Maharshi director Vamshi Paidipally talks about the making of the film and his relationship with Mahesh Babu
Maharshi took a terrific opening at the box-office, but the most gratifying feeling, as Vamshi Paidipally says, has been the social impact that it has made.
When Vamshi Paidipally first pitched the idea of Maharshi to Mahesh Babu, the latter was almost going to say no to him due to his prior commitments. However, a brief narration changed everything. Although the director, whose previous credits include films like Oopiri, Yevadu, and Brindavanam, had to wait for another two years before Mahesh Babu gave his final nod to shoot the film.
It hasn’t been an easy journey for Vamshi Paidipally, who turned director with Prabhas, Ileana-starrer Munna back in 2007. His first film bombed at the box-office; however, that didn’t stop him from working with some of the biggest names in the industry since then. “I owe my career to all the actors who trusted me all these years. After Munna didn’t do well, when I pitched Brindavanam to NTR, he didn’t think twice before saying yes. The same thing happened with Ram Charan, Allu Arjun, and later with Nagarjuna and Karthi. I’m constantly learning with every film and my filmmaking too has evolved over the years,” Vamshi Paidipally says.
Currently, he’s basking in the glory of Maharshi’s success. The film, starring Mahesh Babu and Pooja Hegde, took a terrific opening at the box-office, but the most gratifying feeling, as Vamshi Paidipally says, has been the social impact that it has made. “Filmmaking is an extremely difficult task these days. There are so many avenues for entertainment today. Amidst all that, making a good film, which strikes a chord with the public so much that keep talking about it long after watching it on screen, is no mean feat. I’m really happy that we were able to awaken the inner conscience of a lot of people through Maharshi. The film talks a lot about how our relationship with farming and the farmers’ community is diminishing. Today, when I see a lot of youngsters and students discussing about farming, there’s a sense of achievement that I can’t describe,” he confesses.
Admittedly, the idea behind Maharshi was planted by his close associate and writer, Hari. He pitched an idea of a character who aims for success, but once he reaches the pinnacle of success, he has plenty of regrets. Back then, Vamshi was still making Nagarjuna, Karthi starrer Oopiri, but he couldn’t forget the idea. “Oopiri too was about human relationships, and I was in that frame of mind when Hari told me the idea. Once we started working on it, it boiled down to the character, Rishi, understanding the difference between materialistic success and emotional success,” he recalls. In the film, Mahesh Babu plays a CEO, Rishi Kumar, who goes back to India to mend fences and the journey changes him completely as a person.
One of the toughest parts while writing the script, Vamshi says, was adding multiple layers to the protagonist’s journey. “We were quite clear that we weren’t going to tell a story. It had to be like a semi-biopic. We didn’t want to treat the character like a hero right from the beginning. It’s about a character who becomes a hero in the end. In a way, the narrative itself is quite different for a superstar’s film. Our biggest challenge was to tell everything we wanted to and it had to be woven around Mahesh Babu’s stardom. There are multiple characters and subplots, and each one of them has a specific purpose in Rishi’s life,” the director says.
Post the film’s release, several people pointed out about the thematic similarities that the film shared with Mahesh Babu’s earlier films - Srimanthudu and Bharat Ane Nenu. However, Vamshi Paidipally clarifies that his intent was not to borrow similar themes from these films. “We wanted to focus on Rishi’s relationship with his friends, family members, and his love interest. Initially, he’s extremely self-centered and only thinks about his journey; however, when he realises that there’s a major sacrifice behind his success, he wants to mend the fences. When he goes back to his friend’s village, we wanted several reasons for him to stay back and make a difference in not just his friend’s life, but the whole society. That’s why we brought in farming as a strong element towards the end of the story. The casting of the supporting characters was crucial to make a strong impact, and if we fail there, then the audience too wouldn’t have liked how the film ends. I think we have succeeded quite well on that front,” he avers.
The journey of making Maharshi has changed his life, by his own admission. “We kept discussing so much about farmers and how our relationship with them has changed so much over the years. Our food habits changed, and we became more sensitive to their issues. And as we kept questioning ourselves, we changed as people too. I think it was important because, if not for this, we couldn’t made an earnest film,” he says, adding, “I’ll always cherish the making of this film because I’ve found a brother in Mahesh Babu. We knew each other even before I turned director, but Maharshi brought us closer. We’ve become family friends now. He’s a very private person, but there was an instant connect between us. People ask me if it’s been worth spending so much time on Maharshi. All I can say is that I’m quite content with whatever we have done. It’s been a fulfilling journey.”
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