The Bimbisara star says the periodic spy thriller Devil has enough commercial ingredients, discusses his look, Devara and Bimbisara 2
Kalyan Ram and Samyuktha in Devil
Actor-producer Nandamuri Kalyan Ram is as level-headed as ever, gearing up for Devil, his second release this year after Amigos on December 29. Directed (and produced) by Abhishek Nama, he reunites with his Bimbisara co-star Samyuktha for the periodic spy thriller. The actor said yes to the film with a hope to be part of a detective thriller with all necessary commercial ingredients.
“Srikanth (via Abhishek Nama) approached me with the script right during Bimbisara’s shoot. With me being a commercial hero, he wondered if I would say yes to it. I liked the pre-Independence era backdrop, the idea of playing a spy in a thriller. However, I wanted more commercial ingredients in the script and they came back to me within four months,” the actor recollects.
While recognising Bimbisara’s potential at the box office (prior to its release), he wanted to do everything to ensure that Devil meets audience’s expectations and entertains. “We somehow lost that larger picture with Amigos, got carried away by the idea of doppelgangers. Regardless of the concept, it’s important to sell a story in a way that engages the audiences.”
Like the trailer suggests, Devil is about a secret British agent entangled in a murder mystery. He points to the title font of Devil - the use of morse code - and how it drives the plot forward. “The fun is to be part of such a story in a retro backdrop. How would someone solve a crime sans telephones/mobile or CCTV footage, like every conventional thriller?”
“I would also be bored if Devil was set in 2023. I’ve done a contemporary thriller like 118 already and don’t want to repeat myself,” he says. A lot of work went into designing Kalyan Ram’s look in Devil - which he believes is a mix of tradition and modernity. He blends his traditional dhoti avatar (ala Byomkesh Bakshi) with a stylish blazer. “I liked how the costumes say about the character too.”
His costume team, who’ve associated with him since 2017, worked extensively on his look after listening to the script and only after the look test, Kalyan Ram gave a go-ahead to to the film. With a veteran like S Soundar Rajan (cinematographer) and Abhishek Nama’s innate understanding of set designs (an arts student) and production designer Gandhi Nadikudikar’s expertise, there was no looking back.
“I really wanted a good background score for a potent script like Devil. I honestly didn’t know much about Harshavardhan Rameshwar when the producers suggested his name. I knew he did a good job with Arjun Reddy but I was unsure if he would match up to MM Keeravaani’s work in Bimbisara. Music has a crucial role to the storytelling in Devil.”
Kalyan Ram maintains that his character in Devil has no grey shades but admits the film has a key link to the freedom struggle. “Even with Samyuktha, I can say this is the strongest role a heroine has had in my film after Athanokkade.” He doesn’t wish to comment on director Naveen Medaram’s omission from the film and believes Abhishek Nama is the right person to give an official statement.
From Tholi Choopulo in 2003 to 2023, the actor also completes two decades in cinema with Devil. In comparison to his earlier years, has it become difficult to convince audiences to come to theatres? “I think the audiences have always been clear. It was the posters that drew crowds before. Now, the trailer and the teaser are quite crucial in deciding the fate of a film.”
While responding if the producer in him comes to the fore while he selects his scripts, the Bimbisara actor says, “I think I’m beyond that phase now. A lot changed with the failure of Om 3D. Production is something very satisfying and difficult, as much or even more than acting. Both are different tracks. I realised it’s best to do one job at a time. The producer in me has now taken a backseat.”
He was in the news recently for spending time with Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos at Jr NTR’s residence over lunch. “Given Netflix has acquired Devara’s rights, he wished us for the film. It was a casual chat, he spoke of the making of Squid Games, how did the platform take off. While most of the information is available online, it was a special feeling to have heard it from the horse’s mouth.”
Devara, produced under his home banner NTR Arts, is 80% complete, Kalyan Ram reveals. “We’re actually fed up about the updates around the first glimpse. It creates unnecessary pressure. NTR and I discussed that there would be an announcement only when we’re ready.” The actioner, directed by Koratala Siva, also features Saif Ali Khan, Jahnvi Kapoor and others.
He’s already working on a film with director Pradeep Chilukuri alongside Saiee Manjrekar, Vijaya Shanti and will commence shooting for Bimbisara 2 once he wraps the former. “Risk-taking comes to me naturally and I don’t think that part about me will change anytime soon,” the actor signs off, before wishing OTTplay.com's readers a pleasant 2024.