Lights, Cam­era, Ac­tion!

Di­rec­tor S S Ra­jamouli is in­deed a whiz and the suc­cess of his block­busters – Bãhubali The Be­gin­ning and Bãhubali The Con­clu­sion- tell a tale of their own. At the Mau­ri­tius Cinema Week, SS RA­JAMOULI gives a glimpse of his amaz­ing tech­niques at his Mas­ter

Stardust (English) - - NEWS - Words SUMITA CHAKRABORTY

His film Bãhubali has been the big­gest grosser of the year shat­ter­ing prior Box of­fice records of the Bad­shahs and Sul­tans of Bol­ly­wood to smithereens. In fact, world­wide over, this block­buster has cap­tured the imag­i­na­tion of the au­di­ence and has grossed over a mind-bog­gling fig­ure of 1,000 crores. But if you do get to meet the di­rec­tor of this in­cred­i­ble film, you’ll be blown away by the hum­ble­ness of the man. …Yes, we are talk­ing about SS Ra­jamouli who is the di­rec­tor of this mam­moth block­buster. Unas­sum­ing to the ex­tent of be­ing even a lit­tle shy, Ra­jamouli nor­mally shies away from in­ter­views. How­ever, he was at the Mau­ri­tius Cinema Week held in Mau­ri­tius where his films – Bãhubali The Be­gin­ning and Bãhubali The Con­clu­sion - were her­alded for their amaz­ing vis­ual power and orig­i­nal­ity. In­ci­den­tally, this vi­sion­ary was a great draw with the pub­lic, and peo­ple from all walks of life in Mau­ri­tius were han­ker­ing to get his au­to­graph or take a selfie with him. We were for­tu­nate to at­tend his in­for­ma­tive mas­ter class there and pick up a trea­sure trove of in­for­ma­tion on the man him­self. …Pre­sent­ing the mag­nif­i­cent SS Ra­jamouli … his thought process, his take on his stint in tele­vi­sion, his writers, mu­sic and more.

Creatively I think, ev­ery­thing comes more from ob­ser­va­tion of peo­ple or sub­jects around you or from read­ing and ob­serv­ing.”

You be­gan your ca­reer with tele­vi­sion. How did that pre­pare you for the big screen? Yes, I did be­gin from tele­vi­sion. And it did help me a lot. For in­stance, it helped me get some prac­ti­cal knowl­edge on how to deal with my tech­ni­cians, ac­tors or even day to day is­sues. But creatively, I don’t re­ally think it helped me that much. Creatively I think, ev­ery­thing comes more from ob­ser­va­tion of peo­ple or sub­jects around you or from read­ing and ob­serv­ing. But of course, start­ing from tele­vi­sion or even the ad films I made helped me mas­ter the prac­ti­cal knowl­edge of my art.

You didn’t write your first two films - Stu­den­tNo.1 was writ­ten by K. Raghaven­dra Rao and M Rat­nam, and Simhadri was writ­ten by M Rat­nam. But you have worked closely with them. How was the ex­pe­ri­ence….?

A small cor­rec­tion… the first film was writ­ten by Pruthvi Raj. K Raghaven­dra is the pro­ducer. He’s also my men­tor who gave me the chance to di­rect my first TV se­rial also my first film. The sec­ond film and most of my films since then were writ­ten by my fa­ther who is a scriptwriter. I work very closely with writers. Def­i­nitely, very closely be­cause the writers are peo­ple who give you the foun­da­tion to build on. So with ev­ery writer that I’ve worked with, I re­ally like to un­der­stand what their vi­sion is be­fore I put my vi­sion into it. Agreed, a story is a story but I def­i­nitely would like to know very closely from them, how they en­vi­sion the fi­nal prod­uct. It might be a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent or whole lot dif­fer­ent from how I’m en­vi­sion­ing it. But be­fore any­thing else, I’d like to hear how they’re vi­su­al­iz­ing the film, and then build on it. Mind you, it’s not just that the writers give the script and their job is over. Even through­out the shoot­ing and the post pro­duc­tion process, I go back to them to check whether they had en­vi­sioned the scene the same way it was shot or whether that par­tic­u­lar se­quence was dif­fer­ent from their vi­sion. Was their vi­sion bet­ter or was my vi­sion bet­ter? And that keeps us on our toes… and this process goes on through­out the film. So it is a fact that I work very closely with my writers.

