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Interview with Dil Raju
Date: September 25, 2008, Hyderabad
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Making successful films one after the other and at the same time handling film distribution even more successfully, simultaneously, is not a joke. It requires the stamina of a Dil Raju. Though he is not a director, he ever displayed keen sense of observation about the prospects of a film. Ever since his debut as solo-producer with Arya (2004), Raju continues to believe in the subject, call it story, making its hero an important part of it, but not the whole and sole. The Telugu film industry, which is slowly waking up from its slumber and the traditional hangover of outdated subjects and conventional filmmaking, found a discoverer of a vibrant style of filming with youthful angle pervading all over in Dil Raju. As his latest Kotha Bangaru Lokam gets ready for release for Vijayadasami, Dil Raju is excited about the film. In a chitchat, he reveals his priorities as a producer and his specifies his requisites from his directors, technicians and artistes.

What’s the secret of your success as producer?
There are no secrets in my career. Right from Arya to this present Kotha Bangaru Lokam, I continue to maintain a good feel for movies. I love films. I don’t play with them. Each and every film I do with excitement. I keep myself friendly and frank during story discussions. I don’t make anybody feel that I am a producer. I strongly believe that I can make good prediction of a film’s success or failure… just by hearing the story. During story sittings, I make naked and frank observations about the strengths and weaknesses of the subject. When I visit the shooting locations, I love to be simple. I never want to create a scene that “Oh! Producer garu is coming.” My approach is liked by one and all on the sets. Generally, I don’t trouble any technician or artiste.

What’s your prediction for KBL?
When we ask the audience to name the two biggest hits of mine, they immediately say: Arya and Bommarillu. Now, KBL will join their league. Certainly, it’s a different film. Not regular. Just, you have to watch the film to judge my prediction. A feeling same as the one I felt during the time of Bommarillu and Arya is with me now for KBL.

How different is KBL from your previous film?
There is no comparison between KBL and my films. Each time, I changed the subject and its treatment along with new director. Coming to KBL, I can’t say anything about it pertaining to the story.

What’s the highlight of the film?
The last half-an-hour. Of course, the film is fully packed with entertainment right from the beginning. The last half-an-hour hoists the final moments for the excitement of the audience. The level of interest will never sink any point of time during the screen run. The levels of emotion and interest and entertainment are equally balanced. We used fresh students, fresh thoughts.

Tell us about hero Varun Sandesh?
I never go with the hero, but with the story. Always, story is given the prime importance. All characters are important to the film. Without any character, there comes a void. All the surrounding roles combined make a strong story and not hero alone. As of KBL, you have parents, students, principals, lecturers and several others. All are important. Treating the character of Varun Sandesh in its separate perspective, he did a wonderful job. He was one among the four heroes in Happy Days. But, here he is the solo lead male performer. In Happy Days, he performed as a class guy. In KBL, you find total contrast in his diction and modulation. He will be using a separate slang. He is a perfect fit for this teenage love story.

We have countless love stories. What’s the specialty of KBL?
Yes. In each and every film, love is a common thing. Every producer and director and hero says – Ours is a cute love story, this and that. I don’t believe in all this statements. I don’t believe that just four stunts, five songs and powerful dialogues will make a film. We reflected the teenage love (Intermediate stage) just as you will it in junior colleges. This is fresh, inexplicable feeling. When the audiences come out of the theatre, definitely they should remember one thing very strongly. That is our specialty.

What about the heroine?
Swetha Prasad is the right pick for our subject. You will feel that innocent teenage flavor as she in reality comes from that segment of students.

What about other characters?
We have also introduced about 25 real students to play the reel students. Perhaps, a unique achievement of ours. We consulted the college managements and convinced the parents. They listened to our story and immediately accepted to provide their children to our film. Prakash Raj and Jayasudha play the parents to the hero. Ahuti Prasad and Rajitha did it for the heroine. Rao Ramesh (son of late Rao Gopal Rao) does the role of lecturer. Brahmanandam appears as the principal. All the characters have done excellently well. Even a single scene role will also count a lot.

Tell us about Prakash Raj? Why continuously repeating him?
It’s not like repeating. When I heard the subject for KBL, the first character that tickled me was hero’s dad role. I immediately thought of Prakash Raj. That was my first impression. I couldn’t imagine any other artiste in his place. That time, there was a kind of ban on him. I was forced to consider some other artistes. When I approached them, I genuine felt that they should not have dates to provide me. I wanted only Prakash Raj. Yes. Only Prakash Raj. You will definitely appreciate me for my steadfastness in going in for Prakash Raj. I waited for him for about three months. There were people who even asked me: What is this? Why are so mad after him? Yes. I was mad after him for the sake of my film, which I love most.

