The filmmaker, who put put Telugu cinema on the world map with his lavishly -mounted Baahubali, SS Rajamouli is currently busy promoting his magnum opus, RRR. The film boasts of a stellar cast like Bollywood actors Alia Bhatt and Ajay Devgn, and is headlined by south stars Ram Charan and Junior NTR.
The filmmaker has broken regional boundaries with his movies and he has been expanding his horizon by casting actors beyond the South film industry. While speaking about his experience of working with actors from different film industries, Rajamouli says what matters to him is the story and the actor who fits the role, rather than the region he/she belongs to or the industry the person works in. “I stopped looking at which region an actor hails from. I stopped looking at the audience as Hindi, Tamil, Bengali, Malayalam. I look at them as Indian audience. I want to cast the actor who is the best fit for the character. It doesn't matter if he is Bengali or Malayali. I cannot deny that making a film like Baahubali helped, but I do not carry the Baahubali visiting card for my narrations,” he smiles.
RRR marks Ajay and Rajamouli's reunion after Makkhi, which was voiced by Ajay in Hindi. Sharing his experience of working with Ajay and Alia, the filmmaker says, “Working with all the stars was easy for me. Ajay, for instance, never went to his vanity van during the shooting. He would be on the set and watch me work. Alia would constantly ask the direction department to help her get her lines and diction right. All of them have been absolute professionals. Ram Charan and Tarak (Jr NTR) are like brothers to me. I have known them for many years and there was no difficulty in working with them.”
For Rajamouli, casting actors is not about his personal connections or relationships. “I have known Ajay sir because he did Son of Sardar, which was a remake of my Telugu film, Maryada Ramanna. I also met him during the promotions of my other film, Makkhi. But a film like RRR doesn't happen because of my relationships with industry colleagues. When you have a fantastic script and when the actors see themselves playing those characters that are narrated to them, then you don’t need friendships and connections for them to work in your film,” he says.
Ask Rajamouli why he cast only one heroine, Alia, in his Telugu visual extravaganza, and many heroes, the maverick filmmaker says that in his film, everyone is a hero and he does not believe in gender discrimination. “There is no discrimination, everyone is a hero. Even Alia is a hero in this film. This film is about the friendship between the four,” he says.
RRR has been long in the making but the pandemic put a spanner in the works and the movie's completion got delayed and release postponed a few times. When the release date was first announced in 2020, it was clashing with Ajay Devgn’s Maidaan, but the collision was averted. However, now, it's a face-off between RRR and another Alia-starrer, Gangubai Kathiawadi, which too was delayed due to the pandemic. RRR releases on January 7 and Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Gangubai Kathiawadi, which also features Ajay, hits the marquee a day earlier. And not just these two films, January will see other biggies hitting the theatres. Releasing soon after the two magnum opuses is South superstar Prabhas' "Radhe Shyam," on January 14, 2022, on the occasion of Makar Sankranti and Pongal.
But the filmmaker is not worried and says there is a space for everyone in the cinematic universe. “Because of Covid, there will be a bottleneck. And I believe that if the films are good, people will come and watch them even if there are four releases on the same day. If your content is good people will be spoilt for choice,” he philosophises.