Teja Kakumanu is an Indian actor and director who works in the Telugu entertainment industry. He is known for playing the role of Saketudu in the Telugu film Baahubali: The Beginning (2015) and Sambadu in the Telugu film Aakashavaani (2021). He came into the limelight in 2023 for directing the Telugu web series Save the Tigers, which streamed on Disney+ Hotstar.
Kumar Teja Kakumanu was born on Wednesday, 19 November 1986 (age 36 years; as of 2022) in Dondapadu, Andhra Pradesh, his maternal grandparents’ village. His zodiac sign is Scorpio. He belonged to a farming family and grew up in Abbarajupalem in Thullur Mandal, Guntur district, Andhra Pradesh spending his time in the lemon fields around his home. In an interview, while recalling his childhood, he said,
My father was a farmer. I grew up in a very remote village called Aparajapaalem which barely had 300 houses. Our house was in the middle of a lemon field and that was the kind of life I was exposed as a child.”
His family used to cultivate cotton, redgram, peanuts, bananas, lemons, etc., on their two-acre land. However, when the government asked the farms under land pooling for the construction of capital, they had to oblige, even though they didn’t like the idea. He did his schooling at Mary Matha English Medium High School in Thullur. Thereafter, he pursued his intermediate studies at PB Siddhartha Junior College in Vijayawada. He did his graduation at Sarada Degree College, Vijayawada. In an interview, Teja revealed that he never aspired to be an actor or a director. He was inclined towards politics during his college days in Vijayawada. He was an active student leader and a state-level executive in Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP). He started taking part in various competitions after noticing that his peers were winning college competitions and taking home trophies. While talking about the same, he said
I thought it would be good to win some prizes. I was good at preparing speeches for elocution contests at short notice. I also worked with a few theatre groups. I loved being on stage and behind it, helping put up the sets and arrange the lighting. I participated in competitions and won prizes.”
Later, he moved to Hyderabad, Telangana for further education. Then, he pursued a Master of Performing Arts and Master of Philosophy from Potti Sreeramulu Telugu University, Hyderabad, Telangana. While pursuing his master’s degree, he would often travel to Vijayawada and Guntur for training students for college fests. He also performed in stage plays across various cities in Andhra Pradesh. Whenever he visited his native village, Abbarajupalem, people would ask him why they cannot see him on the TV or in a film if he was an actor. Apparently, they did not understand that he was a theatre artist a did stage plays. He ventured into the Telugu film industry in 2013 after attending a workshop, where he made acquaintance with filmmaker Pradeep Reddy. Pradeep, who bagged the National Award for his first Telugu short film Advaitham, suggested Teja gets into films. Teja paid heed to Pradeep’s advice seriously and joined the direction department. Soon, he developed a passion for filmmaking, and simultaneously, he started taking up small roles in Telugu films.
Height (approx.): 6′ 2″
Hair Colour: Black
Eye Colour: Black
Parents & Siblings
His father was a farmer. He has a sister who lives in the US. His brother is a chartered accountant.
Wife & Children
His wife’s name is Sneha Rao. Together, Teja and Sneha established an organic juice bar called Yosta in Banjara Hills in Hyderabad in 2013. He has two daughters. One of her daughters’ names is Aradhya Teja.
He follows Hinduism.
At the beginning of his career, he teamed up with Pradeep Advaitham and Mahesh Kathi who were exploring their options as new directors at that time. When Pradeep turned director, Teja worked with him as an associate for the 2014 Telugu films Billa Ranga and Maine Pyar Kiya. He also worked with Mahesh Kathi for the Telugu film Pesarattu (2014) and Sriram Adittya for the Telugu film Bhale Manchi Roju (2015) in the direction department. Simultaneously, he acted in plays.
He won numerous awards for acting in plays, including the Andhra Pradesh State government’s Nandi Award in 2013 for starring in the play Kalyani.
It was his titular role in Sauda Aruna Theatre Group’s mythic-historical play Barbareekudu (or Barbarika) in 2013 which caught the eye of screenwriter Vijayendra Prasad that earned him a role in Baahubali: The Beginning (2015). Talking about the same in an interview, he said,
When I acted as Barbareekudu in a play, The coverage from The Hans India, attracted Rajamouli, who later offered me the role of Saketudu in Bahubali.”
Teja Kakumanu played various inconsequential roles before bagging a traitor’s role in Baahubali: The Beginning (2015). He started his journey as an actor after securing the opportunity to act in director Teja’s Telugu romantic thriller film Neeku Naaku Dash Dash (2012). He gained recognition when he played the role of a traitor named Saketudu in the Telugu epic action film Baahubali: The Beginning (2015). In the film, Saketudu works as a spy for the savage Kaalakeya tribe that declares war on the kingdom of Mahishmati. Baahubali: The Beginning (2015) earned massive popularity and later became a pan-India film.
In 2016, he appeared in the zombie-comedy Telugu film Thanu Vachenanta. The actor-director played the lead role of Akhtar Ahmed in the crime drama web series Shoot Out At Alair (2020).
He played the role of Sambadu in the Telugu slice-of-life drama film Aakashavaani (2021), which was released on the streaming platform SonyLIV The film follows a tribe residing in the forests hills of Andhra Pradesh that lives under the rule of Dora (Lord in Telugu) who forbids anyone from entering or leaving the village without his permission. In the film, Sambadu is Dora’s henchman.
After starring as a cop in the Telugu action-thriller film Bheemla Nayak (2022), he played the role of Dr Rajashekar in the Telugu legal drama film Mukhachitram. He played a minor role of SP Parasuram in the Telugu crime-drama streaming TV series Parampara in 2021 and its sequel in 2022.
Later, he was cast in director Vikram K Kumar’s supernatural horror thriller show Dhootha starring Naga Chaitanya on Amazon Prime.
In 2023, he made his directorial debut with the Telugu comedy-relationship drama show Save the Tigers streamed on Disney+ Hotstar.
The web series features Chaitanya Krishna, Abhinav Gomatam, Priyadarshi Pulikonda, and Harsha Vardhan in key roles.
He worked first assistant director for the Telugu film Devadas (2018). He also worked on the Telugu period romantic drama film Sita Ramam (2022), starring stars Dulquer Salmaan and Mrunal Thakur in the lead roles.
- His other name is Kumar Teja.
- Apart from acting and directing, he also trains budding actors by conducting workshops.
- Teja was the lead in the Telegu remake of the Marathi film Poster Boys (2017) which was planned by Akshay Kumar and Rana Daggubati. However, the project was suspended due to unforeseen circumstances. Thereafter, Teja secured a lead role in Thanu Vachenanta.
- While talking about the idea behind the series Save the Tigers, in an interview, he said,
When my daughter was born, my wife was invited to a Mother’s Day event. While she couldn’t turn up, I went there and played games with other moms and kids. When I shared the videos with Pradeep, he came up with a story.”
- He regularly practices yoga.
- He is fond of gardening and maintains a terrace garden at his home. In an interview, he said that it was his family’s agricultural background that intrigued him to do gardening. He follows tutorials by Charles Dowding, an agriculturist who specialises in organic farming outside of fields.