'Narappa' is all set to stream on Amazon Prime Video from July 20. In this exclusive interview with Ragalahari, producer D Suresh Babu talks about why it is a unique movie, what made him choose the OTT option, why it's an important film for Venkatesh and more.
When 'Asuran' was released, I found it to be a realistic commercial film. In Telugu, we have a lot of commercial films but they are less realistic and more over-the-top. Vetri Maaran (the story-writer of 'Asuran' and its remake 'Narappa') has infused the story with a lot of emotions and social commentary. Those are issues that are pertinent. We don't talk about them due to social stigma. The film doesn't hurt anybody.
The movie is a great platform for an actor like Venkatesh. Very few writers in Telugu would write a character like that for Venkatesh. It's indeed true that Venkatesh has done an intensely emotional character in 'Narappa'.
It's not unfortunate that our movie has gone for an OTT release. A lot of people wanted it to be a big-screen film, including my other producer Kalaipuli S Thanu. But circumstances have led to this. Thanu released 'Karnan' (Tamil) in April this year. Despite the positive talk, it was a loss venture because the film had to be removed from theatres in the third week. We were worried that 'Narappa' might face the same fate if the caseload curve were to go up suddenly. We have to balance between lives and livelihood. There are no absolutes and hard and fast rules. Different people will make different decisions based on their experiences. A lot of fans of Venkatesh have had to be pacified.
'Narappa' will be accessed in more than 240 countries. Personally, I believe that OTT and theatres are going to co-exist for a period of time. There is no question of who is first and who is last here. There is generally a tussle between old and new technologies. Eventually, there is a reconciliation. Ideally, I would want this film to be watched only in a theatre. But if you like a film, you will involve yourself emotionally in it no matter on what platform you watch it.
Director Sreekanth Addala was at our office to narrate another story. He happened to ask us about 'Asuran'. He offered to direct the movie if we had no director in mind. I feel that he can elicit emotions very well. He studies his characters in depth. He is a nice person to work with, too. I never had a question in mind that he may not be suitable for Narappa's sensibilities. I don't have any fixed opinions on directors. Christopher Nolan and others have changed themselves. They have not stuck to any particular genre.
Venkatesh's ability to pull off the role was never in doubt. A schedule was shot for 53 days at a stretch in Tamil Nadu. He used to stay back in those towns even though he could have come back home when his scenes were not being shot. He has been involved thoroughly. He has done non-heroic things in 'Narappa'. You see him wailing, you see him run on the road with his 'pancha' torn off... These have never been done by him before.
I like Vetri Maaran a lot. He marries commercial and art cinema aesthetics with great ease. While doing 'Narappa', we wanted it to be authentic with respect to the costumes, etc. The artists were roped in keeping that in mind.
Venkatesh has the ability to make the audience set aside comparisons. He has done a number of remakes already. He always waits for a variety of roles. 'Drushyam 2' and 'F3' are again contrasting.
The story of 'Narappa' can be set in Rajahmundry or some other place as well. But we set it up in Rayalaseema because the places there gel well with the raw sensibility of the film. We had to shoot many portions in Tamil Nadu because of the crowd control issues.
A good BGM in a very good film can't be changed easily. We had to keep it close to the original. Even in 'Chanti', the songs and BGM were similar to the original.
I and producer Kalaipuli S Thanu are good friends. 'Gharshana' was our first collaboration together. When I watched 'Asuran', I immediately called him up and offered to remake it. He came on board immediately. We have a lot of goodwill for each other. There will be many more collaborations in the future between us.
It has been months since a star-hero film has been out. 'Narappa' is coming amidst a vacuum.