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Gunasekhar about 'Shaakuntalam', Samantha and more


"If you can't afford it, don't try to mount visual extravaganzas. The audience want a bang for the buck and nothing less," says director Gunasekhar ahead of the theatrical release of 'Shaakuntalam'. This April 14th, says the 'Okkadu' maker, the audience will appreciate the quality of computer graphics and VFX in the movie. He suggests that the CG aspect of his movie is of high quality, citing 'RRR' as a film that matches Samantha Ruth Prabhu's movie in terms of earnest effort. The director says that Samantha is cute and exudes charming innocence, something Kalidasa's version of Shakuntala, who grew up among Munis, also did.

I worked on 'Hiranyakashyapa' for five years, including three years of pre-production. When the film was about to be taken on the floors, the pandemic happened. The project has since been kept in abeyance. I then decided to do a love story in a compact manner. That's when I mooted the idea of telling the story of Shakuntala.

Kalidasa's Abhijnanasakuntalam was a 7-act play. Understanding the characters from Kalidasa's angle felt awesome. I felt today's generation will surely connect with the characters. This is no tragic story. The ending is happy. The titular character defies societal norms as a single mother. Unwed motherhood was seen as a cardinal sin in those times. Today's women, like Shakuntalam, are standing up for their rights.

The characterization of Shakuntala has been done in a such way that Samantha's performance is ably explored.

The character Dushyanta, played by Dev Mohan, should ideally have been played by a Telugu actor. But Tollywood heroes are not willing to play such roles. NT Rama Rao never minded playing such a role with certain shades decades ago. Present-day heroes are not ready to do such roles. I trained Dev Mohan and molded him to play the role.

Samantha has played modern roles throughout her career. So, molding her body language was not easy. While the demeanor of the character is classical, its meter is relatable. Samantha attended acting classes to get trained by Aruna Bhikshu.

When I narrated the script and character Durvasa Maharshi, Mohan Babu garu felt that only he must do the role.

Pre-production took about one year, including storyboarding and pre-viz. Shooting is nothing if pre-production is perfect. We completed the shoot in 81 working days. The post-production took 1.5 years.

Shakuntala's friends were animals more than humans. It's very difficult to depict animals in CG. You need a lot of time, effort, and money to do that. These days, working with real animals is impossible because of their extinction and the rights activists associated with PETA. We went to Kashmir to shoot some portions. Wherever we went, we saw modern civilization. Kashmir is no longer pristine. That's why we had to depend on CG for everything. We have used photo-realistic CG quality.

'Kantara' worked with the audience. It was a dubbed film. It went beyond action. It was made on a low budget. Its commercial success was bigger than that of 'KGF' if you consider the percentage returns. Content is what matters ultimately.

Dil Raju garu's insistence is that the pre-release screenings have to be in 3D. Test theatres in 3D are limited in number. On Monday, when we watched the movie at Prasad's IMAX with the public, we encountered a few technical glitches. Corrections have been made and the up-to-date version is ready by Wednesday afternoon.

Samantha was advised not to undergo physical stress. Yet, she insisted that she will participate in promotions. She is not in a position to do promotions currently due to bad health. (She is down with flu.)

(Gunasekhar suggested that authenticated sources have been used in writing the film. There is no political agenda, and the film doesn't give into any sort of controversy).

Updated on April 12, 2023