Telugu Interviews

‘Happy To Work At A Time When You Can Make A Sensitive Commercial Film’: The Rahul Ravindran Interview

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One thing that has stood out during the promotions for Manmadhudu 2, which releases on August 9, is the easy camaraderie among the team. Nagarjuna, a heartthrob for many born in the 70s and 80s, seems perfectly at ease pulling a prank on a director nearly half his age. Director Rahul Ravindran, whose sophomore effort this is, and lead actress Rakul Preet go back a long way, and he confesses he experiences a “surge of sibling affection” when he sees her. Devadarshini, Lakshmi, Vennela Kishore… the sets seemed to have been one happy party for all of them.
In an interview to Silverscreen.in, Rahul speaks of the process of adapting a French film to Telugu, being a feminist and the tight-knit circle of friends who keep each other going. Excerpts.

 

Now that everyone has asked you about working with Nagarjuna, let’s begin by speaking of the vibe you share, quite apparent during the prank video…

He probably thinks I’m old and boring, considering how chilled out he is. He ensured I was not intimidated, and that’s possible because he’s not your regular cinema person. He is plain and simple, and mature yet young. And, yes, he genuinely gets irritated when people try to ‘show’ respect. He speaks to your face and so there’s no grudge harboured. For me, as a director, all I saw was a very cooperative actor, not star, open to ideas and willing to submit himself to the director’s vision.

You, Adivi Sesh and Vennela Kishore are a tight gang, ribbing each other and also competing at the box office…
I’m lucky I found myself like-minded friends. My social circle is very small, and we all bonded before we became known names.  The bond I share with them was forged because of the industry but is the kind that will not be affected by it. Our work and relationship are different compartments. Seshu prays hard my film does well, as I do for him. In fact, I’ve been ribbing him that he and I are competing at the box office again {Adivi’-starrer Evaru releases this month too} after last year, when we clashed for his Goodachari and my Chi La Sow. I think we are all in a secure space, also because the Telugu industry has enough film-going patrons and that gives space for films to co-exist.

You’ve always attracted trolls for the way in which you back women. Recently, your wife Chinmayi and good friend Samantha were trolled big time too. How do you react?
Sometimes, when I am in a good mood, I laugh it away, thinking the person does not know better. At others, I try hard to ignore it, because it manages to affect me. With every progress in one’s career, they only increase in number. It’s futile talking to them, or engaging, but I end up doing that sometimes. That said, both Chinmayi and Samantha have made it on their merit and have it in them to deal with trolls, without anyone rushing in to support them.

Nagarjuna At The 'Manmadhadu 2' Trailer Launch
Nagarjuna, Director Rahul (in red) At The ‘Manmadhadu 2’ Trailer Launch

The premise of Manmadhudu 2 – an older man falling for a younger girl – is always a tightrope. It can either be shown as a natural progression, or as following a typical, cliched path. How did you skirt that?
We got asked this question a lot. But, I made it clear even in the first teaser that this is a film about an older man and a much younger woman; I addressed the issue and did not skirt around it. This specific script, irrespective of the director, could have only been treated this way. Nag Sir was particular that he was trying this genre after many years, and that before people made fun of him, he wanted to do so himself. He told me to go ahead and tease him about his age from the first teaser.

I’m happy I work at a time when you can make a commercial film with certain sensitivity and sensibility, and be backed by stars who let you inhabit that space.

What was the process of adapting a French film to Telugu like?
I watched the film just once, when Nag Sir told me to. I told him I liked it, and what I could do with it. This is not a scene-by-scene remake, and while we retained the basic plot outline, the screenplay is about 80 per cent new. I retained just some scenes that I truly enjoyed in the original, and worked on them slightly.

What has your learning curve been like, from the intimate Chi La Sow to Manmadhudu 2?
Quite a steep one. Earlier, I would think about the story, character graph, and resolution and little about the audience. In this film, Nag Sir handheld me through the process of making a film for a universal audience. He taught me to think about the audience. I now ask myself the question if the film merely engages or also entertains. This has made me ready for movies with bigger budgets. I do have stories which need that, and I think I will be able to tell them better. Even if I make a small film next, I will learn to make it with the audience in mind.

So, is Rahul ever going to act again or stay happy with action and cut?
Acting is something I enjoy, but direction is why I entered the industry. I would love to act again, provided I get something really exciting that will help me become a better actor. It will be nice to go to a set, act and sleep well after pack-up (laughs).

What next, Rahul?
Manmadhudu 2 was not really part of my plan after Chi La Sow. It came to me and I grabbed the opportunity. We have worked non-stop, not taking breaks between schedules. Post-production started soon after and I’ll wait for August 9, and then take off somewhere for a month and decide what to do next. For now, all thoughts are on the release.

*****

The Rahul Ravindran interview is a Silverscreen exclusive 

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