, allowed Nani to work on his film Radha Gopalam as a "clap director" alongside director Bapu. He then worked for films including Allari Bullodu, Dhee and Astram. Nani took a sabbatical to work on a film script. Bhargavi Mallela, a friend who was then working as a radio jockey for World Space Satellite, offered Nani work as an RJ. He accepted and worked for one year, hosting a program named "Non-Stop Nani".Director Mohan Krishna Indraganti noticed Nani in an advertisement and offered him a role in the aforementioned film Ashta Chamma, also starring Swati Reddy. Ashta Chamma was well received by critics and Nani's performance was praised by them. Sify.com wrote "Nani has a very good screen presence. He has good emotions and dances well, though his body language sometimes reminds of Subhalekha Sudhakar – May this be treated as a compliment to the ease that the veteran actor shows on the screen! His diction is good too." His second film, Ride, was produced by Bellamkonda Suresh, with Tanish, Swetha Basu Prasad and Aksha Pardasany playing important roles. Ride was also a notable success at the box office. He next starred in Satyam Bellamkonda's film Snehituda... opposite Maadhavi Latha. Snehituda... opened to negative reviews and the film was a flop at the box office. In 2010, he played the main role in the film Bheemili Kabaddi Jattu, a remake of Vennila Kabadi Kuzhu, with Saranya Mohan reprising her role as the heroine. The film opened to positive reviews with Nani's performance receiving appreciation. Rediff said Nani "perfectly fits into the role" and commended him for selecting the script, and Oneindia Entertainment commented that Nani "has given his best" and "suited perfectly to the role". The film was a surprise hit at the box office.
Breakthrough and initial success (2011–2012)
His first release in 2011, Ala Modalaindi, was a romantic comedy written and directed by Nandini Reddy. Nithya Menen was the female lead of the film, making her debut in Telugu. Nani's performance in the film received positive reviews, with critics noting that he was "completely natural" and "living [his] role". The film was a blockbuster at the box office. Simultaneously he did a Tamil film, Veppam, with his friend Anjana as director which marked his debut in Tamil cinema. Veppam received mixed reviews, but Nani and Bindu Madhavi were appreciated. The Times of India called their debuts "confident" while Sify called Nani's performance "riveting". It was dubbed into Telugu as Sega. Both the versions were flops at the box office. Nani's final release of 2011 was Pilla Zamindar, in which he reunited with fellow Ashta Chamma actor Srinivas Avasarala. Pilla Zamindar opened to mostly positive reviews from critics, and Nani's performance as a spoilt-brat-turned-leader was well appreciated. Rediff wrote "Pilla Zamindar is Nani's show all the way. He lives up to the role and is able to portray the kaleidoscope of emotions demanded of him. " IndiaGlitz wrote, "Performance-wise, Nani delivers a matured output in the second half as a youth in self-introspecting and self-correcting mode." The film was a hit at the box office, prompting a Tamil dubbed release under the title Jameen. Nani's next release was S. S. Rajamouli's live action project Eega. Shot simultaneously in Tamil as Naan Ee, it featured Nani, Samantha Ruth Prabhu and Kannada actor Sudeep. Eega received a positive response. IBN Live said that "Nani sizzles as the lover boy in the few scenes he is seen", while Rediff said that he "makes a mark in his brief role". The film was a blockbuster at the box office and was dubbed into Hindi as Makkhi and into Malayalam as Eecha.
His last release in 2012 was Gautham Menon's Yeto Vellipoyindhi Manasu opposite Samantha Ruth Prabhu once again. It was the simultaneously shot Telugu version of the Tamil film Neethane En Ponvasantham which featured Jiiva in place of Nani. Nani made a guest appearance in the Tamil version too. His portrayal of Varun Krishna was highly appreciated by critics. The Hindu wrote "Nani rises to the occasion with a mature performance. He speaks volumes through his eyes and conveys Varun's thoughts through the smallest of mannerisms. The climax completely belongs to him." IndiaGlitz wrote "If Samantha's maturity as an actor is obvious, Nani's knack is equally brilliant. He is quintessentially natural and is almost impeccable. The way he sings "Priyatama Neevachata Kushalama" sets the stage for a performance that deserves a big round of applause." His performance in Yeto Vellipoyindi Manasu is considered to be one of his best performances till date. IndiaGlitz while reviewing the Telugu version of his 2014 Tamil film Aaha Kalyanam wrote: "Nani's best-ever act is 'Yeto Vellipoyindi Manasu' and he may not better that act soon, that is in a similar role". Though the film received mixed reviews from film critics, it had a positive response at the box office, especially in multiplexes due to Nani and Samantha's performances.
