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PeepingMoon Exclusive: The emotions in ‘RRR’ will toss you left, right and centre, say SS Rajamouli, Ram Charan and NTR Jr.

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SS Rajamouli’s multilingual period action drama RRR has been waiting to blow cinegoers’ senses since July 2020. It was deferred multiple times due to production delays and then Covid. Finally, it hits the screens tomorrow. And filmmaker Rajamouli, and his heroes NTR Jr. and Ram Charan, are on a whirlwind tour of the country giving interviews about the film. When in Mumbai they spoke to PeepingMoon.com.

Excerpts from the chat.

Is RRR similar to Motorcycle Diaries?

SS Rajamouli: Yes, Motorcycle Diaries is an inspiration but it is not related otherwise. The idea started from there. Motorcycle Diaries is a gentle narrative, RRR is a roller coaster ride. The emotions will toss you left, right and centre.

RRR is a period drama. With all the social inequality and political repercussions shown, will the audience of today resonate?

SS Rajamouli: I feel 90% of the problems are similar even today. Since the beginning of mankind, the problems have been similar and will remain so for countless years. As long as human beings remain human beings, the quest for power and people’s revolt against oppression will not change. 

NTR Jr., you are reuniting with SS Rajamouli after 14 years. How has he changed as a director after Bahubali?

NTR Jr.: He is like a mirror for me. We started off with Student No. 1 and now we as individuals, filmmaker and actor, have grown. I have seen the younger version of him who was craving to show the world what he is capable of and now, he is a filmmaker who blurred the boundaries of Indian regional films and made this all a big Indian film industry. Today, we are not Bollywood, Tollywood, Sandalwood, but a big Indian cinema industry. I am lucky to be associated with him as a friend. He is a filmmaker who has the capacity to challenge his actors.

NTR Jr., you called Ajay Devgn your ‘hero’ but you didn’t get a chance to share screen space with him in RRR. Was that a disappointment?

NTR Jr.: I grew up watching Ajay Devgn’s films and he was always my hero. When I saw his entry in Phool Aur Kaante, I was like, “Wow, how can he do this?” It was a disappointment that I didn’t share screen space with him. Maybe Rajamouli didn’t want us to share screen space. He always says Ajay Sir’s role is the soul of RRR and we (Ram Charan and I) are probably the two roads starting from there.

Ram Charan, you did Zanjeer in 2013 and never signed a Hindi film after that. Why?

Ram Charan: Interestingly, RRR is my second Hindi film and second film with Rajamouli too. I was probably waiting for my second film with him. The number of films we do in a language isn’t important. You should have the right story and intuition that this will work. RRR happened and it cannot get better than this.

Ram Charan, like NTR Jr., even you reunite with Rajamouli after a long break. How has he changed as a director after Bahubali?

Ram Charan: As Tarak (Jr. NTR) said, we have evolved so much as people and as artists. The way Rajamouli Sir has evolved is a personal journey. It is so rewarding for us to be associated with such a man whose vision is unparalleled. Not just as an actor, but he pushes you as a person and pushes your human ability beyond your expectations. As an actor, that is the challenge I look forward to. He is more like a headmaster and we are his students.

SS Rajamouli, you said the story is fictionalized but the characters are real. A lot about these characters is undocumented. How did you go about the story when not much was being spoken about them?

SS Rajamouli: That’s what excited me. RRR is not a biopic of these freedom fighters. I got a chance to explore the gap that they had in their lives as nobody knows about it. It is completely my imagination.

SS Rajamouli, you directed actors from different corners of the world in RRR.

SS Rajamouli: Ram Charan and NTR Jr. are like friends because we have worked together and have known each other for years apart from the films we did. We talk, meet, share ideas, thoughts etc. We are like family and it is not difficult to direct them. When we wrote the story, we knew it would go on for a few years and to keep them excited for that long time is a challenge. That was something that I had to address in the beginning. I write characters and narrate them in such a way that the actors get hooked. They should get excited about their character, the film, budget etc. come later. Once you get them hooked onto the character, they follow and you can make them do anything. The same thing happened with Ajay Devgn and Alia Bhatt. I knew they will come for me, and have respect for me, but I thought if I get them hooked onto their characters, they will go beyond. Hollywood was a regular casting process. Initially, we didn’t want to approach them. I reached out to Shekhar Kapur when we couldn’t find the right actor. He told me to follow a protocol and approach a casting agency. That’s how we got Olivia Morris, Alison Doody and Ray Stevenson onboard.

Ram Charan and NTR Jr., what was more challenging – the action or dance sequences?

Ram Charan: Both are equally challenging. Once my dad (Chiranjeevi) said dancing is so much more difficult than action. In action, you have so many cuts and advanced camera techniques but in dancing, you have to lip-sync, express beautifully, there will not be any cuts for a while and you have to get your steps right. Sometimes, my dances are also like action (laughs).

NTR Jr.: For me, the action was the toughest. After the film releases, Indian cinema’s action will take a leap because of the torture we went through. We started an action sequence in May, in summer, and when we finished it, it was already winter. And then our genius man (SS Rajamouli) doesn’t compromise. In winter, I would be drenched in water at 3-4 degrees temperature. This went on for almost 64 nights. The action was very challenging apart from his want for perfection in acting.

Ram Charan: When I saw a few scenes of Tarak, I felt, “I wish I had them, they were beautiful.” But when I heard about the night sequences in water, I said no!

NTR Jr. and Ram Charan you dubbed in Hindi, Kannada, Tamil and Telugu for RRR. Was it tough?

NTR Jr.: My mother is a Kannadiga so that was easy for me but there were guides to help us with Hindi. Since the first language in school was Hindi, it was easy to pick up. Tamil has always been a South Indian movie language because film was born there. It started there and gradually it came down to Tollywood, Telugu and Kannada industries. For us, Tamil is a very cinema language. When you start talking to the technicians, you start perfecting it.

SS Rajamouli: I was insisting that they dub their own dialogues in all four languages. Yes, sometimes it is difficult to get the nuances of other languages but for me, it is equally important to get the emotions right. As actors what they experienced over 3-4 years, they know what each and every line means. There might be a fantastic dubbing artist in each language, but he won’t know the emotion of a particular line. It took some time to get it perfect. We got experts and commoners to listen to the dubbing and give their feedback.

Ram Charan, you played a cop in Zanjeer and now in RRR, you are wearing the uniform again. You would be a perfect fit in Rohit Shetty’s cop universe.

Ram Charan: You should ask Rohit Shetty if I fit into his cop universe. It is the director’s vision. I loved watching Rohit’s films.

SS Rajamouli: I can answer for him. He can not just fit into any cop universe but into any role offered to him. He believes in coming to a film’s set like a white paper. He says I am here, mold me in whatever way you want.

SS Rajamouli, you have done larger than life films like Bahubali and now RRR. Will you continue to break the barrier or scale down?

SS Rajamouli: Scaling down in terms of budget depends on the story. If I get a cute little story that moves me, I will do it. Pushing myself has to go beyond RRR. Even if it is a cute story, I have to enhance its cuteness. That I will keep pushing myself.

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