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Interview with MS Raju by Jeevi

: 6th December 2002 Venue: Rama Naidu Studios
Read, the interview of MS Raju - the most happening and gusty producer, where he opens his heart out, talking about his movies, his favorites in the industry and his family.

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On his first film - Manavadostunnadu

My father Rayaparaju garu owns hundreds of acres in west Godari district. He sold all the properties there and migrated to Madras. Producer Arjuna Raju of Roja movies is a cousin of my father. After getting inspired by him, my father started the business of making Telugu movies in Madras. He made five to six films. But that did not make my father happy.

When I was a kid I used to watch lots of movies. I used to like old films a lot. There used to be repeat runs of old films and I used to enjoy the ingredients and depths in those films. After completing my education, I started my career in films with the help of a friend. I made a film titled 'Manavadostunnadu' with Arjun and Sobhana in the main leads. It was not hard for me to make a film, as I was very keen observing my father when he made films. My father's good will helped me in getting financiers.

On his first film on Sumanth Arts banner - Satruvu

When I wanted to start a new banner called 'Sumanth Arts', I approached hero Sobhan Babu, who is a very close family friend of ours, and asked him to act as hero in my film. Then he replied that moviemaking is a risky proportion and that he did not want to spoil the friendship with my family because he would be in an uneasy position if my film became a flop. I really liked his point and took his suggestion in a sportive way.

During that period Venkatesh's career took off in a big way but he faced a few flops at that time. Hence everybody suggested me to go to Nagarjuna. I do not like to approach people when they are riding on the success wave. I prefer approaching a hero when he is down. So when I approached Rama Naidu, he suggested that Venkatesh was tasting failures at that time and asked me to come back after he gets good hits. But I preferred making the film with Venky. Then Rama Naidu appreciated my guts and said that 'you are proving to be a person from rajula vamsam'.

Venky and I are of the same age group (may be 6 months difference). Hence we clicked right away. At that time, Venky suggested me the name of S Gopal Reddy as the cameraman. Since then, Gopal Reddy and I have had a very good rapport.

I provided the basic story idea of the film. Kodi Rama Krishna and Venkatesh appreciated the basic storyline with an open mind. We roped in Satya Murthy as the writer and we worked with him to develop the storyline.

At that time Nagarjuna's Shiva was released and became a blockbuster. It was the best technical film ever made in Telugu with great visual effects and sound system. That film inspired us and we wanted to make a film like that. We roped in Vijaya Shanti as heroine. During the making of the film Vijaya Shanti had the blockbuster Karthavyam. Venky had two blockbusters - Dhruva Nakshatram & Bobbili Raja -released during the same time. Hence, by the release time of Satruvu, it was a hot cake in the industry. I started this film when everything was down and by the time it was to be released, Satruvu was a hot proposition. With that incident, I realized that its pure luck to have your film as a crazy film or dark horse. But one must trust the story and work over it instead of depending on the craze stars have. Kota's different characterization, the manner in which he says 'Thanks' and the catchphrase 'Ee phone evadu kanipettadandi babu' helped the film a lot. This film also helped Kota's career in a big way. He created lot of entertainment. People revisited the theaters because of Kota's character. Initially Kodi Rama Krishna opted for a newcomer for Kota's character, but I some how convinced Kodi Rama Krishna to take Kota for that character. I learnt a lot from Kodi Rama Krishna about how to inject nativity into the film and generate humor through characterizations. Satruvu released and became a big hit. It was also successfully dubbed in Tamil.

On his films with Vijaya Shanti - Police Lock-up and Street Fighter

When we were making Satruvu, Vijaya Shanti closely watched my involvement with moviemaking. When Kartavyam became a big hit, lots of big producers approached her. But she called me one day and said that she wants me to make a film with her as solo heroine. I made a storyline and titled it as Police Lock-up. I took the basic characterization of Vijaya Shanti from Karthavyam and added another role of innocent girl. Vijaya Shanti did a dual role. She did daredevilry stunts for Police Lock-up. This film also became a big hit. The Tamil dubbed version was also a big hit. With two successive Telugu and Tamil hits, I became popular in the industry. With three successes, I could stabilize the financial position of my family.

During the making of Police Lock-up, Venkatesh gave dates for another film. But I could not utilize those dates because of the delay in the making of Police Lockup. I asked for Vijaya Shanti's dates and started the film Street Fighter with B Gopal as the director. We did the film in a hurry to fill the gap. That film became a big flop. Now I realize that I did the film with some over confidence of delivering three continuous hits.

With the flop of Street Fighter, my fortunes turned upside down. One such day, I was humiliated by a few friends at a party. They said that I was a history. With the feeling of dejection and humiliation I drove my car (an old one with no paint on it) to my place. I honked the horn few times and expected the watchman to come and open the door for me. It was around 12 in the night and an old neighbor was watching as if I had become insane. By looking at his expressions, I realized that I have sold that house [which was on my wife's name] to somebody else to pay my debts. Financiers still carry lot of good will on me because I sold the house - which is on my wife's name - to pay the debts.

