Ram Charan talks to Padma Iyer about his latest release Rangasthalam, his future projects and why he loves the pressure of success
Congratulations on the huge success of Rangasthalam at the box office. How does it feel?
The success is just about sinking in. It has been overwhelming. I am happy with such a great response to all the hard work that we put in for the film.
How did Rangasthalam happen? How did you come on board this film?
I had wanted to work with director Sukumar for a while. The whole thought of this film and working together was finalised in about a month’s time. We both met one day and decided that we had to make a film together. I was so eager to work with him that even before I heard the narration, I told him, ‘I am blocking the next six months for you. Let us just do something together.’
He saw the confidence I had in him and came up with such a beautiful script. I never asked him for anything before I said okay, and he was pleased with that. He said, ‘I am going to come back with something beautiful’, and after ten days or so, he returned with Rangasthalam.
I was taken aback when he told me about the characterisation he came up with. I told him, ‘What is this?’ I had never done something like this before. I had no experience to play such a character. He said that it would be a challenge for me to do this.
You said it was something you had never done before. How did you prepare for such a different role?
This film was a great challenge for me and we prepped for about six months. I had to understand the village set-up and what it was like to live in a village. The director had done so much work while building the character and his research was so detailed that it helped me. I just followed my director, who had done all his homework. It made my job very easy.
For the first schedule, we could have recreated the village scene anywhere on an open plot in the city but Sukumar took 400 of us including the crew to real villages, to give us a feel of what it is like to live in a village and be a villager. The second schedule was on a constructed set, but for the first schedule, he opened us to the vision that he had in mind.
What aspects of the film do you think contributed to making Rangasthalam a success?
First and foremost, the issue that we have highlighted in the film. And second, the honesty in the director’s approach while making the film which made a huge impact on the audience. There is nothing that is false; everything is true to its context. Every character in this film is well defined, every scene is well planned. Nothing is unnecessary, everything is aligned to the director’s zone. The concept of the film is experienced by many people in this country. People want to connect with their roots, to their ancestors, and that has connected with the audience.
Rangasthalam’s promos saw the heroine Samantha get as much space as you, the leading man, did. What are your thoughts on that?
I think that is how it should have always been. One man or two main people cannot shoulder a film. It is everybody’s contribution. That is why we are paying so much to cast a certain person or invest in them, to shoulder the film. That should reflect in the promotions of the films as well. Take any big blockbuster… it is not just the main protagonist or the director’s name that made it a success. Several people come together to make a film a success. It is the contribution of a team.
You are also a producer and are making Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy. What learnings from the success of Rangasthalam will you emulate?
I think giving creative people a sense of comfort is very important. The producers of Rangasthalam gave the artistes and technicians utmost freedom. Of course, there will always be checks and revisiting of budgets etc, but giving them the sense that they are willing to travel with them, not just as producers but also as technicians of a film, is important. It is important for the artistes and the director to have so much support for the film. That is something I have learnt from the producers of Rangasthalam and I am implementing the same in my dad’s project.
What are the challenges that you face as a producer?
The biggest challenge that any producer has is setting up a great team. You don’t have to be there all the time if you have a very good line producer, first AD and executive producer. All these guys make your job very easy. I am very busy with my own projects and I will not be able to be physically present in my dad’s project as much as I would like to. Setting up the team is the biggest challenge and I think I have done a good job with my dad’s film.
How did you get so many talented people from different film industries on board for this film?
One thing is the love that all of them have for dad and, of course, the subject that drew all these guys together. Everyone we approached said ‘I want to be part of Mr Chiranjeevi’s dream project’. I guess the fact that the story has never been told before made it all the more interesting for them to come on board.
When do you plan to release the film?
The tentative date is the summer of 2019. It is a costume drama and there are a lot of factors that will come up during the film’s making. But everything is on schedule and everyone has contributed to the film.
What are the projects you are working on currently or looking forward to?
I am currently doing a film with director Boyapati Srinu. After that, there’s a film with SS Rajamouli.
Is the SS Rajamouli film a two-hero project? How comfortable are you doing multiple-hero films?
I wouldn’t have really said okay if not for Rajamouli. I have so much confidence in him and in his filmmaking and his style. And it has worked well for me in the past as well as for Jr NTR. Our confidence stems from our past experiences and the content he has given us.
Do you have plans to make movies in other languages?
Most movies today are dubbed in other languages, so audiences are able to see me in other languages as well. But, yes, there is nothing like doing a straight film. I will not shy away from it and will look out for something nice and keep the doors open.
Telugu cinema is coming up with a variety of films and stories, from rural dramas to political dramas, to action and romance, and all of them are being accepted by the audience. Would you like to comment on that?
The primary entertainment in the South, and mainly in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, has always been films. In other places, sports like cricket can overtake cinema. During the IPL or World Cup, movies get affected. But, here, it doesn’t seem to have any effect.
My film Rangasthalam released during the IPL as did Mahesh Babu’s film Bharat Ane Nenu. But, cricket did not affect the films. I think we are fortunate to have an audience that loves films. Footfalls in theatres in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana are always good. When the core content of the film, the script, is good, it does well. When a film fails, we say the actor has not performed well, or blame the director, but I feel that success always starts with a beautiful script. Audiences want to see their actors in good stories that entertain and do not bore them.
With Rangasthalam creating a certain benchmark at the box office, do you feel that there is pressure to recreate this success?
We always try our best to meet expectations. There is pressure moving forward, in terms of how responsible you should feel when you have a film which is enjoyed by a large audience and which has earned the producer so much money. That is always a factor in your mind. This also pushes us to do better in our next film and to not be laid back. For me, that is good pressure and I like it. It makes me want to do better and work harder.
How important are box office numbers to you?
As a producer, box office numbers are important and as an actor I think it is like a reward for your work. I believe that numbers should follow if you are making something honest and genuine. We have seen this in the past and I always believe that. From Lagaan to Dangal and Baahubali, anything made with honesty and a lot of hard work does well.