Veteran screenwriter and director, Vijayendra Prasad whose recent films as a writer include Baahubali, Mersal and Bajrangi Bhaijaan speaks about the starting point for the story of SS Rajamouli’s RRR, starring Ram Charan Teja and Jr NTR, and takes us through SS Rajamouli’s journey as a filmmaker from Student No. 1 to RRR, in this interview with Anupama Chopra. Edited Excerpts…
RRR is arguably the most awaited film of the year. The visuals we’ve seen so far are very exciting. Is it true that it’s based on real life characters?
My son [SS Rajamouli] has never made a film with two stars and asked me to write a script for one. We had several combinations: Mr. Rajinikanth and someone else, Suriya and Karthi, and many more options were playing in our mind. My son happened to go through the archives of freedom fighters Alluri Seetarama Raju from Andhra area and Komaram Bheem from Telangana. The two went out of circulation for two years but no one knew what they did during that time.
What would have happened if they had coincidentally met when they went missing? That’s how the journey of RRR started. Rajamouli gave me the basic idea: two freedom fighters go missing for two years after which they came back to start a revolutionary fight.
Was the film written specifically with Ram Charan and Jr NTR in mind?
Yes, the moment we had the names of the freedom fighters, Rajamouli thought that the two stars — with whom he’s worked already — would fit the bill perfectly. We never had any second thoughts about the lead cast.
There must have been pressure after the massive success of Baahubali when you started working on RRR. Did you have to consciously make it different or grander?
I’d like to answer elaborately. Let me take you through the journey of Rajamouli. His first picture was Student No. 1. It was entirely scripted and supervised by Raghavendra Rao garu. Rajamouli just executed but didn’t call the shots. But from Simhadri, a big blockbuster at the time, he started calling the shots; it surpassed all box office records. The film had an iconic interval shot.
For the uninitiated, if you’ve seen Sadma, Sridevi behaves like a child because she’s lost her memory. In Simhadri, Jr NTR takes care of Bhumika Chawla’s character which is similar. At the interval, when she’s being kidnapped, he fights ferociously for the girl. For her sake, he’s sacrificed everything. But after she recovers her memories, she stabs him with a crowbar right at the heart. It was a mind boggling and iconic interval that people tried to imitate for years.
Next, he made a film set in a college, Sye. Very few people know about rugby in India, but he made such a neat presentation that the rules of the game didn’t bother the audience. Then Chatrapathi spoke of the travails of people who came to India as refugees. Then he did his first double-role film, Vikramarkudu, which was remade in Hindi as Rowdy Rathore. After that he took up a social fantasy like Yamadonga and then came Magadheera which broke records.
Actors were hoping that they would work with Rajamouli next. But he made Maryada Ramanna with a comedy artiste like Sunil (remade in Hindi as Son Of Sardar). And then a film based on a fly, Eega. And a lot of mosquitoes knocked at his door for roles after that (laughs).
Baahubali is more about the spectacle. In RRR, emotions are given a greater part in a way not seen in Indian films till now — emotion with action and patriotism. You cannot draw comparisons between any of Rajamouli’s films.