Jr NTR talks about how Telugu cinema is making its mark, not just in India but across the globe
What are the changes you have seen the industry go through over the years?
I came into the industry at a very young age and have been here for almost 17 years. Change is a part of life, and I’ve witnessed it quite a bit in the industry as well as in my own career. Tastes of viewers have changed radically, especially in the last three to four years. People are expecting finesse in everything, whether in performances or technical values or storytelling. We gave Baahubali to the world, so I would say, the Telugu film industry is in top shape!
The Telugu film industry is largely driven by its male actors.
I have two things to say about this. First, I would not say ‘hero-centric’. Most of our films are action-centric. And, traditionally, male stars have been doing more of such films. Perhaps that’s the reason for this image you are referring to. The same industry produced films like Arundhati, Karthavyam, Pratighatana, etc. Yes, there aren’t many of them and perhaps that can be changed if good scripts come by. Second, why only the Telugu film industry? It’s the same with Bollywood or, for that matter, even Hollywood.
It is all about the tastes of the viewers. And the scripts that come by. As for recipe, there is no perfect recipe. There is no good recipe. I think you just need to choose films that challenge you as an actor and stories that satisfy your heart.
Do you agree that piracy is killing the film business everywhere?
Unfortunately, piracy in this day and age has become a very sophisticated and multi-dimensional problem. Though we have dedicated fans who put their heart and soul into reporting piracy, it is not all that simple. It is not simple even for the government. The servers that host pirated content are based in Europe and in countries where it is tough for our cops to enforce action against them. Pirates are evolving very fast technologically. No one person can fight this menace. It has to be a collective effort, on a sustained basis.
Given the fact that Telugu films are well accepted in the US, is the industry exploring new markets?
Telugu films do very well in the US because of the presence of a huge and thriving Telugu community in the States. Telugu people have been migrating to the US to study and to work since the late ‘70s in a big way. The numbers grew exponentially in the ‘90s. Because of this big community and the advent of digital film projection, it has become very easy and viable to exhibit Telugu films or for that matter regional films in the US.
As for opening up of new markets, social media and the Internet have made our actors familiar to people across different states and regions. Films like Baahubali have changed the perception of people towards the Telugu industry and new markets are definitely opening up. In five to ten years, the South could become one huge market for all regional films.
This is the first time you and your brother Kalyan Ram worked together, for Jai Lava Kusa. Do tell us how this film came together, and what it’s like to work with your brother, who is producing this film, and playing a triple role.
Yes, this is the first time that I have collaborated with my brother, professionally. NTR Arts is a home banner for me and it is named after my grandfather. This is an association I do not take lightly. My brother Kalyan Ram and I were always clear that any film of mine, under this banner, should be one that should uphold the legacy. And both of us believe that Jai Lava Kusa fits the bill.
This is a story that I really liked and the chance to play three strong but extremely different characters intrigued me quite a bit. And as you may have observed by now, my favourite character in the film is Jai or Ravan. Ravan is evil and he speaks with a stammer. To project power with a stammer is not easy. I loved this challenge.
Jai Lava Kusa is also the toughest film I have done in my career. Playing three different roles and juggling between the film and Bigg Boss was not easy. But the promise I made to my fans, about always striving to give my best and make them proud, kept me going.
What would you like to change for the better in the Telugu film industry, and what would you like to retain?
I am too small a person to dictate what is right and what is wrong for an industry which has produced stalwarts.