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Producer C Ashwini Dutt about 'Sita Ramam', 'Project K' and supporting CBN

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C Ashwini Dutt says that producing 'Sita Ramam' has fulfilled his long-standing desire to make a love story on Vyjayanthi Movies, one of the most reputed banners of Telugu cinema. The film, starring Dulquer Salmaan, Mrunal Thakur and Rashmika Mandanna, is all set to hit the cinemas on August 5. In this interview, the senior producer talks about the film, the Prabhas-starrer 'Project K', his other upcoming movies, and more.

On Sita Ramam:

I am happy to be interacting with the media ahead of the theatrical release of 'Sita Ramam'. For Hanu Raghavapudi, 'Sita Ramam' is going to be a landmark film, as 'Maro Charitra' for K Balachander and 'Gitanjali' is for Mani Ratnam.

We are doing extensive promotions and are expecting very good openings right from FDFS. Otherwise, the positive 'word of mouth' is going to pull the audience to theaters anyways.

I was stubborn about casting Dulquer in 'Mahanati'. I was surprised when he agreed to play Gemini Ganesan. I am a staunch fan of his father, Mammootty garu. After 'Mahanati', I told Swapna that we should do at least one film with him every year or so under our banner. 'Sita Ramam' has a wide span and is a multi-lingual release. And Dulquer is someone who is popular across languages. So, casting him was a befitting choice. After listening to the script of 'Sita Ramam', I told the director not to pitch it to any other actor.

At one stage, it was thought we should title the film 'Lieutenant Ram'. But it would have been a complex title, because how do you even write it? (laughs).

Sumanth playing Brigadier Vishnu Sharma is a highlight. After this movie, he is going to get offers from other languages as well.

We have released three songs so far. The fourth one will be released soon. The rest of the songs will be released as a 9-song jukebox. I get involved in music sittings as a producer. I am not trained in music but I have a grip on it. I know what tunes will work with the listeners. I deem it God-given talent. In the case of 'Mahanati', I showed interest in set design.

The feedback on the film from the Censor Board in Dubai for the Malayalam and Tamil versions is superb.

The thing with director Hanu is that he stretches scenes without his knowledge. Someone needs to tell him to trim the scenes.

On issues affecting Tollywood:

High ticket and snacks prices have put off the family audience. OTTs have got a fillip in the meanwhile. And production costs are going up because of high wages and high remunerations.

The Producers Council was formed by heavyweights like MS Reddy garu decades ago. I don't understand why the Active Producers Guild came into existence in the meanwhile.

When an OTT offer came our way for 'Jathi Ratnalu', Nag Ashwin advised me not to take it. He was confident that it was meant for the theatres and not OTT. Nowadays, mistakes have been made (by producers) in clinching OTT deals. (Dutt suggested that the short theatre-OTT release window is not ideal)

Some producers have increased the remunerations of heroes over the years. And the same bunch are now complaining about skyrocketing production costs. And they have announced a suspension of film shoots (from August 1).

On his daughter Swapna Dutt, Nag Ashwin:

I myself am surprised by my daughter and producer Swapna's talent. Her thinking about different aspects of cinema is really advanced. She is also a taskmaster. She is a huge pillar of support to me. Both Swapna and Priyanka voluntarily entered the film industry.

I am proud of Nag Ashwin (son-in-law). Big banners like Suresh Productions have a star in the form of Venkatesh. Allu Arjun came for Geetha Arts. Vyjayanthi Movies had none and I was busy in real estate business. Nagi came as the answer.

On upcoming movies:

'Project K' has been made on a high budget and the ginormous investment is justified. It is going to be an international release. It's the Indian Avengers. After the film shoot ends by the end of this year or early next year,

We have a film lined up with the Naga Chaitanya-Nandini Reddy duo. We have another film lined up with Roshan Meka, the son of Srikanth.

On political issues:

I will always be a big supporter of Chandrababu Naidu. He is a matchless leader.

The present AP government has been against the Tirumala temple. I don't know why Swamy (Lord Venkateswara) is silent. Has Chinna Jeeyar Swamy ever opened his mouth on the profanities committed in Tirumala?  

Updated on July 28, 2022