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Postmortem - Chatrapati by SS Rajamouli
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What is this post mortem? is starting this exclusive, explosive and exciting section called Postmortem, where we conduct a postmortem of the latest releases. We shall be discussing and analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of the movies with their respective directors as to why those films have become hits/flops. We request the directors to give us their honest and frank opinions.
Chatrapati by SS Rajamouli

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The formation of story:

We wanted to make a film with Prabhas as hero. The main driving force behind the selection of story is to completely exploit the mass images of Prabhas, which was never exploited totally in any of his previous films. We had been having this story point of mother-son sentiment for the past ten years. We had to add super-hero image to the hero's character. I have chosen the typical Telugu commercial cinema format that has been found by my guru K Raghavendra Rao. I added other ingredients to fit into the format.

The casting:

We have prepared the script with Prabhas in mind. After finalizing the script, we started the process of casting as per the demand of characterization. Fortunately, for this film I could pick up the right people for the right characters. Though, I cast established actors for most of the characters, the following three people would standout in the newcomers department -

Narendra Jha: I first screen-tested him for the role of Bikshu Yadav for Sye film. Since, that role needs a man with physically terrifying screen presence, his body language did not suit that character. But there is tremendous intensity in his appearance. And he suited the character of Baji Rao perfectly. That is an ultimate egoistic character.

Supreet: Prabhas's height is 6' 2". We needed somebody whose height is more than 6' 2" for the character of Katraj. I screen tested many guys and rejected them all. Then it suddenly stuck to me that Supreet could be the right choice. Supreet acted as one of 10 goons who stand behind Pradeep Rawat in Sye. He went through rigorous fitness training for 4 months and he gained 8 kgs of weight. He is also a fine actor and he worked really hard.

Sekhar: Sekhar acted in all my films, but never got noticed. But this film would give a break to him. He has the rugged feel to his body language. He acted as a friend of Prabhas in this film. His normal accent is of pure Telangana type and we worked hard to make him speak Vizag dialect. He did it with finesse. I personally like him and he is a very sincere guy.

I would also like to given special mention to Shafi who already got very good identity with Khadgam film

Shafi: He jelled well with the character. He never over-dramatized it. He has got a peculiar voice. Initially we wanted to have his voice dubbed by some dubbing artist. Then I found his voice to fall in rhythm with his characterization. Hence, we decided to use his voice.


Senthil (Photography): Senthil worked for my earlier film Sye also. For Sye, I guided him and explained how I wanted the shots. But for Chatrapati, I gave him the script and complete freedom. To total credit of whatever you see on screen in terms of visuals should go to Senthil. Let me explain the shot of mud water splashing in pre-interval fight. It was done in night effect. And in order to get such clear images of splashes of water, we need high intense light. We took huge iron frame and fixed as many lights as possible and on the top we placed a white sheet to get soft light effect. We mounted the lights on a 180 feet industrial crane and canned that shot.

Keeravani (Music): Keeravani gave excellent background music to lift the mood of the film. Some people might say that songs of this film are not as good as the songs he scored for my earlier films. But the fact is that all songs of Keeravani act like slow poison. It takes time to spread the good word around. Generally we need a gap of 30 days between audio and movie release in order for the music to penetrate. We had only 14 days of gap.

Story department: My father Vijayendra Prasad gave story and Ratnam gave dialogues. His dialogues for my earlier films were very powerful. But in this film we chose to have fewer dialogues for hero. There is only one scene where we needed powerful dialogues. That is in before the interval episode. He came up with a very powerful mass dialogue. I find the dialogue of 'Ottesi Oka Mata. Ottu Veyakunda Oka Mata Cheppanamma' is the most valuable contribution of my father Vijayendra Prasad to the script.

Ravindra (Art director): Ravindra is a new addition to my team. He came up with most natural refugees colony set in Vizag port area. I exploited it a lot in the film. Unfortunately, director gets credit for the hard work done by technicians. Likewise, hero gets credit for the hard work done by the director.

