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Interview with AM Ratnam by Jeevi

Date: 12th June 2001 Venue: T Nagar, Chennai
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AM Ratnam started his career as a technician. He has observed the vices of the industry from a close quarter and learnt the tricks of the trade in a hard way. He is the most sought after producer today and has biggest blockbusters like Bharateeyudu and Kushi to his credit. In spite of his busy schedules, he agreed upon to give us an interview at the office SJ Surya (director of Kushi). He looked fresh, though he made a night-out at AR Rehman studios for music of Nayak. Here are the excerpts of the unassuming and hard-working producer AM Ratnam.

Tell us about your background, in brief?

I entered the industry as a technician. Then I grew up step by step and became producer and then directed two films namely 'Peddarikam' and 'Sankalpam'. Then I started making Telugu, Tamil and Hindi films and used to dub them in different languages. In the past, Cinema used to be the only media of entertainment. But with the advent of TV, satellite channels and DVDs, people started comforting at home. People are coming and watching a film in theater very rarely, when there is a talk on a film that it's a very good one and one has to watch it in the movie theater to enjoy it. My ambition is to produce those kinds of films. Hence I started doing different and big-budgeted films like Bharateeyudu, Premikula Roju, Oke Okkadu and Kushi.

How is the project Kushi kicked off?

The director SJ Surya directed a film called 'Vaali'. Prior to its release, there was a positive report about the film and the director. I usually don't watch other's film unless they are really good. The insider's talk for the film Vaali speculated interest in me and I wanted to watch the premier show of Vaali. I was hoping that somebody would invite me to the show and fortunately I got an invitation. I watched the film and liked it immensely.

After coming out of the preview theater, I saw SJ Surya standing there. I told him that we are doing the next film. Then we met and discussed about what kind of film should be made. We decided to do a youthful love subject. First, we made the film in Tamil and later we made it Telugu. We narrated the story to Pawan Kalyan. He was impressed and showed appreciation by clapping after listening to the story. He also told that showing the sensitive thing like ego on the screen is very difficult and director convinced him. Initially, we started the both the versions of the film at the same time. But Pawan wanted to finish off the Badri first. So we went ahead with Tamil version and later remade the same in Telugu.

I feel that the decision we take about the kind of story we want is make is vital. Once we are confidant of the script, we should make sure that the final product is up to the expectations we have in the beginning. And if we work hard and deliver a product that satisfies us, it will become successful.

What are the reasons behind Kushi becoming the Industry's biggest hit?

We can only tell the reasons for the success. But the audiences would tell the range of the success. Success knows no limits. Before the release of HAHK, nobody guessed that Hindi cinema has that much of potential at box office. Taking a cue from Rajasri films, I started making big budgeted films with good script.

One reason for Kushi performing so well is that, we could successfully project all the scenes the way we expected them to appear. And people are enjoying all the scenes, which we thought would work well. At the same time, people felt that Kushi is good compared to the other films released in that period of time.

The first and foremost reason is the image of hero. If I had made the same film with same cast and crew, but with different hero, film would have been successful. But it wound not have become such a big hit. The increased range of success of this film can be attributed to the image of Pawan Kalyan.

The other reasons include release timing, summer holidays, quality of theaters and Sound Systems in halls. Another reason is that there were no films released during that time that are strong enough.

If you look at the history of films, all the major hits are musical hits. If a film is good, people may watch it for another time. But people do come repeatedly and enjoy the film if the songs in the film are good. Mani Sharma's music is another biggest reason for the success of the film.

What is the reason behind casting Pawan Kalyan for this film?

He is the present youth hero and has lots of following. I have seen the film 'Tammudu' and was impressed with the scene in which he imitates while doing a telephonic conversation with heroine. I don't think any other hero would have perfected that scene like Pawan Kalyan. Kushi too has lots of comedy scenes like that and it is the main reason for taking Pawan as hero for this film.

Even if you look at Pawan Kalyan's point of view, all the films done by him are love subjects. In the present scenario the hero wants to change the image and become all rounder by doing action films etc and increase his image and heroism. Pawan Kalyan is different. He accepted this film..

Tell us about his involvement in the films?

Everybody in the unit had worked hard and was involved in the project. Since everybody's intention is to deliver a successful film, it helped.

Why the film industry in India in unorganized?

Film industry is a creative field. If you look at the era of Raj Kapoor, you will observe that filmmaking needs more experience than money. If you think that only money is needed to make a film, why not people from other industries are jumping in and making films? There is a risk in filmmaking. There is no guarantee of making profits in film ventures. If you take other industries, there is some raw material. But for films, the raw material is raw film. That's too becomes useless if the film stalls in between.

Because of the risk involved, the producers have derived an empirical formula about the maximum limit of budget for producing a film with a particular hero. In spite of having good filmmakers, talent and creativity, the film industry in India is unorganized because of a few reasons. There is no support for the investment in the films by government and banks. Hence few individuals and private financiers govern the film industry.

How do you sell your films?

I don't sell my films out right. I will give them on MG basis.

What is M.G basis?

MG stands for Minimum Guarantee. We take NRA (Non Returnable Advance) from the distributors. After the film collects the advance, the remaining share can be divided between the producer and distributors on a percentage basis.

Why do you prefer MG basis?

I invest lot of money in production and I have lot of confidence on my film. But the market of the film can only be decided by how much the hero's previous film collected. Hence I cannot get the price I wanted. Hence, I give the film to distributors on MG basis. It is safer for the producer and to the distributors. Once the film becomes a big hit, the distributors come forward to purchase the rights of the film outright. And we can get the price we asked for. And even more, sometimes.

How much do you think Kushi will collect?

I cannot tell you anything now. I will let you know once the entire run is over.

What are the films you are doing now?

I am remaking 'Oke Okkadu' as 'Nayak' in Hindi with Anil Kapoor and Rani Mukharjee. AR Rehman is providing the music.

What are the films under pipeline?

Story discussions are going on. I will let you know once the casting is finalized.


Interviewed by Jeevi
Other Interviews
Tammareddy Bharadwaja
Jayant C Paranji
Kodi Rama Krishna
Chakri (JD Chakravarthy)
Ramana Gogula
Naga Babu
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