Your opinion about Director Srikanth?
During the making of Chiranjeevi’s Tagore, I happened to visit the sets. That time, Vinay (VV Vinayak) casually gave me paper with some poetry written. I read it. It impressed me completely. When I told Vinay that I wanted to see its writer, he was called for but not available there on the sets. I was told that it was Srikanth (an assistant director) who wrote that poetry. Next, I forgot about it. Again, during the making of Arya, Sukumar brought a person to get him joined as his assistant. He was introduced to me. He said his name was Srikanth. I immediately recalled his poetry. Immediately, I told Sukumar to take him for our company. At a particular but relevant occasion, Srikanth wrote some poetry on me and that I still enjoy. I preserved it. In 2004, he told me story for this film. I asked him to get more experienced. He worked for Bommarillu with Bhaskar. I was convinced that Srikanth is the right person to deal with this film. All these three years made him more proficient in his profession. Srikanth is not a new person to me. I knew him thorough and thorough. This KBL will bring him a name that will haunt him forever. Just like Dil Raju, Bommarillu Bhaskar and Arya Sukumar.

Tell us about Chota K. Naidu’s cinematography?
He is the fastest cinematographer I have ever found. From dawn to dusk, his energy levels remain the same. No doubt, he worked for the biggest projects in our industry. But, for this KBL, Chota had put his maximum efforts. He enjoyed each and every moment on the sets. His complete dedication and involvement made it possible that we finished the film much in advance of the original schedule. Directly, it helped me as producer. He hoisted a new angle of cinematography.

Tell us about Mickey J. Mayer’s music?
Mickey worked for this film for about one year. He gave three songs much in advance of the film’s start. I say from my heart. KBL music is the best of all the albums from our banner. His music remains the topmost one so far. His re-recording is coming out exceedingly wonderful. You judge for yourself in the theatres. If I say much, it will be like publicity.

What about the editing part?
Marthand K. Venkatesh is like my asthana editor. He is my first audience. He kept informing about the film’s progress and its different shades. His suggestions were very valuable to me. He discussed with me about several aspects and correctly guided us most times. Likewise, each and every person is important to me.

What is the budget aspect of KBL?
So far, I did six films. Almost all the films jumped the scheduled budgets. I didn’t know why? It was something that resulted out of our urge for quality. For KBL, we traveled to Rajahmundry and surrounding locations four times. We wanted the best ambience. So budget didn’t really bother me. Basically, I love my movie. The business is also important but it’s secondary to my love for the film. If I start bother about the budget aspect alone like a miser, then I don’t feel shy to say that I will come to be known as not Dil Raju, but Failure Raju.

Why do you prefer introducing new comers than doing with star directors?
First and foremost, I love to encourage the new talent. There are a number of talented technicians just languishing without development in their career. They have great ideas. As a producer, I want to give the best to my director. If I have a story, I can discuss about it with my director threadbare. To make this possible, I should have a fresh director. Not senior person and he might feel for my way of functioning. The senior directors might feel embarrassed with me. This way, things don’t work out well I think. But, it’s not my final thinking. Just I say, this is my style of working. Almost in 9 out of 10 cases, there will be some sour feelings between the director and producer, even after their project is over. But, all my directors so far remain the same with me as they were when they entered my banner. Everybody is friendly with me. In fact, to do with new comers is the biggest task for both the producer and director. A film like KBL is the most risky project for a producer like me. I don’t sell my films to corporate companies. I get money only when my films run well.

When are you going to do films with star image heroes?
Yes. A producer like me always wants to work with young dynamic heroes. This will sure elevate my range also. I am on the job. Already, heroes NTR and Prabhas are kept in touch. This line is under process.

How did you get the opportunity to introduce Naga Chaitanya?
Simply, I honestly approached Nagarjuna and expressed my wish to introduce his son. He immediately said: Yes. Raju, Nuvvu Vunnavu (You are there). Annee Nuvvu Chusukontavu (You will take care of everything). I will be free from tension. I told Nagarjuna that I am a person who believes in the story. This has doubled and trebled my responsibility. It is not an ordinary thing to get the chance to introduce a star’s son. I will do my best. I will do my ultimate.

Any other projects?
There are four stories ready with me. Four different teams are working on them. They will soon come out one after the other or simultaneously from next year onwards.

Do you have any plans to direct?

Everybody says that you are a golden hand. How do you feel?
I don’t believe in this golden hand theory. If the movie is good, it will run, otherwise, not even God can make it run. If this be true, then why didn’t Homam run well?

You are careful not to reveal the subject. Can you tell us a single line about it?
In each and everyman’s life there will be a Kotha Bangaru Lokam, but most of the people are not aware of it. This is our theme.

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