How im­por­tant is mu­sic for your films? My cousin M M Keer­a­vani, who’s a mu­sic di­rec­tor, has loads and loads of ex­pe­ri­ence not just in terms of mu­sic but also in terms of sto­ry­telling, and he is nor­mally my ‘go to’ man for mu­sic and I de­pend a lot on him to get the right sound. And when it comes to mu­sic, par­tic­u­larly the back­ground mu­sic of a film, you have to be ex­tra care­ful. For in­stance, there are times when I like a par­tic­u­lar se­quence of mu­sic very much but then I find that it is not gelling with the scene. So what I try to do is that when I’m sit­ting in the seat of a di­rec­tor, I try to see whether the mu­sic is con­vey­ing what the scene is about or en­hanc­ing that emo­tion that I want to tell in that par­tic­u­lar scene or se­quence. So it’s not just lis­ten­ing to the mu­sic but also see­ing if the mu­sic fits in that par­tic­u­lar scene. But this is a de­part­ment I ad­mit I’m weak in so I de­pend on very good tech­ni­cians to do their job.

From a stu­pen­dous act in Kaminey to an in­cred­i­ble stint in Haider; from the high volt­age OTT Tommy Singh in Udta Pun­jab, to bring­ing in a quiet dig­nity, courage and re­gal tone to his char­ac­ter as Ma­harawal Ratan Singh in the mag­num opus Pad­ma­vati, he has proved that he is in­deed Bol­ly­wood’s best and in a league of his own. Per­haps it’s in his genes or maybe it’s his pas­sion for his art but Shahid Kapoor has been qui­etly weav­ing his magic in the film in­dus­try and com­ing out with some mind-blow­ing per­for­mances. But if you think he be­lieves in tom­tom­ming this to the world and sundry, think again! Un­der­stated even to the ex­tent of be­ing re­strained, Shahid doesn’t let his PR ma­chin­ery go on an overdrive to an­nounce his ex­ploits, in­stead he lets his films talk vol­umes about his tal­ent.

I Don’t Think Ac­tors Who Don’t Have The Ca­pac­ity To Do Some­thing Ex­tremely Lay­ered And Of A Cer­tain Stan­dard Would Be Okay Work­ing With San­jay Leela Bhansali.

I am not the kind of per­son who waits for a film to re­lease to de­cide how he feels about it.”

Read on as Shahid Kapoor can­didly talks about his mag­num opus Pad­ma­vati, con­tro­ver­sies and ru­mours, life as an ac­tor and of course, his cute as a but­ton daugh­ter Misha.

Con­grat­u­la­tions Shahid, the first look of Pad­ma­vati is fab­u­lous! And you es­pe­cially have brought in a lot of dig­nity and sub­tle­ness to your char­ac­ter. So how was the ex­pe­ri­ence of work­ing in Pad­ma­vati? Pad­ma­vati has now been one year of a jour­ney. And I think this year has been ded­i­cated en­tirely to my baby Misha and Pad­ma­vati. Pad­ma­vati is a huge part of my jour­ney and is very close to my heart be­cause I’ve lit­er­ally put my blood and sweat into the film. It’s also my first ex­pe­ri­ence work­ing with Mr San­jay Leela Bhansali, and I think words would fail to ex­press how much grat­i­tude I have to­wards him for teach­ing me ev­ery­thing and help­ing me in be­com­ing this char­ac­ter. I also would like to say that it re­ally is a priv­i­lege to play Ma­harawal Ratan Singh, a Ra­jput king who was a great war­rior and a great king. Shahid, you look fab­u­lous as Ma­harawal RatanSingh! Thank you! But hon­estly I think it’s pre­ma­ture to talk about my look be­cause look­ing good in a San­jay Leela Bhansali film is re­ally noth­ing of a great achieve­ment. He makes cer­tain that ev­ery char­ac­ter of his looks amaz­ing. I think the true ex­pe­ri­ence for the au­di­ence will be when they see the film and judge for them­selves be­cause like you said Ma­harawal Ratan Singh is a char­ac­ter who is re­strained and dig­ni­fied.And there­fore he needs to be dis­cov­ered in the film. But yes, I am very ex­cited to know what peo­ple think about the film and about my char­ac­ter in the film. More so, be­cause it was a huge step to cre­ate this char­ac­ter

and it re­quired one year of my life. And I am at a stage in my ca­reer where I know that peo­ple ex­pect me to do work of a cer­tain qual­ity and play char­ac­ters which are dif­fer­ent and new. And I think I have been able to do that in the last two to three years, es­pe­cially with Haider and Udta Pun­jab com­ing in back-to-back. Ma­harawal Ratan Singh, is def­i­nitely a char­ac­ter that would be in that league if not bet­ter, if I may say so my­self. It was an ex­tremely iconic char­ac­ter and an ex­tremely dif­fi­cult char­ac­ter to play be­cause he is very dig­ni­fied and re­strained. He is not go­ing to jump and shout but there is a lot within him. There is a lot that the char­ac­ter goes through in the film, I guess with Ma­harawal Ratan Singh, it’s all in his eyes and I hope I por­trayed that!

