Think V Vijayendra Prasad and words to describe him seem futile as he needs no introduction. As the brain behind RRR, who wrote the story and is known for creating blockbusters such as Bajrangi Bhaijaanand Baahubali to name just a few, he not only won the hearts of the people, but also bagged numerous awards.
On the inaugural day, he bowled us over with his wit and sense of humour and kept us in splits through the interview. We discovered that a mischievous child lurking behind that bearded, stoic face. He suggests we take everything, including this interview, in a light-hearted manner. “Nothing is serious in life and that makes the journey enjoyable. Life is short, so laugh and make others laugh...,” he says.
Tell us about the process a writer goes through when he creates characters and stories?
Do you want the truth or lies? Lies are always appealing so let us start with that first — no matter what you do, you must do it to inspire the nation, motivate the youth to emulate you and so on...
Now for the truth: When I was in Goa for a film festival, they asked what my message is for aspiring writers and I said they should be inspired by Gandhiji. I took out a currency note and said this Gandhiji. If you write a story for magazines, you earn thousands, if you publish a book you earn in lakhs and when you write for movies, you earn crores... the choice is yours.
How easy was it for you to foray into the industry?
My brother Shivadatta, the father of music director Keeravani is a master of many arts. He writes lyrics, stories, dialogues, is a musician, an artiste and can also direct. He sold all his property, and came to Chennai and tried making a film, but nothing worked. Everything got stuck. We struggled as we had no clue where our next meal would come from. During this period, I started following him and realised that stories are nothing but a bunch of lies. A better word for it would be ‘Fiction’, which has no truth in it. I felt writing a story for a film was telling a lie that sounds like the truth. Fiction has to be presented so convincingly that it comes across as nothing but the truth and I believe I have a knack for it.
When it comes to screenplays or script writing, they say there is a structure that follows the protagonist’s journey. People quote Syd Field’s structure and method. Your views on this...
I am not trained formally as a writer, hence I am not competent. But, those who are trained tell me that they learnt the structure to break it. You must know the rules to break them and that paves the way for new stories. For instance, if I say something plain and ordinary, people tend to forget it. But say something controversial or with a shocking element that remains in the mind for a long time.
What do you feel about the relevance of film festivals?
Prior to digital platforms, the common man did not have access to world cinema and film festivals were his go-to platform. Today, everything is available at a click. But one thing you will not get from the digital space is a meeting with like-minded people and filmmakers from across the globe or a chance to interact with them. Movies can be seen anywhere, but such platforms lead you to the people who create movies.
In your masterclass, will you give away your trade secrets as a writer?
There is no such thing as a trade secret. In every person, there is a child, which dies as the person grows older. The secret is to keep that child within you alive. That will keep alive the process of creation. The day that child within you dies, you become a mechanical writer.
Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so what do you do?
I can do nothing. It just means that I lose money as I am unable to write... Jokes apart, as long as you have a hunger within you to create something, you will overcome these hurdles. The hunger becomes your drive. As a journalist, you are driven by the passion to tell people about things happening around you. For films that aspect is not there. My advice is that you take off to some place, all by yourself and keep that hunger alive and stimulate your mind to write. Let your imagination run wild.
Tell us about your approach to a story right from the moment you are given just the logline or a premise...
To build characterisations and situations that clash.
Do you ever get attached to any particular character? If so how do you justify the smallest character created in your story?
The trick is to be detached from your own story and character, no matter how powerful or weak your creation is.
Of late there is an app that most scriptwriters talk about, what do you feel about it? Does it kill creativity as you are dependent on technology?
It is a new thing that has come up. I have not used it, hence, will refrain from commenting on it. Everything has its pros and cons. The most intelligent thing to do according to me is to use it and not become a slave to it.
Today, we speak about ‘pan Indian cinema’ yet there are clashes when it comes to Bollywood and South Indian film industries and languages...
Taking pride in one’s language/work works at every level — first, individually where a person takes pride in his or her language, then it is state-wise, which grows nation wise and so on. I am so proud of Kannada films too. Felt proud when I saw the success of Kantara. I have been a huge fan of Dr Rajkumar. My son (director Rajamouli) was born in Karnataka and we lived in Raichur for 10 years and still have a small house there. I feel I am a part of Karnataka and love the work created here. I claim to be a Kannadiga and refuse to leave even when pushed out. We need to learn to be inclusive.
What do you think worked for RRR?
You cannot pinpoint a single thing to claim it worked. I would say it was all the ingredients that came together that worked for RRR. Filmmaking is also a collective effort. There should be a captain who can bring everyone together collectively for the goal — create good cinema.