Nagarjuna hails from a family of well-known film-makers. His father A Nageshwara Rao has been a huge star in Telugu cinema and so is his son Naga Chaitanya. Manju Ramanan speaks to Nagarjuna on his films and why he feels that Hindi film makers will soon have to adapt subjects to woo south Indian audiences.
Tell us about Bhai and your role in it?
Bhai is a mass entertainment concoction. With catchy one line dialogues, drama, songs, comedy sequences and stunning action shot in different exotic locales. It will be a non-stop 140 minutes popcorn entertainer and a film everybody would love to watch. In this film I play 3 different roles. This is one of the first film that bring 40 character actors together. We have put all details pertaining to the film such as the first look, theatrical trailer on social media such as Facebook (there’s a page for Bhai) and YouTube besides the Annapurna Studios website.
Will it be dubbed or remade in other languages as well following the trend happening in the Hindi film industry?
BHAI will appeal to broad range of audience. The story has a universal appeal. We would like the movie to make a mark in Telugu BO before we embark on making the content available in other languages. As an industry we would like to expand the audience universe for our films. To start with our films have gained strong acceptance and audience in the US market.
Are you planning to produce or act in any Hindi film in the future? Or any collaborations on the way?
Currently I am busy with MANAM (means WE) which is close to me and my family. It is a multi-starrer film which for the first time will have Dr. A Nageshwar Rao, I and my son playing interesting roles. I am an actor and there are no boundaries for me. I am open to produce or act in films as long as I feel that it will excite my fans and me.
South India is a huge market for Hindi cinema too today. Do you see Hindi films trying to adapt subjects to woo the South Indian audience?
It is already happening. Every film maker would like his movie to have universal audience. It is good for business and the growth of the industry. Currently, you find that every Bollywood movie cast, crew and the production team visiting multi cities in south to promote their films. Soon, you will have them adapt subjects to woo south Indian audiences.
My belief is – if the story is about what is happening around you it will attract one and all. So, it is not just the language it is the story telling ability of the film maker , its cast and crew that is vital to expand its audience base whether it is India or abroad.
A host of leading ladies who act in South Indian cinema are North Indians – why do you see that acceptance?
We would love to have local talent in our films. However, there is a significant dominance of north Indian’s. For an audience it is the movie content and the talent of the actor or actress that lure them to theatres. The audiences are looking for 160 minutes of entertainment and it doesn’t matter whether the actress is from north or south. The actresses from south are also loved by the audience and we have many of them making their mark and perform with consistency.
Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu are said to be places where film stars are worshipped and star value is enormous? Does it in any way influence your choice of roles?
Films are made for entertainment. As long as the film maker and the actor believe that it can woo the audience to theatres it is the right script and right movie. Over the years , film makers and successful actors also learn what the audience love to see, so it is quite important that you don’t experiment too much and stick to your strengths.
What are the things about Hindi cinema that South Indian cinema can learn from and vice versa?
Hindi cinema has deeper penetration whereas the south Indian cinema has few more miles to go before it can penetrate into deeper pockets. Hindi is also one of the most commonly spoken languages in the country. However, in recent times the south Indian cinema has made its mark with the film makers in Bollywood, many south Indian films re-made in Hindi which is an adaptation of south Indian cinema and it is working well at the box office. If not the language what is gaining the attention is the content that is beyond language.
What are your future productions?
BHAI is ready for theatrical release. We have MANAM which is a multi-starrer with Dr. ANR, I and my son playing very interesting roles currently under production.
In the 100th year of Indian cinema, do you see more interesting scripts being written? Which are the ones you have enjoyed watching for their fresh content, across Hindi, Tamil and Telugu cinema?
I love films that entertain me throughout the time I spend in a theater or watch it at home. In recent times I loved Life of Pi, Barfi and Bhag Milka Bhaag, Dabbang & Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani. All of them had fresh content cutting across all the audiences. Good scripts always wins big or small. The trend I like the most is young film makers are willing to take risks doing experimental films, they are successful too.
How important is marketing a film across TV, online channels as well as promotions across the world important? Do you see yourself do it?
Of course, it is important to market your products. If you are not able to reach out to both your passive and active audience how would they know about it? As an actor entrepreneur and owner of a production house I am involved in the entire process of film making from script to product to marketing strategies. Marketing is very important.
As an actor which has been your most challenging role of the recent past?
Every role is challenging. I love action and entertainment. I also did few films like Sai Baba which I enjoyed doing it.
Do you see strong roles written for women in Telugu cinema?
Of course, women oriented roles do woo audience as much as hero oriented films.
What is your choice of films? What do you like to watch?
I love action and entertainment. I love to watch films that entertain period.
Tell us about your diet and fitness regime?
I keep a diet and exercise plan that is important for me as an actor. However, on Sunday I cheat and indulge in food that I love the most.
Do you see the North South divide in cinema in India bridge with a few films or there is a long way to go?
The divide will eventually fade as the generation next appreciates good films irrespective of which language it is made of. With advent of social media and internet access on the move it is easy to make judgment what will entertain them and then they go for it.