SS Rajamouli is unarguably the number one director of Telugu cinema with only hits to his credit. And his latest movie Magadheera became industry hit in all areas across India and overseas by breaking previous records by miles. Yet, SS Rajamouli makes sure that success will only be reflected in his work, not in his behavior/body language. He is the same unassuming person today just like he was before Student No.1. Super successful Rajamouli postmortems Magadheera - his latest movie of epic proportions for the visitors of idlebrain.com -
Genesis of Magadheera
My father Vijayendra Prasad prepared a story for a film titled 'Jagadeka Veerudu' with Krishna as hero in the direction of Sagar. That story is about a bodyguard who serves a Rajamatha. He fights 100 warriors and dies after failing to put Rajamatha back on the throne. He is reborn after 400 years. He fulfills his unfulfilled ambition of putting her on throne (CM post or making her a popular social worker like Medha Patker). They didn't like that concept and it was turned down. I was working as an assistant to my father at that time. I loved that story.
I always wanted to do that story and it required huge budget. When I was granted big budget from Allu Arvind for Charan's movie, I picked this subject up. I don't pick heroes depending on the story. I decide on the hero first and then pick a story that suits them. The first change I did to the original story was to replace Rajamatha character with that of princess. Rajamatha character would have suited 40+ big heroes where the relationship between Rajamatha and bodyguard is nothing but loyalty and honor. By replacing it as princess, I could also add the vital love angle to it.
Killing 100 warriors episode is the heart and soul of the movie. The whole story is based on it and it revolves around that point.
While doing casting I always make sure that I get dates from the actors whenever I want. Since heroes do one project at a time, I have dates of hero at my disposal. I don't want to face problems with dates of heroine and villain. Hence their commitment in terms of flexible dates to my film will be a major criteria for signing them.
Ram Charan Teja: As I mention earlier, I selected the story because of Charan. Initially both Chiranjeevi and Allu Arvind were skeptical about Charan doing Magadheera role as they felt that Magadheera might be too big a role to do in the beginning of his career. But I was confident. I think I can judge/visualize strengths and weakness of actors before they acted in my movies. I mold my characterizations in such a way that it suits the strengths of actors. Charan proved with his performance that I am correct. I feel that doing comedy is the biggest challenge for any actor. The second biggest challenge for actors is to do subtle expressions. It is easy to express anything loud, but it is extremely difficult to express with subtlety. Charan did an amazing job with the best expressions. He gives an expression when heroine falls in a valley in the opening sequence. He conveyed the expression of pain and remorse without moving his facial muscles. He did an amazing job. His expertise in horse riding also helped in two of the biggest payoffs (chariot race and bus chase) of the movie.
Kajal Agarwal: I liked her performance in Lakshmi Kalyanam and wanted to cast her in Yamadonga movie. But she was busy during that time. Initially Allu Arvind wasn't convinced about the choice of heroine. I held a photo shoot and explained the entire characterization along with story to her in 45 minutes. I told her that she has to treat hero arrogantly, but that arrogance should come out of love towards hero. She carried that aspect in mind throughout the film and performed accordingly. I opine that Panchadara Bomma is the best song in my career and I can confidently say that her expressions had helped the song.
Srihari: Srihari is the obvious and only choice for Sher Khan role. Narrating story to Srihari was a great experience. He has got tremendous mass pulse and he would react just the way I expected when I penned the story while narrating to him. I was thrilled looking at his response. He had tears in his eye when I narrated some emotional scenes in this movie. There is one scene in the movie where Srihari kneels in front of Charan and praise him. Any other senior actor would have asked for the scene change. But Srihari did it wholehearted and it shows the kind of dedication he has towards movies. His heart is like that of Sher Khan in real life as well. I absolutely loved working with him.
Dev Gill: There is lot of difference to villains in my earlier movie and the villain in this movie. Villains in my earlier movie look bad and crude. But in Magadheera, I had to choose a good looking guy as villain as heroine would have to find him to be trustworthy. Devi Gil does the role of a villain who looks good, but turns devilish when required. He worked for Krishnarjuna movie in the past and everybody was against casting him. But I was adamant on casting him. Another interesting aspect about him was that he was completely afraid of horses. The most difficult stage of horse riding is galloping where you have loosen the reigns a bit without losing control over horse. He couldn't able to do it properly. But one day, he rode a horse in RFC and that horse was familiar with the terrain of RFC and it started galloping automaticlaly. That one galloping taught him all about horse riding. He became an expert at it.
Planning for Magadheera
I had the following parameters while planning for Magadheera movie.
1. Uncompromising team: I need to have a technical team that doesn't compromise. They should work as a team for getting better output than looking for personal glory. I feel that if the work is good in the movie, they will get lots of glory after movie is released. All the members of my technical team worked willingly and wholeheartedly as a team.
