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Rahul Ravindran’s big leap

Rahul Ravindran

Rahul Ravindran   | Photo Credit: By arrangement

From being starstruck to developing an easy working rapport with Nagarjuna, director Rahul Ravindran holds forth on ‘Manmadhudu 2’

“Breathless” is how director Rahul Ravindran describes the last few weeks, leading up to the release of Manmadhudu 2. After a swift shooting schedule this summer in Portugal and Switzerland, he began working on the post production barely hours after landing in Hyderabad. In the last six weeks, he has watched the film around 150 times during the dubbing, re-recording and other post production work. His excitement and nervousness are palpable when he talks about his second directorial venture where the stakes are higher than his directorial debut, Chi la Sow.

Chi la Sow was a story that Rahul had in mind a decade ago. He had visualised every shot before it went on floors. But Manmadhudu 2 was a different beast. Around 10 days before the release of Chi La Sow, Nagarjuna had called him for a meeting, showed him a French film for which he had bought the remake rights, and wanted Rahul to adapt it in Telugu. “I watched the film, liked it and felt this was a chance I shouldn’t let go,” says Rahul, settling down for the interview at a café where life goes on, oblivious to the presence of an actor-director in their midst.

Rahul Ravindran on the sets of Manmadhudu 2

Rahul Ravindran on the sets of Manmadhudu 2  

The big four

Rahul, like many moviegoers, had been starstruck watching Nagarjuna’s movies. “To me, he was this big star and among the four legends of his generation (along with Chiranjeevi, Balakrishna and Venkatesh). I first met him during Samantha and Naga Chaitanya’s wedding, and later when he watched Chi La Sow,” recalls Rahul.

From being starstruck, Rahul had to develop the director-actor rapport with Nagarjuna. “I took the basic plotline of the French film and began to write from scratch, to suit our sensibilities. I must have written about eight drafts before we went to shoot. In those eight months, I met Nag sir frequently. We had broken the ice and developed a working relationship,” says Rahul.

  • A few technicians of Manmadhudu 2 had worked with Rahul in Chi la Sow, like cinematographer Sukumar and editor Chota K Prasad. Rahul has known art directors Ramakrishna and Monika since Andala Rakshasi and roped them in. The suggestion for composer Chaitan Bharadwaj came from Nagarjuna who liked the songs of RX 100.
  • Lakshmi had worked with Akkineni Nageswara Rao and was Nagarjuna’s mother in Ninne Pelladutha. “She’s at that stage of her life and career where she needn’t work for money and chooses what excites her. Thankfully, she liked the character and agreed. She brought in so many nuances; with simple hand gestures and eye movements, she added value to the scenes,” says Rahul.

He mentions Nagarjuna stating that as a producer he would be involved in the writing and post production process, but guaranteed Rahul complete freedom while shooting the film. “On the first day of shooting in Portugal, I realised that he stands by his word. On set, he was only an actor and open to suggestions when I wanted him to do something different. It was so easy to work with him,” Rahul emphasises. Rahul remembers Vennela Kishore pointing out that he could see Nagarjuna delivering a performance that reminded him of Nirnayam (1991).

Not a sequel

Manmadhudu 2 is not a sequel to Manmadhudu (2002). The broad similarities lie in both being rom-coms. Rahul doesn’t remember who suggested the title Manmadhudu 2, but when he submitted the first draft, that was the working title. Later, the team decided to go with it.

Nagarjuna plays Sam, an older bachelor who has consensual flings and steers clear of commitments and long-term relationships. There’s a sensitivity with which these portions have been handled, assures Rahul, “Sam respects women. At one point, I felt Sam is like Goldmund from Narcissus and Goldmund.” Rahul felt the story had to be set abroad to make it easier to pull off such a character and storyline.

The rest of Sam’s on-screen family and friends includes veteran actress Lakshmi, Jhansi, Rao Ramesh, Devadarshini and Vennela Kishore whom Rahul calls his muse for writing comedy.

“While writing, I could visualise how Kishore would emote a scene. I know him so well that I know how he would improvise on set,” he says. All these actors were given bound scripts in Telugu or Telugu-English before filming began.

Nagarjuna and Rakul Preet Singh

Nagarjuna and Rakul Preet Singh  

Kishore and Rahul have been friends and co-actors for years, and similarly, Rahul has known Rakul Preet Singh even before she debuted in Telugu films. This is the first time he’s working with her and during pre-release interviews, it’s easy to gauge their mutual admiration for each other. “She has delivered a mind-blowing performance. We rehearsed for two days prior to shoot and I liked the way she internalised the character,” he says.

Polar opposites

Avantika (Rakul’s character) is the opposite of Anjali (Ruhani Sharma) of Chi La Sow, Rahul explains, “Anjali was weighed down by her circumstances and her chirpy nature was lost within that. Avantika seems all fun and laughter but there’s more to her.”

Rahul has maintained that direction was his destination, and acting happened along the way. He’s game to act if something interesting comes up. “A few of the films I acted in were merely to pay bills. Now I can do what excites me. I’m so done with love stories,” he says.

He has a few scripts for both small and big budget films. There are also offers from big production houses. Rahul hasn’t decided anything yet and says, he first needs a holiday.

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Printable version | Jul 5, 2020 10:48:05 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/it-was-easy-to-work-with-nagarjuna-says-director-rahul-ravindran-ahead-of-manmadhudu-2/article28877259.ece

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