April 2, 2009
Director Meher Ramesh who earlier directed Kantri is all excited about his next venture Billa. After mulling over the suitable cast for many days he finally zeroed in on Prabhas for the film and Anushka in the lead role. The theatrical trailer released created huge expectations for Billa. In an interview to idlebrain.com, he unravels the story behind the making of Billa and ensures that this film would be the stylish Telugu film ever.
The genesis of Billa
It was during the shooting of Vayassunami song for Kantri in Ramoji Film City, NTR asked me if I were interested watching Tamil Billa film. He got a print mailed from Chennai. He wanted to watch it because it was done by legend NTR as ‘Yugandhar’. He said that if we like the movie, we might remake in Telugu immediately after Kantri film. I loved the film, but opined that NTR might not suit the role at this stage of his career and told him frankly about it.
I still had the idea of remaking Billa. The same producer came up with the proposal of remaking it with Ravi Teja as hero. I watched the movie again with Ravi Teja in my mind. I modified certain scenes to suit him. Then I opined that a high budget film might not work out with Ravi Teja as hero. The producer will end up suffering for the kind of budget we ask for. Hence we collectively decided not to make the movie.
I got an offer to work with Prabhas. I told him another story and he didn’t look excited enough. I casually asked him if he saw Billa. I told him that it has all elements of commercial hits like Rowdy Alludu and Donga Mogudu which Chiranjeevi has done in his peak time of the career. He loved it and I told him the script changes. We need a comfortable producer who can spend lot of money at the same time who doesn’t pressurize us. Prabhas suggested that we should make it on his home banner Gopi Krishna Movies. I told him another script which is equally exciting. It would cost only 60% of what Billa would have cost. But Prabhas wanted to make Billa. We narrated it to Krishnam Raju and he loved it. I wanted Krishnam Raju to do the role of police commissioner. I wanted to capture the first combination of Prabhas and Krishnam Raju.
I did some changes in screenplay. I made Billa an out and out commercial entertainer. I visualized every shot before making the movie. We went to Malaysia and selected the required locations a month in advance.
Anushka: I knew Sweety (Anushka) even before she entered movies. It was me who introduced her to Puri Jagan for Super film. I told her that she is going to be paired up with Prabhas and I need her in best shape. She worked hard and when I met her after two months, she slimmed down a lot.
Hansika Motwani: I told Hansika that a slot done by Kareena Kapoor in Hindi Don is available and asked her if she is interested in doing that role. She trusted me and told yes immediately.
Namitha: I didn’t have Namitha in my mind for that character. I tried many new faces. Namitha asked me that she want to re-enter Telugu films with Billa film. She slimmed down for this role and we had a photo shoot before signing her.
Supreet: Supreet is highly impressive as Katraju in Chatrapati. He matched the masculinity of Prabhas in that film. I cast him as an associate of Billa in this film. He looks cool in black suits.
Rehman: Tamil actor Rehman did an important role as an associate of Krishnam Raju in this film. I noticed that he is also a perfectionist like Prakash Raj. He learnt each and every word of his dialogue before hand. He uttered all Telugu dialogues with no prompting.
Choppers used in shooting action sequences
Most of the Indian and Bollywood films shot in Malaysia has William Wong as action director. But I have good tuning with Stun Siva. I employed Stun Siva as fight master for Billa and we took the help of William Wong whenever we required. We shot a chase that never came in Indian screen before. It will be like watching terrific chases in Bond flicks. We used choppers for 15 days. When we asked for 2 helicopters, producer granted us four. This credit should go to producer D Narendra and production designer Krishna. We stayed in Malaysia for 3 months at a stretch to shoot this movie.
