A director with the Midas touch. Yes, he’s the man who’s delivered ten consecutive successful films, with or without a star to carry them to box-office glory. Here’s SS Rajamouli in conversation with Shabdita Shrivastav
It is said that the phase the Telugu film industry is going through is the best to date. What do you think?
(Pauses) The first half of 2012 saw a variety of genres and varied storylines do extremely well commercially. Masala films, action films, romance and drama have done well. My own Eega is one of them. Apart from that, Ee Rojullu, which was made on a budget of Rs 70 lakh, did business of Rs 8-10 crore. Judging by this, we can definitely say the current period is seeing a lot of successful films.
Eega has been dubbed in various other regional languages and released with subtitles overseas. Weren’t you planning to release the Hindi version simultaneously?
Earlier, the plan was to release the film at the same time all over India but then we decided to test and release it only in one or two languages and keep the Hindi version on the back burner. But seeing the response so far, we got excited and now we are working towards releasing the dubbed Hindi version titled Makhee. Work is underway and the first half is complete. We are also contemplating the 2D as well as the 3D version.
Eega had a unique concept with a fly playing the lead. Do you think the time
has come to make movies minus a big name and still deliver a big success?
The film industry is largely star-driven but I believe that if a film has good content, it is bound to do well. Stars do make a film but that is not the only way to make a successful film. For instance, in Eega, I could not cast a famous actor and cast a non-star because of its concept. I feel the star should not be a hindrance to the film. Everything depends on the script and what you want to show on the silver screen.
Usually, your father V Vijayendra Prasad scripts your films. But, Eega has been scripted by you. Will you be writing more scripts in future?
The probability is very low. In fact, the basic concept of Eega was my father’s and we had the story in mind for a long time. I had also visualised certain scenes. That’s why I decided to write the script of this film.
What is the formula of your success?
(Laughs) There is no success formula. I was very scared before Eega released. I had decided that I would give 100 per cent to whatever I do. I pour my heart and soul into my work from the time I wake up to the time I sleep.
I have decided to make films in Telugu and Tamil simultaneously because, budget-wise, it makes perfect sense. Hence, I made Eega in Tamil titled Naan Ee. My upcoming films too will be made in these two languages.
Today, the Telugu film industry is not restricted to Andhra Pradesh and it’s growing. What is your take?
Changes are taking place rapidly and, together, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu have the highest concentration of cinemas in India – 900. Also, the biggest market is Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. A film is predominantly the only source of entertainment for 90 per cent of the people in these territories.
Today, digital technology has helped reduce budgets and it is less tedious. There are new cameras and other equipment and one can make a film with good content and release it in different formats. Capitalising on technology is entirely up to the filmmaker. And there are different ways to showcase one’s talent of filmmaking.
Are international markets opening up to Telugu films?
Surely but slowly. The US is among them and there is scope for expansion. Whereas we would earlier release 10 prints of a big film overseas, this went up to 60 last year and 100 prints this year. I think we need to exploit the Middle East market as there is a lot of scope over there.
Are corporate houses showing interest in Telugu films?
I am not really sure. I guess corporate houses have a notion that the entertainment industry is going to multiply in the next 10 to 15 years. So I guess, they will start investing slowly. But, right now, they are mainly investing in Hindi films. I guess they want green pastures. So, at present, many corporate houses are not investing in the South.
The South industry is still following the same formula of filmmaking – showing the leading man as the hero. And if it’s a heroine-oriented film, the actress is the hero.
Cinema is an art form and a reflection of society. Since ours is still predominantly a male-dominated industry, you see a lot of hero-oriented films. But it’s not like there are no female-oriented films. Women too have importance in our society and there are superheroines as well. Arundhati is one such example.
Are you aware that three of your successful films – Vikramarkudu (Rowdy Rathore), Magadheera (work in progress) and Maryada Ramanna (Ajay Devgn’s Son Of Sardaar) – are being remade in Hindi?
It’s more about recycling. Ten to 15 years ago, Hindi films were being remade in Telugu and now the wind is blowing from South to North, and Telugu films are being remade in Hindi. At one point, there were light, subtle films being made and at some point violent, vibrant films being made. So the focus keeps shifting.
Lastly, do you wish to direct a Hindi film?
Directing a Hindi film is a dream but, right now, I have certain commitments and I want to concentrate on them. I will definitely think about it in future.