Ravi Babu is one of the Telugu Film Industry’s most successful and critically-acclaimed director and producer with a versatile range of films spanning all genres. He has directed 12 films, produced 5 of them, acted in some of them and written all of them. As an actor, he has starred in over 75 films in varied roles as villain, comedian, comi-villain and garnered wide acclaim for his unique method of acting.
Ravi Babu (born as Ravi Thammareddy) is the son of veteran Telugu film actor Chalapathi Rao Thammareddy. Chalapathi Rao is one of the most well-known actors in Telugu films and has acted in over 1200 films during a career spanning over 48years. As a versatile actor, he has essayed many roles as a villain, comic villain, character actor and comedian traversing portrayals as a cop, father, friend, good samaritan, punching bag, sounding board, bad guy, funny guy and so on. Chalapathi Rao is perhaps the only surviving actor who has starred in films criss-crossing all the three generations of Tollywood’s reigning film-hero families. He acted with the legendary N.T. Rama Rao, his son Balakrishna , NTR’s grandsons Tarakaratna as well as NTR Jr. Similarly, he co-starred with the evergreen Akkineni Nageswara Rao, his son Nagarjuna and his grandson Naga Chaitanya.
Ravi Babu is the eldest of three siblings. His primary schooling was at Padma Seshadri Bala Bhavan School in Chennai and he later studied English Literature at the Presidency College, also in Chennai. He graduated with an MBA from the Symbiosis Institute of Business Management (SIBM), Pune - one of the top Ivy League schools in the country, run by Padma Vibhushan awardee Dr. S.B.Mazumdar. Symbiosis always had a 100 per cent placement record attracting the best of blue-chip employers across industries. Ravi could have chosen a high-flying corporate job that would have given him all the perks a fresh MBA from a top university would get, but he gave that up to pursue his dream of film-making. So, he took an off-beat offer of working as a production assistant to ace advertising film-maker Rajiv Menon.
While the offer itself meant nothing monetarily, it set Ravi Babu in the right direction. As an assistant to Rajiv Menon he had to carry lenses, cameras and boxes, in addition to driving his boss around and being of general help. Within a few months, he was promoted as an assistant director and an assistant cameraman. Six months down the line he started handling shoots independently and within a year he quit Rajiv Menon Productions to get more academic training in the U.S. He enrolled in an advanced cinematography course at the Film and Television Workshops in Rockport Maine, but quit shortly because he found the course too elementary. He was offered a job as a cameraman by the India Broadcasting Network in New York. On the job he picked up editing as a chief skill. Off the job he was shooting and editing whatever came his way. In a couple of years he had shot game shows, rock concerts, music videos and infomercials. Incidentally India Broadcasting Network went defunct. But his work caught the attention of some executives at Sony and they invited him to do a course at the Sony Institute in San Jose, California. After the course Ravi Babu did a short stint at TV Asia as ENG producer and also doubled up as cameraman and editor. His American sojourn drew to a close when he decided to go back to India, his vision set on Indian feature films.
His return to India took a dramatic turn and his plans of making movies took a back seat when legendary producer Dr. D. Ramanaidu and director E.V.V. Satyanarayana offered him films, to act. Encouraged by his father Chalapathi Rao, Ravi Babu took the plunge into acting and a whole new career. Acting in movies out of Hyderabad and Bangalore, Ravi Babu kept in touch with his primary passion of film making through advertising. He was directing television commercials for production house Autmncart. In the year 1999 he decided to have his own production house and started Flying Frogs, initially to produce television commercials but would later become a feature film production house.
When the calling came from Tollywood, film-makers casting Ravi Babu had no idea what his years of roughing it out in America made him out to be, nor did they have any inkling of his formidable educational and technical background in film-making. But when they finally cast him, they realised Ravi Babu was an actor moulded in sterner and multiple influences. His first films were “Chala Bagundi” directed by EVV Satyanarayana and “Sivayya” produced by D. RAmanaidu where he played a main villain in both the fims. Both the films were major hits and offers started pouring in for Ravi Babu as the bad guy. He went on to act in more than 75 films till date with films like “Murari” “ Anasuya””13B” “Docheyy” “Swami Ra Ra” and “Seethamma Vaakitlo Sirimalle Chettu” fetching critical acclaim.
Though it was not easy to create a niche for oneself as a villain, Ravi Babu made a mark in all his films as an actor, most of them turned out to super hits and silver jubilee films giving him both the much-coveted success ratio and the tag of a lucky mascot in multi-starrer films. With a muscular body, angular face and a cold-blooded look that could instantly turn soft, bewildered and funny, Ravi Babu has become a volte-face bad guy in Tollywood with sought-after roles opposite such stars as Superstar Mahesh Babu, Victory Venkatesh, Srikanth, Nagarjuna, NTR JR, Tarakaratna, Bhoomika Chawla, Malavika, Simran and so on. His acting has a certain subtle nature to it as well as an impactful intensity, giving him an inimitable style. As an actor he could have easily grown into bigger and meatier roles beating the daylights out of several actors who cornered the limelight in later years but Ravi Babu was a film-maker at heart. Inasmuch as he relished working with talented co-stars on the sets of film makers like EVV Satyanarayana, Karunakaran, Krishna Vamshee, Suriyaa, Srikanth Addala, there was a fire burning inside to prove that he could direct films which are different from mainstream cinema and yet entertain.
The moment came in 2002. Already acclaimed as a good actor with a string of hits to his credit, Ravi Babu was now ready to launch himself as a film-director that would showcase his prowess as a new-age film-maker. The film that heralded the talent of Ravi Babu to Tollywood and beyond was “Allari” (Mischief). Shot in 45 days on a bootstrapping budget, it brought in oodles of freshness and new imagery to Telugu Cinema. The film had a coming-of-age theme and a host of new faces for the cast Because of his superior experience as an ad-film-maker, Ravi Babu created funny urban imagery with colourful visuals and commendable performances by many first-timers set to foot-tapping music by Paul J. The songs of the film were so trendy and appealing that even non-Telugu TV channels started airing them and for many it was the most exciting fun film in Telugu released in years – something that Tollywood never got used to in terms of both content and treatment.
Currently he is scouting for the cast of his next film which according to him will be a marked departure from previous genres he has tried. In the last 13 years, Ravi Babu has rotated diverse genres in his filmography, with some stupendous box office successes and remarkable appreciation in a career that never looked back since his days of apprenticeship with Rajiv Menon. Today, his work speaks for itself. With an eye for detail, un-paralleled command of all the 24 crafts of film-making and an efficiency that makes him a producer’s delight because of the frugal budgeting of his films and also the fewer number of days he shoot, he combines the best of Hollywood techniques with the cinematic sensibilities of Tollywood and Bollywood. This actor-director is today reckoned as one amongst Tollywood’s 10 greatest directors.