Do you think Pad­ma­vati has tapped the ‘ul­ti­mate pow­er­house per­for­mance’ that you’re look­ing for as an ac­tor?

Well, that’s what San­jay sir told me when we met. He just looked at me and said, ‘Shahid just do this film, it is right for you at this point in your ca­reer. This char­ac­ter is right for you at this point in your ca­reer. And I re­ally didn’t think of any­body else to play the char­ac­ter of Ma­harawal Ratan Singh ex­cept you. I think you’re right for it, and you should do it. And trust me, you will do it’. And there was so much hon­esty in the way he said that. There is so much cred­i­bil­ity that comes with him as a film­maker that I didn’t re­ally need to think at all. And hon­estly, I signed the film with­out hear­ing the script. Ob­vi­ously, he sent me the script and in­sisted that I read it (laughs) be­cause of course, it was im­por­tant for me to read it be­fore I start. But I said ‘yes’ to him just on the ba­sis of the two lines that he said... ‘Trust me, you’ll be proud of be­ing a part of this film and you will be proud of the role that I am of­fer­ing you’. And I said ‘okay’, com­ing from you this is more than enough, and I just did it! Yes, I am not some­body who likes to talk pre­ma­turely. But I feel very con­tent and ex­cited, and I feel I took a very good de­ci­sion by do­ing this film. I feel it very strongly be­cause it’s been a year’s jour­ney and then when you look back, you ask your­self was it all worth it? I am not the kind of per­son who waits for a film to re­lease to de­cide how he feels about it be­cause the re­ac­tion then is coloured with so many fac­tors which are not re­ally rel­e­vant be­yond a point. Once I am done with the film. I ask my­self, ‘Do I feel sat­is­fied as an ac­tor? Do I feel it was the right film for me to do’? And I can very proudly say that I am very, very happy and in fact, very grate­ful and thank­ful that I am a part of a film like Pad­ma­vati.

Though Ran­veer and Deepika are friends, on the sets, we were our char­ac­ters and that’s it!”

Deepika Padukone had once said that San­jay Leela Bhansali is one di­rec­tor that makes an ac­tor feel un­easy to the point that he or she gets creatively tuned. Do you agree with her?

I un­der­stand what Deepika is say­ing and why she is say­ing it and I am sure she has her own way of ex­press­ing it. But I never felt un­easy with him though I al­ways felt that I needed to up my game. I al­ways felt like he is go­ing to push me be­yond what I have been pushed to. That’s just who he is - his stan­dards are very high. And since he is very pas­sion­ate about the film he makes and there­fore, his fo­cus is so strong, and his un­der­stand­ing is so de­tailed and com­plex that he makes you work at many lev­els. I don’t think ac­tors who don’t have the ca­pac­ity to do some­thing which is ex­tremely lay­ered and of a cer­tain stan­dard would be okay work­ing with him. I don’t think they’d be able to get through it be­cause his stan­dards are very high. So I felt chal­lenged and pushed my­self all the time. But I have been do­ing this for 15 years now and in the last few years, I’ve played some very com­plex char­ac­ters. All of which I felt I was not good enough to play. (Laughs) So for me, I seek that kind of sce­nario, where you have to raise the bar, you have to get into spa­ces which are chal­leng­ing and dif­fi­cult to jus­tify. And I feel my best work comes out of sit­u­a­tions like that, for ex­am­ple, the speech in Haider…

Yes, that was phe­nom­e­nal! When Vishal sir gave it to me, I was blown away! He has worked with my fa­ther, Naseer un­cle, Ir­rfan Khan, and Tabu…

I’ve played some very com­plex char­ac­ters. All of which I felt I was not good enough to play.”

San­jay Leela Bhansali told me, ‘I re­ally didn’t think of any­body else to play the char­ac­ter ex­cept you’.”

the greats. None of them ever had a two and a half page mono­logue. And he gave it to me! The kind of pres­sure that cre­ated was im­mense but to­day when I look back, I feel it’s one of the most defin­ing mo­ments in my jour­ney as an ac­tor.

Shahid, are you try­ing to en­ter the league of your Dad Pankaj Kapoor, Nasserud­din Shah, Om Puri…

Arey yaar! I don’t think I can ever be in that league I can only learn from them.

As an ac­tor, do you feel in­se­cure?

About what?

