Considering you have a mammoth release ahead are you restless?
You mean restless because of the lockdown? Yes, of course. But this is an unprecedented situation. This is no time to keep worrying. I strongly believe every challenge that is thrown at you has advantages if you look carefully. I just stay alert and positive.
Your motion poster has generated tremendous enthusiasm as expected. What made you decide to release it during the lockdown and what is your response to the response to the poster?
The dates of motion poster and first look were locked much before the situation started. The question was whether to go ahead or not in the present situation. There was a lot of deliberation. Because the situation demands us to stay at home, we finally decided to release them. We thought, the people sitting at home will have something to watch and enjoy. Something that would take their mind away from the ongoing stress, even for a while.
The fire and ice concept in the poster is intriguing? Are we looking at the two heroes as representing the two elements (fire and ice)?
It is Fire and Water. Yes, that is the idea. Fire and Water are the two opposing elements. One can destroy the other. But if they come together and create steam, the force generated can run the motor of the world.
Whether you like it or not the shadow of Baahubali hovers heavily over RRR. It is your Sholay. Does that worry you?
No. That is an advantage. There is going to be a set of guaranteed audiences. That is power. Like with any power you have to deal with it carefully. With the film shaping up the way we envisioned, we are quite confident that it will meet their expectations.
How consciously different have you tried to be in RRR as compared with Baahubali?
My mantra always had been, to completely forget the previous film’s success and start completely afresh. I don’t keep a comparative chart. I completely ignore it. I make a story that is exciting. And then do whatever that is needed to make it the best. Leave no stone unturned.
Did you miss working with Prabhas? Because he sure did. Do you intend to work with him again?
No. Working for 5 years together, I think we have seen each other enough. Jokes apart, Yes, when we have a subject exciting for both of us we will definitely come together again.
Coming to the title why have you named the film RRR?
It helps to have a common title across all languages for film of this scale. Initially, RRR was just a working title. But that itself became so popular. So we were forced to adopt it because of its popularity.
Tell me about your lead actors Ramcharan Teja and NTR jr, how difficult was it to direct two Telugu superstars in one film?
I worked with both of them before. And we delivered some of the biggest blockbusters. The catch here was they belonged to the traditionally rival film families. But the advantage I had was they are close friends in real life. When I put the idea across, It didn’t take even a minute for them to say Yes. Before we went to shoot, we did character designing sessions. We sketched out their characterizations to the minutest detail. They took to their roles like fish to water.
Have Ajay Devgn and Alia Bhatt been roped in for a pan India appeal? What do they play? How pivotal are they to the plot?
Ajay Sir’s character is extremely important for the film. I needed an actor whose face and every word he utters oozes honesty and integrity. I needed an actor the whole country would believe in what he says or does. I think if I spell out the requirement and ask who is the best actor to play the role, 9 out 10 people would say Ajay Devgn. We are extremely happy and grateful that he accepted the role and played it to utmost perfection. Similarly with Alia. I need an actress who can stand her ground between Tarak and Charan who are extremely talented actors. By the way, this is not a triangle love story. She can be innocent, vulnerable yet be extremely resilient. That is the reason I went for her. The shoot which was supposed to happen this month got cancelled due to the pandemic. We need to rework the dates and schedules. Looking forward to work with her. In large scale films it is very important that there is a perfect balance between art and commerce. One cannot be sacrificed for the sake of the other. Yes, it is also very good their star status helps the pan India appeal.
By all reckoning 2020 is a terrible year for the Indian film industry. How important do you think is it for RRR to succeed?
I don’t like to term it as terrible. It is going to be extremely difficult. We don’t know what’s going to happen or how we are going to come out of this. But for sure we will. We will find ways. Any success brings hope. Every time we want our work to be successful for our sake. This time we need it for everyone’s sake.
It’s not been an easy journey for you to make RRR. It is never is easy for you. You make sure of that. Would you agree?
I disagree. It’s not been hard. At least so far. Every project has its challenges. We can’t term them as a difficult journey. But what happens from here would be the REAL challenge. Simply because we don’t know what to expect. I am just preparing myself mentally to rise up to it, whatever it is.
Why was it difficult getting an Caucasian actress for your film? How did you finally find her and how difficult was it to direct her?
One, because I just didn’t know how they do the casting in the western world. Two, because couple of actresses had to step back due to unforeseen circumstances in the last minute. It is just bad coincidence. We found Olivia through a casting agency in London. Finally the whole unit is happy that it is Olivia who is playing the character. Purely because she is very talented and very beautiful.
Interestingly your son has joined you in making RRR. Your thoughts on that?
He’s been working with me for quite a long time. He became indispensable during Baahubali. He is promoted now to bigger responsibilities for RRR. The biggest of them is to bear the brunt of my outbursts.
What are you considering making next?
As usual, I don’t plan anything until I finish one project.
Your closing thoughts…
We are in an unprecedented situation. I just want to appeal to people to take the government instructions seriously. Many are doing that. Few people are not taking it seriously which can cause serious damage to them and the whole society. Secondly, the health workers and the police are our protection force, Our Army in this war against the Coronavirus. They are risking their lives every day to keep our country safe. They seriously are in need of Masks, Sanitisers and Personal Protection Equipments. Please make donations in whatever capacity you can.