SS Rajamouli on magnum opus RRR: Everyday is a challenge when working on a movie of this scale

Rajamouli brings two famous actors together for epic blockbuster that faced multiple delays due to the pandemic.


Dhanusha Gokulan

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Ram Charan, SS Rajamouli and Jr NTR (Photos: Supplied)
Ram Charan, SS Rajamouli and Jr NTR (Photos: Supplied)

Published: Sun 20 Mar 2022, 10:34 AM

Last updated: Sun 20 Mar 2022, 2:30 PM

One of India’s most sought-after directors, Koduri Srisaila Sri Rajamouli, professionally known as SS Rajamouli, wears a calm demeanour ahead of the highly anticipated release of RRR, his latest movie.

The maverick movie director and screenwriter has re-written cinema history with cult classics, including the Baahubali trilogy, Magadheera, Sye, and Eega.

Today, he awaits the release of his magnum opus, RRR. Starring Ram Charan, Jr NTR, Alia Bhatt, and Ajay Devgn, the movie’s budget stands at a whopping Rs500 crore ($73 million).

RRR is a period action drama focusing on two Indian revolutionaries - Alluri Sitarama Raju and Komaram Bheem - and their journey away from home. After their travels, they return home to fight against the British colonialists in the 1920s.

The movie is set for international release in five languages on March 25, after facing several delays due to the Covid-19 pandemic. City Times spoke with SS Rajamouli ahead of the movie’s release.

After the enormously successful Baahubali, how are you handling pressure ahead of RRR’s release?

I don’t feel the pressure like I did in my previous movie. Not as much as before. The expectations (from RRR) have given me strength… and have propelled me forward. Once I complete making a movie, I am done with it. The next film I take up becomes my first film. I work on the strength of the story of the first film.

Your movies are well known for their extravagant cinematography and mind-blowing stunts. However, you connect with your audiences at a very emotional level, and your films are very emotionally driven. How do you strike a balance between them both? Have you deployed a similar formula with RRR as well?

Yes, very much. If you can look at it differently, I would suggest looking at the cinematography and emotional aspect as two separate things. It is the emotional content that drives the visuals. And if you look at it slightly differently, the emotion enhances when you put it into action.

If I were to give an example from a filmmaker’s perspective, if a character has to provide a shocked expression upon hearing some sad news, it delivers a specific impact if he is static. However, it enhances the emotion if the same expression was used when he received the information while in motion, maybe when he was in a moving car. The action enhances the feeling, and both are closely connected. Moreover, I’m a guy who has a magnifying glass in his brain... I like to magnify everything.

What was it like bringing Jr NTR and Ram Charan, two absolute powerhouses together?

Getting them together was not a difficult task. We’ve known each other for 15-20 years; they are like my friends and brothers, and we’re constantly in touch with each other discussing films. Forget RRR; they would come on board for anything for me. However, the challenge was to keep them engaged and interested in the project for that much time.

On that front, achieving the characterisation in a very detailed way helps. Once they get hooked to the characters, it's not the relationship with me that matters but the love for the character that makes them stay.

Did you face any major challenges on the sets of RRR?

Every day is a challenge when doing a film of this scale (laughs). The biggest challenge is communicating to the last man, the last working man, on the day’s work and what needs to be done. Luckily, I had the help of some experienced crew members who worked very well. There were other challenges, but we had to think on our toes.

Are there any memorable moments from the shoot that stand out for you?

It’s not just one moment, but the sequence where we introduced Ram Charan, whose character is up against 2,000 people. It wasn’t like Magadheera, which was a fantasy kind of film… I wanted this sequence to be very realistic. We had to shoot a scene with 2,000 men yelling, screaming, and jostling. You can see one shot happening, and I was worried that someone had broken a bone after staying under the sun, under dusty circumstances, for 16 to 17 days. I was so happy that no one suffered a single scratch.

We practised for two months to make that shoot happen; the practice, the process and the result were very satisfactory.

The production and release schedule of RRR suffered many disruptions due to Covid-19. Now that we are in a post-pandemic world, did your movie-making style undergo any transformations?

Many people have lost their lives and livelihood. It is not just my film that was forced to stop, but the entire world suffered many setbacks.

Personally, it didn’t affect me negatively in any way. I had more time to fine-tune my project; I’m known to take a lot of time with my post-production. In this case, I was automatically given the time to work on my film.

What about cinema and filmmaking in general? Do you expect to see a lot of changes in the industry post-pandemic?

I don’t think so. Of course, OTT platforms have become a lot stronger post-pandemic, and more filmmakers are moving towards the platform, especially younger directors who seem to be more drawn towards OTT platforms. I believe stories won’t change. Stories that are emotional and engaging will receive the same appreciation across platforms.

Like your approach towards cinema, everything in the UAE is larger-than-life. Have you ever considered coming here and shooting a movie?

Many places across the region are attractive and compelling (in terms of) where you can place your action and emotional sequences. I get very fascinated by the images, but, ultimately, there should be something in the script that compels you to shoot there. If the script compels it, I would be thrilled to shoot there.

What message would you have for your UAE fans eagerly waiting to watch RRR?

I don’t believe in messages. I don’t give; I just take the love. I am very sure that you don’t need to tell people what to expect or what to do with their lives. They are pretty clever. They know what to expect from a movie from a firm's perspective. I think they (the audience) have already decided what to expect from RRR (laughs).

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