In this Telugu film Sanjay does just a cameo.
About the story: Sitarama Rao (Nagarjuna) faces massive family problems. His father was cheated and innocently jailed, and to pay for the court proceedings and furthermore his sister’s study fees, Sitarama gets up to his ears into debt. One evening he watches a horrendous car accident; he gets the driver, the beautiful and wealthy Chandra (Ramya Krishna) out of the car wreck and takes her to a hospital where she goes into a coma. Because of a misconception, Chandra’s family takes him for her husband Raj Kapoor because of whom Chandra had run away from home. At the request of a relative who realizes the truth, Sitarama agrees to act as Raj Kapoor to avoid further perturbance for Chandra’s cardiac father. First unwilling to do this charade, Sitarama finally also sees a chance to solve his financial problems by being Chandra’s "husband". But not everyone is convinced about this "Raj Kapoor", especially not Chandra’s soulmate Lekha (Isha Koppikar)...
It was really an unexpected surprise for me to learn about a Telugu film in Sanjay Dutt’s filmography. Until now, Chandralekha was not to be found in any Sanjay’s film list known to me. Okay, "popular Hindi artiste Sanjay Dutt" (as the DVD cover says) plays just a brief cameo, a single minuscule scene, but he definitely did it, and so Chandralekha belongs to his filmography as well as, say, Achanak from the same year where his guest appearance is comparably short. I can just guess the reason for this cameo; I suppose that it might have been Ram Gopal Varma, the mentor of director Krishna Vamsi, who arranged this trip to Telugu climes for his Daud hero.
The story of Chandralekha is a variant of the Hollywood movie While You Were Sleeping. Two years later even a Hindi remake was made, Har Dil Jo Pyar Karega, where Shahrukh Khan appeared in the small guest role which in Chandralekha was played by Sanjay Dutt: the coma patient’s alleged husband who claims his rights until he is revealed as mentally disturbed and taken away. A simple task which Sanjay solves seasonedly and with ice-cold English phrases (appreciated with "Our Thanks to Sanjay Dutt" in the end). Quick and easy.
Too bad, the rest of the film is not like that. The dialogues are mostly fired like a machine-gun – fast and loud. And the humour is more of the unnerving kind. In between there are a few bright spots, e.g. each time when Ramya Krishna dances or when Nagarjuna gets emotional and a bit more quiet. All in all, Chandralekha is his film which was no big problem as he hardly faced any competition by his fellow actors. The film also suffers from technical flaws, be it the unnatural and loud sound reverberation (it sounds like the dubbing has taken place in a large dome) or incorrect subtitles which sometimes even lack completely.
So Sanjay Dutt’s fans can regard Chandralekha as a rare curiosity in his filmography, but you need it really only when you’re eager to get a complete collection of his films.
Produced by Nagarjuna Akkineni, V. Ramprasad; Directed by Priyadarshan & Fazil, Krishna Vamsi
149 Min.; DVD: Sri Balaji Video, English subtitles (including songs), often incorrect and sometimes completely missing