Its the story and not the stars that ultimately run the show in a pan Indian film, said Baahubali director SS Rajamouli, who is gearing up for the release of his mega-budget multi-starrer RRR.
The 48-year-old director, known for making fantasy dramas like Yamadonga, Magadheera and Eega, believed that a true pan Indian film is not about getting big stars from different industries. It is more important for the film to have a story that can connect universally, sometimes even without dialogues.
“A pan Indian film does not mean that actors from different languages come together. A pan Indian film means a story that connects to everyone irrespective of the language,” said the director, adding that while creating a story he thinks if switches off this dialogue portion, will the audience still connect to my movie?
“Many times, the answer is a yes,” said Rajamouli in an interview to PTI. The director has often said in interviews that it is about the actors fitting the characters convincingly and having personality traits that the characters demand and deserve rather than the other way around.
Further, in the PTI interview, he added that it is easy to be “regional” when there are big stars in the film, as one can easily “play to the gallery” but one should not fall into this trap. According to the director, if your basic storyline is about universal emotions then you have to build up the scenes that way, not to the star’s status.
“The actor in the star should be able to support your movie. I always believe stars are there to bring the audiences to the theatres but once they are there, it is the story that runs the show, not stars,” he pointed out.
His latest outing RRR is a pre-Independence fictional story woven around two real Indian revolutionaries in the 1920s, Alluri Sitarama Raju (Ram Charan), and Komaram Bheem (N T Rama Rao Jr). The film also features Ajay Devgn, Alia Bhatt and Olivia Morris in small but significant roles in the movie.
Rajamouli said he did not approach Bhatt or Devgn because it was an “economically viable” option but because their presence was essential to his film.
“Even though the film is inspired by freedom fighters and the Independence struggle, it is not about patriotism but the friendship between these two heroes and how they inspire each other to grow. Because it is a fictional story, I did not go too much into the authenticity in terms of their clothes and the way they speak,” admitted Rajamouli.
The director said he always wanted to do a fictional story on a real hero and the timelines of Raju and Bheems’ revolt were so similar that he thought this would be a perfect story for a film. Rajamouli was also inspired by the Hollywood film, The Motorcycle Diaries, and how a character like Che transforms himself into a revolutionary called Guevara and this idea is at the core of RRR. He has structured the characters of his protagonists around a common point, on similar lines, Rajamouli had said in an earlier interview.
Rajamouli admitted that though he does not analyse his films too much if he looks back, it is oppression and the rise against it which is a very strong human emotion for him. “I love weaving stories around oppression and uprising,” he said, replying to a question on what connects the universe of Baahubali and RRR.
People who have watched Baahubali will expect something similar with RRR, he said, but both the stories are different.
“I’m aware that people who have gone and watched Baahubali would be expecting a similar thing with my next film, RRR in this instance. But I dont get bogged down by that. When people say, we need another Baahubali, what they really mean is that they want a similar experience with what they had with Baahubali.”
Asked about the instructions he gives to his actors, especially about their physical appearance in the film, the director said he narrated his story in a way that actors understood what is required of them.
“I don’t tell the actors that you have to build your body but when I narrate scenes, they understand they have to be physically and mentally fit to ace those scenes. If I tell NTR Jr that your first action sequence is with a tiger, he understands what he needs to do. If I tell Charan, your introduction scene is with multiple fighters, he understands what he needs to do,” he said in the interview.
Having worked with both the actors in the past, it was easy to work with them and they were on the same page when it came to their performance. He, however, is looking forward to the dubbing they have done for the film in four languages: Hindi, Tamil, Kannada and Telugu.
Rajamouli has once again collaborated with his father, writer K V Vijayendra Prasad for RRR. He is best known for being the writer for films such s Bajrangi Bhaijaan, Baahubali and Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi. The director praised his father for his penchant for creating dramatic scenes with great flourish.
“From a young age, I had this vivid imagination… When my father started working, he would tell us scenes he had developed and I would amp them up in my own way… He realised I have something in me and asked me to join him as an assistant,” revealed Rajamouli.
Rajamouli said after assisting his father for five years, they developed a shorthand about how their individual minds worked. “He’s the best story writer I know. He wrote almost all of my films, except one or two. We understand each other well. But as a writer-director, it is me who dictates the scenes. We have our own share of arguments and quarrels,” he admitted wryly.
The COVID pandemic delayed RRR by a year but the director took it in his stride, saying it only gave him more time to polish the film. Now that the release date is near, Rajamouli said he is going through emotions of anxiety and excitement. “I always say that before the release of a film, my mind is split in two, on one side, there is the confidence that it is going to do well and on the other side, it is anxious and full of questions like will it really do as well as I expect?” The director will know the answer to this question when RRR releases in theatres on January 7.e