Panja Sai Dharam Tej, born 15 October 1986, is an Indian actor who works in Telugu films. He made his debut as a lead with the successful film Pilla Nuvvu Leni Jeevitham (2014) for which he received SIIMA Award of Best Male Debut. He went onto star in successful films including Subramanyam for Sale (2015), Supreme (2016), Chitralahari (2019), Prati Roju Pandage (2019), Solo Brathuke So Better (2019) and Republic (2021).
Sai Tej was born to Vijaya Durga, sister of Telugu film actor-politician Chiranjeevi. Tej did his schooling at Nalanda School, Hyderabad and completed his graduation from St. Mary’s College, Hyderabad. Actors Allu Arjun, Ram Charan, Allu Sirish, Varun Tej and Niharika Konidela are Tej’s cousins. He has a younger brother Vaisshnav Tej who is also an actor.
Tej made his debut with the film Pilla Nuvvu Leni Jeevitham in 2014 though he shot for YVS Chowdary’s Rey earlier, which was completed in 2013 but delayed until 2015. In his review about the film Pilla Nuvvu Leni Jeevitham, Hemanth Kumar of The Times of India wrote that “The hero’s characterization is written in an arbitrary manner; however, Sai Dharam Tej’s rustic charm makes his actions believable. The actor is particularly impressive with his dance moves “. Another critic too opined the same, and praised his looks in particular. His performance in the film fetched him various accolades. His next film Rey (2015) received negative reviews. Tej’s second release in 2015 was Subramanyam for Sale, which was successful at the box office, grossing over ₹33.95 crore. He starred alongside Regina Cassandra, for the second time, after Pilla Nuvvu Leni Jeevitham (2014). Although various critics called it “routine”, Tej’s performance was cited as “improved performance”,”spontaneous”, and “stunning”.
Tej’s action comedy Supreme which released the following year, was also financially successful and was one of his best movies. Following Supreme, Tej went onto star in five films (in lead), including Thikka (2016), Winner (2017), Jawaan (2017), Intelligent (2018) and Tej I Love You (2018). Tej was also criticized for selecting similar and regular stories in his films.
Chitralahari was his first release of 2019. The film was a box office success with critics praising his performance and Tej giving one of his career best performances. The Times of India had called the character Vijay in the film, the best in Tej’s career so far. About his role in the film, Deccan Chronicle reported that “Sai Tej has put on weight and with a beard looks fresh and fits the character. For this role, he has completely set aside his mass image”. His next film of the year, Prati Roju Pandage was also successful. Murali Krishna CH of The New Indian Express in his review of the film, wrote that “The film is definitely Sai Tej’s canvas and he delivers his standard chops with flamboyance”. Later in 2020, his film Solo Brathuke So Better was released following the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the restriction of 50% occupancy in cinemas, the film was successful at the box office. Idlebrain’s Jeevi appreciated Tej’s performance, particularly his comedy timing and acting in the emotional scenes of the film. In contrast, Y Sunita Chowdhary of The Hindu opined that “Tej could have benefited from a better script.”
In his next film Republic (2021), directed by Deva Katta, Tej played the role of an IAS officer. The film, which is a political drama, opened to positive reviews, with critics calling his performance “matured” and the film was well received by audiences and became a ‘hit’. Prakash Pecheti of Telangana Today stated: “Republic surely adds a cap in the feather for Sai Dharam Tej.”
In September 2021, Tej met with a motorcycle accident near the Durgam Cheruvu Bridge in Hyderabad. He has been admitted to Apollo Hospitals who announced that he sustained soft tissue injuries and a collar bone fracture but was out of danger.