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Interview with Arun Singaraju
Date: March 15, 2010, Hyderabad
arun singaraju

Unlike other US-returned directors, Arun Singaraju has chosen a safe commercial subject as his debut movie. His first movie Taj Mahal with Sivaji as hero is going to release on 20 March. Here is our exclusive interview of Arun Singaraju

I have completed engineering in Electronics and Communication from Hyderabad and went to USA to do MS in Indiana. I got a job in AT&T and started attending evening classes in filmmaking course and I completed MFA degree.

I didn’t want to stick to a regular job and I am an avid movie lover since childhood. I didn’t know anybody in film industry. I learnt about 24 crafts of filmmaking in film school and volunteered for shoots in film school.

How did Taj Mahal happen?
In 2008, I prepared a script in Hyderabad Blues genre and came to India to direct it. I met Harsha Reddy (director of Indumathi). That is when I had formal introduction with actor Sivaji. I got a call from Sivaji after the shoot of Indumathi. He offered me the direction job to remake Kannada hit Taj Mahal. I watched the DVD and found it to be a good film with soul. We had to make a few small changes to suit our tastes.

We went to Tirupathi for a couple of weeks and finalized the script. We changed the screenplay a bit without losing the soul. Sivaji took the control of casting and production. We shot the movie in 75 working days.

Tell us about the story of Taj Mahal?
Taj Mahal is the love story of an irresponsible student. Sivaji plays the role of a final year student. In addition to a beautiful love story, there is also a heart touching thread about parents-son bonding. Taj Mahal is a film that every middle-class person can identify with. Sivaji single-handedly carried the entire movie on his shoulders.

How difficult is it to do remake?
At one end, we have the reference script and scenes which make our work easier. On the other hand, people and producer expect the film to become hit as it is already proved in another language. I feel that writing story for a straight film is easy.

What are your expectations on Taj Mahal?
I feel that Taj Mahal will connect with everybody. If it touches the right chord, it will run throughout the summer. In addition to romance aspect, this movie will touch parents and children as well.

Most of the US returned filmmakers in Telugu are failing at box office. What is your reading on it?
Soft romantic genre movies always do well in USA among Telugu population. Hence most of the NRI directors try their hand at soft romantic films. It is very hard for any first timer to direct a movie that doesn’t have any padding in terms of commercial ingredients. That is the reason why I took a conscious step to direct a movie that has ample commercial ingredients as my debut venture.

Taj Mahal was ready long back. Why is the release delayed?
YSR’s death and Telangana movement affected the release date. We didn’t want to clash with big movies by coming during Sankranthi. It is the right time for the release now. We had projected the movie to various distributors and everybody loved it, but none of them came forward to distribute due to the current sluggish market. Sivaji has so much of confidence in the movie that he releasing the movie on his own all over.

Is there any resistance from home-front when you made a decision to enter movies?
There was never a problem from my parents and sister. I got married 15 days before the start of Taj Mahal movie. My in-laws resisted a bit. They were little sceptical about my profession. After getting the final copy, I projected Taj Mahal to them and they are extremely impressed. They started supporting me wholeheartedly after watching the movie. Taj Mahal obtained a clean U certificate. It is not a typical Sivaji’s comedy film, but a love story with loads of emotional content.

What is your next project?
I am going to jointly direct a movie titled ‘September’ with my friend Hari. It is a romantic comedy with fun element. We want to release this movie in September.

(Incidentally, today (15 March) is Arun Singaraju’s birthday. Lets wish him!)

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