With Ram Charan, Jr NTR sharing screen space in his next, SS Rajamouli pulls off a casting coup 37 years in the making
Interestingly, Ram Charan's father Chiranjeevi shared the screen space with NT Rama Rao, Jr NTR's grandfather, in the 1981 film Tirugu Leni Manishi.
The 23-second announcement created quite a splash even though the details were bare minimum. All it said was that SS Rajamouli's next venture will be with Ram Charan and Jr NTR. Given that the talent pool for Rajamouli's films comes largely from Telugu territory, it could not get bigger than with these two young actors, considered the most bankable of stars.
What do we know about Rajamouli's film at the moment? Very little. The filmmaker knows how to keep things under wraps. India knows that, doesn't it? After all, who guessed why did Kattappa kill Baahubali till Baahubali 2: The Conclusion was unveiled. The film's only reference so far is RRR. That is not the title of the movie, but stands for Rajamouli, Ram Charan and Rama Rao.
For Telugu film fans, this is a casting coup of sorts. The two actors come from the two most illustrious families in Tollywood and barring once, members of the two families have not worked together. That one instance was in Tirugu Leni Manishi in 1981 in which the legendary NT Rama Rao (Jr NTR's grandfather) acted with Chiranjeevi (Ram Charan's father). This was also when Chiranjeevi was not the Megastar he became eventually and NTR was still the biggest name in the Telugu film industry.
In fact, Chiranjeevi and Jr NTR were actors in the political theatre, campaigning for different political parties in 2009. While Chiranjeevi had made his foray into politics with his Praja Rajyam party, Jr NTR was canvassing for votes for uncle Chandrababu Naidu's Telugu Desam.
What will work for Rajamouli is that he would not have to start from scratch with Ram Charan and NTR. He has worked with both actors, delivering superhits with both. His debut as director Student No 1 starred NTR in the lead role and the movie's success catapulted both into the big league. While he directed NTR again in Simhadri and Yamadonga, Rajamouli gave Ram Charan his biggest hit in Magadheera. The photograph of the trio lounging on a sofa was visual proof of the camaraderie Rajamouli shares with the two actors.
The movie's story is written, as has been the case with most of Rajamouli's films including Baahubali, by his father KV Vijayendra Prasad. It is being bankrolled by DVV Danayya who reportedly gave Rajamouli a token advance amount sometime in 2005 when the director was busy shooting for Vikramarkudu (the Telugu original of Rowdy Rathore). It is that commitment that Rajamouli is honoring now.
Rajamouli has spent the last one year since the release of Baahubali 2: The Conclusion, working on the Mahishmati web series and coordinating with London-based architects on the design of Andhra capital Amaravati. Like was the case with Baahubali, which took five years in the making, this film will not be a quickie either. Shooting will start in October and the movie may release only in 2020. While it is not a period film, this five language production is expected to be mounted on a lavish scale with lots of visual special effects. Its budget at Rs 175 crore understandably is much less than the Rs 450 crore spent on Baahubali. Actors from other industries too are expected to be roped in, making it truly a pan-south Indian film.
The Telugu film industry, that gained a lot from the reception Baahubali received, is gearing up for Rajamouli's next spectacle. Producer D Suresh Babu, whose son Rana Daggubati was the antagonist Bhallaladeva in Baahubali, says the success of the magnum opus showed that there exists a good opportunity to do a pan-India film, more so in the special effects genre.
"Baahubali showed it is worth betting on a big film and more importantly, by putting money into the film instead of into salaries for actors and technicians. In Baahubali, only 15 per cent went into paying actors and technicians,'' says Suresh Babu.
The consensus is that Rajamouli is not the kind of filmmaker to come under industry expectations of delivering another Baahubali. The industry does not seem to mind the gestation period taken by Rajamouli as he seems to have perfected the art of delivering a superhit.
"The payoff is good even if he takes long. He is pushing the boundaries both creatively and technology-wise,'' says Mahesh Koneru, producer and trade analyst who closely tracks the Telugu film space.
As far as the Hindi market is concerned, this will be Ram Charan's second foray of sorts into Bollywood. His first outing Zanjeer had come a cropper. NTR, on the other hand, is more known in the non-south market through his films that are dubbed in Hindi on television.
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