Peter Hain (Fights): Devil and Demon are the right words to describe him. Whenever our guys look at a good shot, they have the habit of saying that it is in Hollywood range. I do laugh at those kinds of comments. We are far behind Hollywood standards. But I can confidently say that Peter Hain is one technician who works for regular commercial films in India who has the talent to make it to Hollywood. He also uses rope work to a minimal level. He makes the artist stretch to maximum limit then he places the additional weight on the strings.

Time taken:

Preproduction: 4 months
Production: 7 months
Post production: 1 month

Since preproduction laps up with production and production laps up with post production, the total time to make this film is 10 months.

Shark fiasco:

I used to feel proud that I am best at graphics and handling of technical aspects. But the Shark episode in Chatrapati introduction fight made me fall flat on my face. It was a huge challenge. Still I am proud of attempting it. I realize now that the major mistake I did was to miscalculate the time required to do those graphics. I thought 3 months of time was enough to do it. But the Firefly guys could not get it right. There are 3 main components in that episode

1. Story board (I failed in this aspect)
2. Animation (Firefly guys did amazing work)
3. Giving under-water feel (Firefly could not handle it)

Firefly guys handled the animation part of the Shark in a very high standard, but could not create the right under-water effect.

That shark fight references were there in the following scenes as well. Hence if we delete that fight, there would be broken links. Hence I have decided to fix it up. We are still working over it. I am putting money from my own pocket for all the graphics expenses for this episode which are being done after the release of film. We will replace the old graphics with new graphics once they are ready.

I am really confident that my future films would have much more complex graphics scenes and I am going to handle them with authority.

Exposure of the film:
We exposed 1.6 lakhs feet worth footage for this film. The final cut is of 15000 ft.

Shriya's name appears as Shriya Saran. Did Shriya request to publish it that way?

Whose idea is it to have the parody of Aparichitudu?
The idea of Aparichitudu is mine. It was Kannan (story department) who gave idea of punch after Aparichitudu parody.

Why didn't you develop the love thread between Prabhas and Shriya?
Let me be honest with you, I have never completely done justice to the love threads in all my films. I realized that I am missing something on it while in the middle of production. I also need more footage for developing the love thread. I need to work on establishing love thread properly in my future ventures.

Do you think there are really refugees in Vizag who migrated from Srilanka? Did you do any research prior to taking up this story?
The story in this film is fictional. I have never done any research on this aspect. Bur if we read newspapers, there are refugees in every part of this country. For example, my grandfathers are basically Telugus who settled in Rangoon. They had to return due to political pressure at Rangoon. They returned to West Bengal by traveling on foot. Then they returned to Hyderabad. So I could personally connect myself with the story.

You credited your wife name Rama Rajamouli for Styling department. What exactly does the Styling mean?
She looks into the finer and minute aspects of characterizations and how the characters behave. It's more of an assistant director's job. She also handles the costumes department.

I heard that you took active interest in production of Sye and Chatrapati?
When a movie fails, it is the director who is blamed. I think every director should make sure that a film is produced in such a way that it is economically viable. I keep constant watch on budget figures on weekly basis. If it's going over-budget I control expenses in order to bring it down. Filmmaking should be made an economically viable business.

What do you think are the best shots in this film?

1. Prabhas crossing the line drawn by Supreet
2. Prabhas dragging the body of Narendra Jha into the office of Kota

What are the best close-up shots?

1. Look of Prabhas when he presses the legs of Supreet
2. Look of Supreet when Prabhas presses his legs. (these two shots are continuous)

Exploitation of artists:
I got good actors for all roles in this film. Hence I decided to exploit the histrionics of actors with slow movements of camera closing on their faces. If you observe closely there are neither ramping shots nor camera gimmicks when actors are performing.