Commercial fluctuations (2013–2015)
In 2014, Nani was first seen in Krishna Vamsi's Paisa. The film revolved around the power of money and its influence over everything in society. Nani played the role of Prakash, a Sherwani model who is obsessed with gaining money. The film opened to negative reviews, yet Nani's performance was appreciated by critics. The Hindu wrote, "Nani holds the film together and proves his merit yet again. He shuns all the refinement he showed in his previous romantic characters and breathes life into the part of a smart Alec threatening to hold up the shooting of a sherwani commercial for Rs. 200 more. The film's highlight is the scene where he chances upon bags of cash and his reaction after that." The film was a disaster at the box office. He next starred in Yash Raj Films' maiden south Indian production Aaha Kalyanam, the Tamil remake of the 2010 Hindi film Band Baaja Baarat (also produced by Yash Raj Films). It was partly shot simultaneously in Telugu under the same title. The film received mixed to negative reviews, but Nani's performance as Shakti was well received. Sify called his performance "pitch-perfect". While IndiaGlitz wrote, "Nani is the apple of everyone's eyes once again, adding a good dose of humour in his presence". Behindwoods commented that "Aaha Kalyanam provides great scope for the leads and Nani, who is known for his intense roles, fits the character of a carefree youth perfectly, with his broken English and casual attitude." This movie was a commercial failure. In 2015, Nani played a dual role for the first time in the political thriller film Janda Pai Kapiraju, co-starring Amala Paul. The film was simultaneously made in Tamil as Nimirndhu Nil with Jayam Ravi in Nani's role. This movie was a disaster at the box office.
Critical acclaim and stardom (2015–2016)
Another release of his, Yevade Subramanyam was also released on the same date of Jenda Pai Kapiraju to a majority of positive response and reviews and was commercially successful. Sangeetha Devi of The Hindu wrote "Nani is a fine actor and lives the part of Subramanyam, mirroring the insecurities of the work force caught in a rat race. As he sheds the corporate mask, he comes into his own, one step at a time on the mountains." On 4 September 2015, Nani's Bhale Bhale Magadivoy hit the screens. It was directed by Maruthi Dasari and produced by Geetha Arts in association with UV Creations. The movie received positive responses from critics. Pranita Jonnalagedda of The Times of India gave the film 3.5 out of 5 stars, who stated that Bhale Bhale Magadivoy comes across as a "breath of fresh air" because it "successfully keeps itself away from the regular formula of romantic comedies [and is] devoid of the oh-so-overused cliches" and is a "delight for anyone looking for wholesome entertainment". The film was a blockbuster at the box office and went on to become the fourth-highest grossing Telugu film of all time at the United States box office. It was also Nani's second blockbuster since Rajamouli's Eega and the first blockbuster in which Nani played a full-length role.In 2016, his first movie was Krishna Gaadi Veera Prema Gaadha. A romantic comedy interlaced with an adventure thriller film set on a rural backdrop written and directed by Hanu Raghavapudi and produced under the banner of 14 Reels Entertainment saw newcomer Mehreen Pirzada as the female lead. The film opened with positive response from critics, Sangeetha Devi Dundoo of The Hindu while giving the movie 3 out of 5 stars said that "Hanu Raghavapudi proves his mettle with Krishna Gaadi Veera Prema Gaadha and makes it an entertaining watch". It was praised for the performances of the cast and criticized for the excessive runtime. The movie fared really well at the box office. Thus, became Nani's biggest opener in India, beating the records of his last film Bhale Bhale Magadivoy.Nani's second release in 2016 was Gentleman, a romantic murder mystery thriller directed by his mentor Indraganti Mohan Krishna, who introduced him with Ashta Chamma. Nani played dual role in the film. Surbhi and Nivetha Thomas starred alongside Nani in the movie, with Nivetha having more of a pivotal and prominent role. The movie was released to positive reviews and went on to become Nani's 3rd highest grosser after Eega and Bhale Bhale Magadivoy. Gentleman was praised for the performances but criticized for its predictability. Nani's versatility was praised as GreatAndhra wrote that he was "brilliant from his role as a street-smart youngster to an obscure businessman."
