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Monday, August 6, 2007

Exclusive Interview: Rajamouli



S.S. Rajamouli, the talented and successful director of a series of hits from Student No. 1 to Vikramarkudu, is ready to come up with a socio-fantasy for the first time with the film Yamadonga. As the film is getting ready for release, Rajamouli is busy with the editing, re-recording and other post-production work for the movie. Amidst the busy schedules, finally get a hold of him when he was in the recording theatre by interviewer.

Sri: Is the film a remake of the Yamagola of the past?

Rajamouli: The basic plot is inspired by old films like Devantakudu and Yamagola where the hero dies and goes to yamalOkam and comes back to the earth. That's it, the similarities end there! Rest of the story has nothing to do with films of the past.

Sri: You had worked with Jr. NTR for Student No. 1 and Simhadri in the past too. What difference have you seen in him after this gap, on the sets of Yamadonga.

Rajamouli: He proved himself as a complete actor by the time of Simhadri itself . As a person, he changed... I think age and other things brought him maturity. He is now more matured and cooler than before.

Sri: This is the first time you are doing a socio-fantasy film. So how did you prepare for the film? Where did you get the inspiration for visuals?

Rajamouli: The legendary Vijaya films like Paathaala Bhairavi, Jagadekaveeruni Katha are my primary sources of inspiration. Those films stirred the creative juices in my childhood itself. The artistes, their body language, dialogue delivery are all etched into my memory permanently. The visuals for our film, of course, are developed by Senthil, Rama, Anand Sai, Kanal Kannan, our SFX supervisor an me.

Sri: How did you made NTR to lose the flab?

Rajamouli: (Laughs) Not me. You should ask and appreciate him for that. When we planned to make a movie, we wanted to make a complete family-oriented film. For that, the hero should look glamorous. So, before we started the film, we sat with him and discussed on looks and getups. He was already in process of shedding some of his weight, and after the discussions, he worked harder, controlled his diet, stopped working on weights, and slimmed down. He loves good food, but he restrained himself a lot for this film.

Sri: How did you make Mohan Babu accept your film?

Rajamouli: When we planned the film, I had Mohan Babu gaaru and none else in my mind for this role, so much that I would have gone with a different project if he didn't accept the role! We went and approached him with the concept and narrated the story to him. He gladly agreed to do the film on one condition. While signing the film, he just said that he will be on sets with makeup five minutes before the scheduled time and will leave at the strike of six o' clock in the evening.

Sri: How was it to work with him? I mean, there are so many hearsays...

Rajamouli: I have not faced any problems, really! Before signing him, people warned me about his short temper, in fact. I worked with him for more than 37 days, and he was never in a foul mood ...nor was he late for the shoot ever! He was always in time and was always very jovial on the sets. However, unlike what we agreed upon, I never left him off free by 6:00 p.m. - not a single day! - but he was not at all upset. One day, after 8:30 p.m., he came to me and said that he'd stay back further to complete the scene that was planned to be done.

A wonderful person he is, he was generous in adjusting schedules, indeed! ...Actually, before his part of the shooting started, I asked Cherry to be on the sets while Mohan Babu gaari shooting was going on, so that he can take care of any issues that might rise. Seeing him and working with him on the first day itself, we found it unnecessary for Cherry to be on the sets for that purpose, and he was never on the sets after the first day, actually!

Sri: What kind of precautions did you take about his ornaments?

Rajamouli: As it's a socio-fantasy film and the role of the Yama appeared on silver screen many times in the past, we did not want to go for similar type of ornaments. We watched all the Yama-based films of the past and designed our own ornaments afresh. It took more than three months only to finalize Mohan Babu gaari getup for the film. We didn't like the designs the first couple of times, and we changed them again and again ...until they completely matched our thoughts!

Sri: The yamalOkam set seems very expensive!

Rajamouli: It was not all lavish from the beginning (laughs). See, in all the old films, except for the throne, most of the sets were tacky for yamalOkam. When we planned to erect a set, we wanted to have pillars which should go well with the throne, and a royal, palatial court to go with the pillar, ...we simply wanted a complete "set", and we erected one!

Sri: Don't you think such a huge set increases production costs?

Rajamouli: Yes, of course, the cost was increased, but it is the producer Cherry's money, not mine ...and he never complained about it!

Sri: I believe you're working in Ramoji Film City for the first time?

Rajamouli: True, this is my first at the RFC. To tell you the truth, I didn't have a good opinion on RFC earlier, but this film changed all my opinions on RFC. For example, the set we just spoke about would normally take three months for erection. Sekhar Babu gaaru, head of Mantrat at RFC and Kiran got us the set in less than half that time! The co-operation we got from the people in RFC is really amazing!

Sri: Mamatha was replaced a couple of times before this project in other films. And, anyway, why did you cast two heroines for the project?

Rajamouli: Regarding Mamatha's replacement in other projects in the past, I am never bothered about what projects one does before one does mine, what market one has, or anything of the sort. I only choose them if I think they suit the role, that's all, and so Mamatha is in! The film needs two heroines, and so we have them. I mean, they are not just here for the songs. The story's run itself needs two heroines.

Sri: I mean, I am curious to know where the heroines fit in the story that essentially revolves around NTR and Mohan Babu... and we already have three other celestial damsels.