That was the first and last time I felt dejected. The next morning, I realized that one would get both successes and failures and that one has to maintain cool temperament for all kinds of results. Even people like Raj Kapoor, Man Mohan Desai, Rajasris delivered flops. We work hard to make every film no matter what the fate of the film turns out to be. Then I approached a couple of heroes who sent me feelers when I was in success. Those two heroes did not entertain me.

On his first devotional film - Devi

The next day when I was taking a morning walk, all the previous incidents - friends humiliating me and heroes rejecting me - crossed my mind. That was when I decided that I should not depend on heroes and I should trust the story and make it a hit. Hence I decided to cast a snake as the hero for my film. I cast every unknown Tom, Dick and Harry for that film. I took a Malayalam guy Sijju as hero and booked Abu Salem - a police officer in Mangalore - as villain. Then I saw a girl called Prema in a shooting - who has a strange nose that resembles that of snake - and booked her as heroine. She had three continuous flops. Then I spotted a chubby girl on a poster and found that she is Anitha, 3rd daughter of actress Manjula. I went and told Manjula that I wanted cast Anitha as heroine in my film and asked her to make Anitha shed some kilos. Anitha had two flops in Tamil at that time. With this negative starcast I made Devi film. I worked on this film for two and half years with dedication. I did not eat non-vegetarian food during that period. That film became super hit in three languages - Hindi, Telugu and Tamil. All the bigwigs who commented that Devi would never see the light of the day were shocked at the smashing success of Devi. I regained my lost glory and heroes started sending me feelers again.

On Devi Putrudu

But I preferred my hero Venkatesh for the next project and conceptualized Devi Putrudu. It is a film, which could only be made with directors like Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. The story of the film was wonderful and I became emotional and started that project. After starting the project I realized the depth, duration and budget. Then we realized that it would take 10 years to make. Hence we wound up the film and released it. The film became a flop and my position was back to square one. I had to compensate my buyers, my finances and my ego, very dearly.

On Mansanta Nuvve

Then I started the film Manasanta Nuvve with a relatively new hero and a new director on the recommendation of S Gopal Reddy. Paruchuri brothers did script work for this film with vengeance. They slept in my office during the work. I released Manasanta Nuvve all over AP on my own. It was a jackpot for me. I paid all the finances to the financiers with just one-week collections of Manasanta Nuvve.

On Okkadu

Mrugaraju and Devi Putrudu were released at the same time and both these films bombed at the box office. I know the pain of a film becoming a flop and I do understand the agony Guna Sekhar was going through during that period. I told Guna Sekhar that we should make a movie together. Mahesh's acting in Murari inspired me. And thats when Okkadu came up.

The project Okkadu needs a high budget and Mahesh Babu opined that I could do justice to that subject. The three of us trusted each other and made a good team. For the betterment of Okkadu, Mahesh Babu and Guna Sekhar took lots of pains and worked like slaves. Films like Sholay (Hindi) and Shiva (Telugu) created commotion in the industry when they were released. There are chances for Okkadu to create that kind of commotion again.

On some of his favorites in the industry

I have to give a big hit to Venkatesh soon. I would also make another film with Mahesh Babu. I am going to make a film with Uday Kiran again. I am currently working over 3-4 projects. I got a lot of grip over the music aspect in the recent films. Paruchuri brothers treat my projects as their own. I treat all my technicians very specially. I give my editor three times than what the others pay, because its very hard to tolerate a producer like MS Raju for any editor.

Nee Sneham brought unique openings for Uday Kiran. Okkadu is a rare kind of film made on Telugu screen.

On his family members

All the cast and crewmembers have share in my successes. I had gone through very bad phases that I can't even reveal. During that time, my family helped me immensely to gain my mental composure and re-establish myself. There are always ups and downs in business. But you should have the feeling of security in life. That security could only be given in form of moral support from wife and children. I am really proud to have such kind of understanding and encouraging family members. I would like to narrate the attitude Sumanth (MS Raju's son) developed. When I was in financial mess and when having a hundred rupee note in my pocket itself was a big deal, Sumanth - who was a pizza freak - never asked for a Pizza (as it costs around 140) and used to say that he does not like pizzas any more. Without asking a single question, my wife used to give the property and jewelry that is there on her name. She used to give valuable suggestions in the storyline. My daughter (second child) Rishita was born before the release of Devi film and there is 11-year gap between the Sumanth and Rishita. A new momentum started in my life after the birth of Rishita. My family would definitely be my strength in all my future endeavors.

Finally, on launching his son, Sumanth, as hero

Sumanth (photo here) is a handsome body and he wants to become an artist. But I want to see him as a technician. Artist needs good judgment. One should know the technical aspects to arrive at good judgment. He is doing his +1 now. He should be in this business after 3-4 years. But he is already on the track. He suggests me good songs and tunes.

Interviewed by Jeevi
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