His last release in 2016 was a romantic comedy titled Majnu. Directed by Uyyala Jampala fame Virinchi Varma, the film saw Nani co-star alongside Anu Emmanuel and Priya Sri. The film was one of Nani's weakest films since Yevade Subramanyam. Praised for its comedy and criticized for its lengthiness and weak story, Majnu was given mixed reviews, failed to cross the expected 30 crore mark, and despite this, still emerged as a hit.
Commercial success (2017–present)
Nenu Local (2017), directed by Trinadha Rao Nakkina, cast Nani alongside Keerthy Suresh. This movie was given average reviews from the critics, who said that despite the predictability, despite the boring story, despite all the tiring commercial elements, Nani's performance changed everything for the movie and led it towards becoming a success. It emerged as a blockbuster, collecting over fifty crores, and became Nani's highest-grossing movie (excluding Eega) to date.
Ninnu Kori (2017) was a film that had Nani co-starring alongside Nivetha Thomas once more, and the film also had Aadhi Pinisetty in a pivotal role. This film emerged in response to generally positive reviews, being praised for its music, cinematography, and conventionally different love story. It was criticized for its lengthiness and predictability. It became a hit and was Nani's second-highest-grossing film, excluding Eega.
The next and last film released in 2017 was Middle Class Abbayi, directed by Venu Sree Ram. in which Nani co-starred alongside Sai Pallavi of Fidaa fame. This movie was again given strictly average reviews, saying that the story was very conventional and that the music and Nani and Bhumika's performance were the highlights of the film. The film went on to gross more than 70 crores and became the 7th highest-grossing Telugu film of 2017, becoming the highest-grossing Nani film (excluding Eega), again.
His next project was Krishnarjuna Yudham, which released on 12 April 2018. This movie was Nani's first failure after 8 consecutive successes at the box office. It was praised for Nani's performance but criticized for the length, the rockstar role, the commercial elements, and lack of convincing screenplay. The film flopped, becoming a disaster, failing to recover 18 of the 30 crores in the budget. His next release was Devadas, a comedy multistarrer in which he played the role of a doctor, and it was released on 27 September 2018. He starred alongside star actor Nagarjuna, who was a don. It was praised for being fun but criticized for having a thin story. It was an Average at the box office due to the relatively big budget and strictly average word of mouth. Nani's first release in 2019 was Jersey, which opened to positive reviews from both critics and Audiences and became a feel good hit at the box office, collecting nearly 65 crores. His next release in 2019 was Gang Leader, which was released on 13 September 2019 to positive reviews. His next project was his 25th film V, directed by Mohan Krishna Indraganti, co-starring Nivetha Thomas and Sudheer Babu, in which he played a negative role. The film received mixed-to-negative reviews with praise towards Nani's performance and the background music but criticism towards the story, screenplay and direction. He next appeared in Tuck Jagadish alongside Ritu Varma. The film received negative reviews with criticism towards the story, screenplay and characters.
Nani's next film was a Periodic-Drama film Shyam Singha Roy. It was theatrically released on 24 December 2021 and received mixed to positive reviews, with praise towards the performances of Nani, Sai Pallavi, Krithi Shetty, Madonna Sebastian, as well as the musical score, art work, film’s score, story, climax, cinematography and visual effects. The film was a "Super-Hit" at the box office, marking the comeback of Nani with back-to-back OTT failures - V and Tuck Jagadish. The film was the last Hit Tollywood film of 2021.
Nani will be next seen in Vivek Athreya directorial Ante Sundaraniki alongside Malayalam actress Nazriya Nazim, making her Telugu - Debut. He will be also seen in the film Dasara, alongside Keerthy Suresh, marking their second collaboration after Nenu Local.
Nani turned producer for the film D for Dopidi, which was co-produced by Raj Nidimoru and Krishna D.K. and starred Sundeep Kishan, Varun Sandesh, and Naveen Polishetty. He also lent his voice to the film. The film was a success at the box office. He launched his film production venture Awe with an announcement of the first film in this banner titled "అ!". His production venture was successful in 2018. He produced a film called Hit starring Vishwaksen.In June 2018, Nani made his television debut by hosting the reality TV show Bigg Boss 2.