Rajamouli: The film is a blend of both tracks - an entertaining track with Mohan Babu gaaru and NTR, and a love track between the hero and the heroines. And now, don't ask me more ! Watch the movie for the rest of the story (laughs).

Sri: The film apparently relies very much on the visuals. How are art and camera blended to throw a visual treat to the audience?

Rajamouli: Thinking of the big picture and having talented technicians was a key decision we made for our film. When we thought of creating periodic sets, we made sure we obtained visual references from the classic masterpieces. Anand Sai's yamalOkam set looked marvelous and was beyond our imagination. The set was designed on par with Hollywood standards. Senthil geared up with his lighting scheme and wanted to use soft lighting scheme matching the said standards. The set made me relax so much that I was concentrating on shot division until there was a dialogue between Senthil and Anand Sai about the lighting pattern.

Anand Sai was worried that Senthil's soft lighting scheme might not showcase the detailed artwork. There was a logical problem about enhancing the beauty of jewelry and set properties. Senthil, however, was persistent on his idea of using soft lighting. Senthil and I then worked on finding a solution about how our maestros managed to pull the hard task of projecting the glitter of the jewelry. With no advanced projection system in theatres using old techniques, it might be dominating the actors.

Senthil came up with a solution to make the stones shine on gold using regular household bare bulbs behind the camera, so that other lighting will not be affected but the stones studded in the ornaments are will still glitter. This is no rocket science to our cinematographers but this incident will remain memorable as it was conflicting with the work of my key talent - both of them lived up to their work while being creative. I really appreciate their working style on not compromising any element and still helping to drive towards a solution, while catering to my larger vision.

Sri: After Student No. 1, you have evolved as director in your way. There was hardly any influence of your guru K. Raghavendra Rao. But when we see the trailers of Yamadonga, we feel the influence of your guru (like he did for Jagadeka Veerudu-Atiloka Sundari). What are your comments on it?

Rajamouli: I am surprised that you found resemblances of Raghavendra Rao gaari work in Yamadonga trailers. To the best of my knowledge, his visual senses and color taste are completely different from mine. I do copy some of his shot making, but add my own zing to them. In any case, those shots were not put in the trailers.

Sri: You said the film has several graphics-based scenes. In most Telugu films though, the graphical work doesn't really look appealing, due to time constraint and/or budget. Even in your Chatrapathi, the special effect with the shark was not all that impressive. What cautions you have taken this time?

Rajamouli: There are hundred and one reasons why graphics might not work in a film. Time constraint is the major one among them. As far as Yamadonga is concerned, we shot most of the graphical shots in January and February itself, giving the FX guys enough time to work on the finer nuances.

Sri: Is it true that a graphic designer from Iran helped you in sets and graphics?

Rajamouli: Yes! Adel Adili, an Iranian, worked on the the exterior of Yama's palace and yamalOkam. He did a splendid job. We entrusted him with another job.

Sri: Are you satisfied with the final product of sets and graphics when you see the edited film now?

Rajamouli: Yes, yes, yes, ...and yes!

Sri: The release date seemed to have moved from 3rd of August originally to 15th of August now. What caused the delay? And, how many prints are you getting out?

Rajamouli: For one, I never said that it'd be released on the 3rd. It's getting ready for the independence day release, with 350 prints.

Sri: What's the response for the audio? You seem to have taken special care to curb piracy?

Rajamouli: Credit should go to my vadina (Mrs. Sreevalli Keeravani). It is her idea to include a flipbook and stickers along with the CD. In fact, her audio company Vel Records cut down the profits to make it happen. Most piracy is restricted by this step and we're getting more orders. The audio is a good hit, which is always a plus for the film.

Sri: What are your next projects? We keep hearing a new rumor a new name each time - that you're currently making a movie for Rayapati Sambasiva Rao, one for B.V. Prasad, one of Ramcharan Teja, etc. But, you are doing only one film per year, so when you will complete all this films?

Rajamouli: As you said yourself, they are rumors. I make films at my own sweet pace. And, I need a vacation of at least two months after I complete each movie. It's only after all this that we think of a story line, and then we sit and prepare a story based on a hero and the story setup. You can see why I can't take up movies any faster. I cannot do more films because I have offers.

Sri: You are presenting Mullapudi Vara's film. What made you to do that?

Rajamouli: I listened to his script and was very thrilled. I wanted to produce it myself, but I was busy with Yamadonga. I wanted to be a part of the project in some way though, and thus chose to present the film.

Sri: Will you continue producing films on your banner? Would you then give chance to other directors?

Rajamouli: As a clarification here, Yamadonga is being produced by Cherry and Urmila .They are just using my banner for this film. All the future productions of Vishwamitra creations will be produced by me. Yes, we are planning to produce films with other directors also under our banner, but that will take some time.

Sri: Oh, by the way, what is the reason for taking in Prabhas for the shooting for Vishwamitra Creations logo? Will Prabhas appear in Yamadonga or will he stick only to the banner shoot?

Rajamouli: Vishwamitra is a king who became a brahmarshi. Logically, his body language should be royal. It's very nice of him to act in our banner logo, and that's about it.

Interviewed by Sri
Special Acknowledgments to Rama Rajamouli


source: telugucinema.com

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