Any­thing… like for in­stance, if your fave di­rec­tor Vishal Bhard­waj takes some­body else in his film or…

No, no that’s a very ir­ri­tat­ing way of look­ing at things yaar. My in­se­cu­ri­ties come from whether I am go­ing to be able to do what needs to be done and whether I am mak­ing the right choices. I feel in­se­cure about things like have I taken the right de­ci­sion? Am I work­ing with the right peo­ple? Am I do­ing the right con­tent? I was very in­se­cure when I did Udta Pun­jab be­cause I’ve never had a sip of al­co­hol, for­get drugs. I don’t even know what it feels to be in­tox­i­cated. And I was playing Tommy Singh who was per­ma­nently high. So I felt very in­ad­e­quate to play that char­ac­ter on the ba­sis of my per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence as I had no way of draw­ing a par­al­lel. The only thing I could do is de­pend on my film­maker and my in­stincts as an ac­tor. But yes… those kind of things make me feel in­se­cure. But not where other ac­tors are con­cerned. I ac­tu­ally feel very in­spired when I see good per­for­mances. You have to see some­thing spe­cial to feel driven. So my in­se­cu­ri­ties are never to do with other ac­tors.

How was it work­ing with Deepika and Ran­veer?

They’re both great. I think the cast of the film is fan­tas­tic. I don’t know when else a cast like this will come to­gether in a sub­ject like this with char­ac­ters which have gone down in His­tory with mo­ments that are spec­tac­u­lar and a part of In­dian his­tory so to say. And I guess it’s thanks to San­jay Leela Bhansali who has put ev­ery­one to­gether. I don’t know when else a cast like this would come through. Of course Deepika and Ran­veer have been work­ing from be­fore and they’ve done great work to­gether. I loved Ba­ji­rao Mas­tani and I loved ev­ery­body in the film.

But for me, hon­estly, I looked at them as ac­tors on set and not stars. I think you need to lose your star­dom and come on set be­cause it’s all about be­ing able to give that shot, cre­ate that mo­ment, and sat­isfy San­jay Leela Bhansali’s vi­sion. So I don’t think there were any stars on set at least I wasn’t. I was just there try­ing to be Ma­harawal Ratan Singh and that was my only en­deav­our and I was act­ing with Pad­ma­vati. So for me though Ran­veer and Deepika are friends but on the sets, we were our char­ac­ters and that’s it!

Ru­mours are rife that you want a sep­a­rate trailer as you felt too much em­pha­sis hasn’t been given to you…

(Laughs) I heard about that! It’s funny… quite funny ac­tu­ally. I’ve been here for 15 years and I’ve never done some­thing like that, why would I do that now? I ac­tu­ally asked peo­ple… do all these things ac­tu­ally work? (laughs) The funny thing is ki aaj kal kya ho gaya hai ke do mahine trailer banta hai, pro­mos aate hai… toh mat­lab pehle se hi log baatein karna shuru kar dete hai. (Laughs) …Pic­ture toh ab bhi baaki hai mere dost. Toh rukhna chaiye na

lo­gon ko. I don’t think any­body re­mem­bers any of the trail­ers that they ever saw. What they re­mem­ber is the film that they saw and the char­ac­ters they dis­cov­ered. My last film was Udta Pun­jab and I re­mem­ber when I was Tommy Singh in the trail­ers, he was ex­tremely loud. But af­ter you see the film, you un­der­stand the nu­ances. So I have worked enough to un­der­stand that all these things are very stupid and not re­ally im­por­tant. All I’d like to say, first see the film! You know what’s hap­pened with Pad­ma­vati is that it is so an­tic­i­pated and peo­ple are ex­tremely ex­cited about it so it’s be­come a talk­ing point. Peo­ple want to dis­sect ev­ery part of the film and I take that as a com­pli­ment and that’s truly great.

Shahid, mov­ing away from Pad­ma­vati… I’m curious to know how you got out of be­ing type­cast as the choco­late hero. I would have died if I was do­ing that. (Laughs) I don’t know how peo­ple do the same thing for years and years. I can’t do it. I need to evolve, I need to grow, and I need to do dif­fer­ent things and that’s what de­fines me as an ac­tor, so that’s me. What peo­ple’s per­cep­tion of me can be their per­cep­tion of me and I re­spect that, but my jour­ney is of self-dis­cov­ery. I need to dis­cover my­self. And I need to chal­lenge my­self. I need to do dif­fer­ent things and suc­ceed some­times, fail some­times. But hell, at the

I’ve been here for 15 years and I’ve never asked for a sep­a­rate trailer.”

A still from Bãhubali

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