Soundar Rajan shot Billa on Super 35 camera
I wanted to have either Sameer Reddy or Chota K Naidu for cinematography. But dates of both of them were not available. Not many people know about Soundar Rajan who worked as an associate to KV Anand in the past. He also worked for four forgettable Tamil flicks. He got busy in doing commercial ads. We wanted to shoot Billa with Super 35 camera. When I met him for the first time, we shared good vibes. We spoke for 5 hours about moviemaking. I signed him without looking at his work because I realized that he is extremely talented through our discussion. He is a friend of Vishnu Vardhan who directed Tamil Billa. We met Vishnu Vardhan and I informed him the changes I made in Billa script. He was impressed with it. Soundar is an excellent technician with amazing sense of using lenses. He is one of the reasons why Billa is made in less time with more quality.
Marthand K Venkatesh is a frank man
I used to send rushes from Malaysia for simultaneous editing to Marthand K Venkatesh. He said that Billa film has Hollywood styling to it. I like Marthand K Venkatesh because he is extremely frank and tells everything on your face. It’s always good to have such person in your team. He gives perfect logic whenever he finds fault in our work.
Highlights of Billa
1. Introduction of hero: Prabhas will be introduced with a magnificent bow and arrow episode. It is shot in typical Bond style.
2. Chase: There is one chase in this film which I think is the best among the chases done on Indian screen.
3. Without dupe: Prabhas done an extremely risky shot without dupe on a bridge in Lankavi island.
4. Climax: Climax of the film is shot in Malaysian international airport amidst 30 flights on the runway and tarmac.
5. Bommali song: This song comes as the last song in the movie. It is the most vibrant duet shot in six sets (click here for 1 minute video of Bommali song).
6. Anushka: Anushka is going to be a huge asset to the movie.
Prabhas will be a super hero of Telugu cinema after Billa
Prabhas had a personal trainer and he followed rigorous diet and fitness regime throughout seven months by staying away from temptations. Prabhas will be the super hero of Telugu cinema after Billa’s release. This film is sold for highest prices among Prabhas’s movies.
Huge challenge to make Billa
It is a huge challenge to make Billa as the story is 30 years old. It is made five times so far in three languages and almost all movie lovers in India know each and every scene of the film. It becomes extremely difficult to handle such a predictable story. Billa is packaged with the right content, styling and loads of entertainment.
2:30 hrs movie
Billa is shot in 104 working days. We shot this film in unpredictable weather of Malaysia. The total runtime of the final cut is 2 hours and 30 minutes.
Shankar is my role model
Shankar is my role model and I used to watch all his films for at least 10 times. He mounts movie on a huge canvas without missing any of the commercial elements. He bundles nice social message in his films without appearing preachy.
I have a commitment each with Aswini Dutt, Nallamalupu Bujji and Danayya. I will take a decision after the release of Billa. All these films will be done with big heroes.
Know more about Meher Ramesh in idlebrain.com 1st interview .
Chandra Sekhar Yeleti
Sunil Kumar Reddy
Kiran Kumar Koneru
Shankar - Ehsaan - Loy
Seenu Vytla about King
Puri Jagan about Neninthe
Chandra Sekhar Yeleti about Prayanam
Ram Gopal Varma about Phoonk
Seenu Vytla about Ready 1
Seenu Vytla about Ready
Ravi C Kumar
Meghha Burman (heroine)
Chandra Siddhard (Idi Sangathi)
D Supriya (Pourudu)
MS Raju (Vaana)
YVS Chowdary (Okka Magaadu)
Neelakanta (Mr. Medhavi)
Sonia (Happy Days)
Ravi Teja on Dubai Seenu
Seenu Vytla on Dubai Seenu
YVS Chowdary on NTR
RK (Hyderabad Nawabs)
Dr. Haranath Policherla
Dil Raju 2
Mahesh Babu 3
Sekhar Kammula 2
KM Radha Krishnan
D Rama Naidu
Allari Ravi Babu
KS Rama Rao 2
Mohan Babu 2
KV Ramana IAS
Devi Sri Prasad
AM Ratnam 2
Ram Gopal Varma 3
Mahesh Babu 2
Mohan Babu 1
KS Rama Rao 1
AS Ravi Kumar
Ram Gopal Varma 2
Ram Gopal Varma