2. Different pipeline: Since the movie involves humongous amount of graphics, we had to work on a different pipeline. I am the coordinating person for all the technicians and they should blindly trust me and deliver whatever I had asked for. Only I could see the final product and take whatever is required from that respective technical department. The department of art direction, cinematography and VFX has to work hand in hand. We had to trust Kamal (VFX producer) because he is the one who gives us the final product. Two years of hard work was delivered to us as a final product from VFX team just 24 hours before the release. Magadheera might not be perfect, but as a first timer we have done amazing job. I can confidently say that some of the scenes in Magadheera are at par with Hollywood films.
We worked with lots of freelancers in VFX department. The biggest hurdle was to coordinate all these VFX to suit the holistic perspective of the final product. We developed a new pipe line to coordinate this work and it worked. Each and every technician changed their style of functioning to contitribute towards this pipeline.
1. Opening sequence. The opening sequence of the movie set the ball rolling for the film. It gave them a strong idea about what to expect in the latter part of the movie. With that opening sequence, I needn't worry about the attention of audiences till the interval episode. I watched DVDs of Alfred Hitchcock's TV series before making Magadheera. What intrigued me is that he reveals the entire plot in the beginning and still be able to maintain the suspense by showing how the protagonist does it. It became an eye opener for me. That is the reason why I revealed the story of the movie right on the muhurat of the day. Opening the film with flashback scene is influenced by Alfred Hitchcock.
2. Horse riding and bus chasing: The scene in which Charan rides the horse while chasing the heroine in a bus. This scene has the present and past perfectly mingled into it.
3. The interval episode: I expected it to give big payoff. But it turned out to be just okay scene.
4. Chariot sequence in flashback
5. 100 warrior episode
We had a more complicated version for chunni in the original script. The Chunni of the flashback is stored in a museum and it reaches the present heroine accidentally. We had seperate chunnis in Magadheera because getting the chunni from flashback will complicate the narrative.
Screenplay of Magadheera:
Here is the simple and logical order of screenplay of Magadheera. It is a perfect screenplay spread evenly throughout the film.
1. Lovers die in the opening episode without fulfilling their wishes.
2. They are born again
3. Hero gets a love feel whenever he touches heroine's hand.
4. 3rd important character (villain) is introduced after 20 minutes
5. Hero meets villain
6. By interval hero starts remembering the flashback
7. Second half starts with a flashback episode of 4 reels
8. Heroine needs to get her rebirth memory back. And to get to the climax you need the fourth character (Srihari) as an acceleration agent.
Most difficult scenes
1. Love scenes: Magadheera is basically a love story and I never touched love subjects before. I asked Charan and Kajal to come for rehearsals. We practiced them a lot before going to the shoot. Canning love scenes in this movie is mentally taxing.
2. Chariot race and 100 warrior episode: These two episodes are physically taxing. We used to get exhausted every day. But I was very confident that I could pull them off effectively.
Good and bad scenes in Magadheera
I never get satisfied with my films. So I can't pinpoint one scene to say that it is excellent. I feel that I succeed in getting emotions right in Panchadara bomma song as I was not sure if I could pull that song off. But from the story point of view, I would have shown more pain in the flashback episode and I would have shot the climax better.
You are shown performing almost all adventures personally in the making videos and working stills of Magadheera?
I indulge in fantasies. I love adventure sports. I try to learn and fulfill my desires while directing movies. I got jealous by looking at the way Charan was riding horse. I also learnt horse riding while making Magadheera.
How do you extract great performances from actors?
It changes from person to person. Each and every actor has a way of understanding what director wants. Mohan Babu used to ask me to perform and show it to him. I need to explain the scene properly to Prabhas to get him into the mood of the scene. Each actor needs to be explained differently for the same scene.
Were you confident about such a humongous box office success of the movie?
Two day before the release, Allu Arvind asked me about the repeat value of the movie. Songs, comedy scenes and huge emotions will bring the viewers back to the theaters. But my film doesn't sport any of these elements that guarantee the repeat value. I told him that Magadheera had none of these regular elements that get repeated audiences. But I somehow felt that people would see it again and again. I told him that same thing. I still don't know which element in the movie is drawing the audiences again and again to the theaters. May be it is never-before cinematic experience as a whole that is driving crowds to theaters.
Your films in the past had double meaning dialogues, little bit vulgarity and voilent scenes that cater to the basic instincts of the masses. But you did away with all those element in Magadheera? Do you think ladies and family audiences are getting more attracted to Magadheera for that aspect?
I don't think little bit of vulgarity would drive away women if the film on a whole is good. I went to a tour during Simhadri days and I saw lots of women thronging to theaters. Simhadri has high quotient of violence/vulgarity among my movies and still women patronized it. Yamadonga movie had least amount of violence and almost no vulgarity and it was not patronized by ladies that much. I think there is should be something more to a cinema in order to draw ladies. If you look at biggest family hits in the past, they had lots of vulgarity and double meaning dialogues.
(to be continued in part 2)
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