Tiger Nageswara Rao, starring Ravi Teja, is based on the life of the notorious real-life decoit from Stuartpuram who operated in the '70s and '80s. Speaking about the origin of the film, director Vamsee says, "After making Dongaata (2015), I wanted to direct a biopic. Many filmmakers definitely dream of having a biopic in their filmography. Moreover, I'm a fan of Mani Ratnam's Nayakan (1987) and I wanted to make a biopic, chronicling the life of any popular person in any industry or profession. I eventually heard about Tiger Nageswara Rao from a friend's father, who told me about his notoriety and crimes."
The filmmaker adds that he was fascinated with the thief's name too. "Nobody names their child Tiger Nageswara Rao. The prefix 'Tiger' must have been given to him by someone. I wanted to explore him more."
However, researching the life and crimes of the thief was a challenging process ascribed to the paucity of documented information, Vamsee cites. "While studying for his details, I've observed that there was minimal information about him on the internet. There is proof of his death though; he was encountered by the police. Also, I heard that when his body was paraded, nearly 3 lakh people from various places surrounding Stuartpuram came to catch sight of him one final time. I was shocked to hear this. The only question that stuck in my mind was, if he was just a normal criminal, why would these many people attend his funeral? This was the moment I decided to make a biopic about Tiger Nageswara Rao".
Discussing about the moral dilemma of making a biopic of an infamous criminal, who has obviously committed many immoral acts, on a grand scale with a star like Ravi Teja, Vamsee says, "See, I was aware of this challenge. I gave it a lot of thought too. But that's the film's most interesting aspect, I feel. How do you project a bad guy as a hero? The robberies committed by Tiger Nageswara Rao are very inspiring. After watching the film, the audience will be in awe of his character. And if 3 lakh people are showing up at his funeral, then there must be a different angle to him, right? He was a Robin Hood of sorts."
For Vamsee, whose last film, Kittu Unnadu Jagratha came out six years ago, Tiger Nageswara Rao is a big step up in terms of scale. Recalling the experience of narrating the script to Ravi Teja and the golden moment when he realised that his idea was finally set to take the shape of a big-budgeted actioner, Vamsee shares, "I was confident while narrating the script to Ravi sir, and after narrating the whole script, I was waiting for his opinion. I had imagined him giving his approval in his style, but in real, something else happened. Sir just stood up and started discussing the character and looks; he also said he'd grow his hair. As he was expressing his excitement, I started tearing up slightly. He then told me to start the pre-production immediately, and asked me to stay in touch and send him references for his look. After coming out of his house, I just looked up and thanked my father who isn't with me anymore. It's a moment I'll always cherish."