Is blind woman episode inspired by Sholay?
No. I perceived it on my own. I used to feel proud about that scene. When I narrated this scene to Gangaraju Gunnam during production stage, he said that it resembles Sholay film. After that conversation, I stopped feeling proud about that scene. That episode is planned for a 3-day shoot. But due to poor light, it took 7 days.

First half is mass oriented and second half is sentiment oriented. Why didn't you balance these two halves?
Bhanu Priya tells the story of Chatrapati to Prabhas when he was a kid. As per the wish of his mother, he becomes Chatrapati who is adored by lakhs of people. But in turn his mother hates him. The first half is about how he got back his mother. The story should be narrated in that way to get the desired result.

There was an adrenal rush and high tempo for interval episode, but the same was not repeated for climax?
I underestimated the effect of pre-interval scenes. They were received more vibrantly than I imagined. Hence the expectations soar high for second half. I think it would take a week for the normal crowds to get in. Let the initial wave subside. In my opinion, it is the second half that is going to give long run for this film.

You projected Chatrapati as man of the masses who work for others without looking for personal benefits. But in the 'tenders' scene of second half, he ignores his Chatrapati duty and runs away for his mother. How do you justify it?
It is like choosing between mother and mother's words. He ignores mother's words for the safety of his mother. I tried to create a kind of emotional lock. That is where the emotional graph goes down. We need to down the graph a bit so that we can raise the emotions in the scene that followed.

Did you delete any good scenes due to length problem?

1. There is another comedy episode by Venu Madhav. I felt that it was little vulgar.
2. There is another scene of Kota in a bath tub. It is a very good scene, but it tampers with the flow of narration.
3. Jaya Prakash attending the housewarming ceremony. It is a very good scene. I am planning to add it in 4-5 days of time in all theaters.

Which scenes did you think did not turn up as you expected?

1. Obviously Shark scene for which I gave an explanation.
2. The Shafi characterization should have been done better after he became a rich man.
3. I am not satisfied with any of the stories I worked so far (from Student No. 1 to Chatrapati)

If you were not completely satisfied with story, why do you take up projects?
There is no end to perfection. I do not want others (producer and technicians) to suffer financially and work-wise due to the extra time I take for story. There are certain deadlines to be followed practically.

Craziest incidents while shooting the film

1. The first scene of gag reel. Where the boat tilts and Sekhar's head is drowned.
2. The scene in which wig of Venu Madhav flies. The cameraman Senthil could not control his laughter and the camera shook as he laughed uncontrollably. You can observe the shaking of camera if you have a closer look at it.
3. While picturising the gala gala song, we arranged bombs in the back where they blast colorful chamkis. We told Prabhas and Shriya in advance that bomb would blow and once the chamki's reach certain position, they should start dancing. Prabhas placed ear muffs. Shriya did not bother to cover her ears with muffs. When blast took place, she went so blank due to sound that she started walking out of the set as if she forgotten everything. Prabhas had to go to her and bring her back into camera field just in time.

Trade facts of all my films

S. No Film Name Budget (crores) Sold For (crores) Share collected (crores)
1 Student No.1 1.85 2.75 12
2 Simhadri 8.5 11.5 26
3 Sye 10.2* 9.6 11
4 Chatrapati 12.5 12.5 (plus producer retained Krishna + EG rights) NA
Note: Above figures are given by SS Rajamouli. These figures are approximate

*For Sye film, i paid back a part of my remuneration since it went into deficit.

You described K Raghavendra Rao as your guru. Can you elaborate?
Raghavendra Rao means a lot to me. If I say I learnt direction from him, it would be an understatement. The relationship we share is not only just professional. On my birthday, I would touch the feet of my parents first and then my brother Keeravani next. Then I would go to K Raghavendra Rao and touch his feet. When I was directing his TV serials, I needed one lakh rupees to send my mother to USA on medical issues. I was taking remuneration of 2000 per one TV episode from K Raghavendra Rao. I went and asked him for 1 lakh. He asked me to take it from the accounts department without even asking why I need that money.

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Santosham by Dasarath
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