OTTplay Logo
settings icon
profile icon

SS Rajamouli: I've cast Jr NTR, Ram Charan in RRR for audiences to empathise with two characters equally

The only mainstream filmmaker with a 100% success ratio in Telugu cinema, is as assured as ever, ahead of RRR's release

SS Rajamouli: I've cast Jr NTR, Ram Charan in RRR for audiences to empathise with two characters equally
SS Rajamouli

Last Updated: 05.04 PM, Mar 15, 2022


Director SS Rajamouli, who's awaiting the release of RRR on March 25, isn't new to challenges and is probably among the rarest of storytellers in the country with a singular focus regardless of all the fame that has come his way. He doesn't preach or try too hard to drive a thought in his films - all he seeks is to entertain audiences and strike an emotional chord with the world and his characters. The man believes in striking a fine balance between visual imagery and strong emotion and it's this clarity that has helped him deliver hits, one after the other in his illustrious career.

With RRR, he's telling a pre-independence fictional tale of two real-life Telugu war heroes, Komaram Bheem and Alluri Seetharamaraju. Been in the making for four years, the film has a dream lineup comprising Jr NTR, Ram Charan, Alia Bhatt, Ajay Devgn, Shriya Saran, Samuthirakani, Olivia Morris, to name a few. His core team, be it cinematographer K Senthil Kumar, composer MM Keeravaani and the story writer Vijayendra Prasad, remains the same. In this interview, the Baahubali director talks of the efforts that went behind RRR in elaborate detail.

The identity of Alluri Seetharamaraju and Komaram Bheem

NTR as Komaram Bheem and Ram Charan as Alluri Seetharamaraju
NTR as Komaram Bheem and Ram Charan as Alluri Seetharamaraju

Alluri Seetharamaraju is a character who has great poise and could even hide a raging fire in his heart. I saw that composure in Ram Charan as a person and as an actor. He's someone who never reacts too much to any news, good or bad. He doesn't clutter his mind with too many things, won't fall for flattery and remains firm. When Ram Charan comes to the set, he comes like a blank canvas, like a piece of clay ready to be moulded. He is free from thoughts and there's something so meditative about his performance that surprised me on many occasions.

Whereas Jr NTR is a livewire. Bheem is innocent and never hides his feelings. I thought he could be the right choice for it. As you all may know, he is the prankster on sets. He is like a supercomputer and predicts how a scene would progress even before I complete narrating it and performs accordingly. Given my association with him over these years, I have a complete understanding of what he can bring to a scene, the pauses. 

Justifying the presence of Jr NTR, Ram Charan

SS Rajamouli with his RRR stars
SS Rajamouli with his RRR stars

Of course, they are in the film because they are stars, unique personalities, for their acting mettle and also for the fact they're apt for their roles. More than everything else, the project evolved because of the camaraderie that the two share. It has helped me come up with a product like what I have in my hands now. I can assure you RRR would be a double bonanza.

Bearing the burden of expectations from fans of two huge stars


I always saw this as a story of two powerful characters first, that audiences should empathise for, cry, laugh and emote with them. I can never make a film only thinking if this would be pleasing their fans or checking if they have equal screen time, the same number of fights. Those are false calculations and I would end up making a very bland, pointless film otherwise. 

The film is not about the real incidents in the lives of Alluri Seetharamaraju or Komarambheem and it's a complete work of fiction. With historical films, the key is to understand the timeline of the storytelling and the amount of dramatisation. However, I'm clear that it is a fictional film. Yet, when we are making a film of this scale and a story about independence, we've ensured of making it with an element of social responsibility.

The story behind the title - RRR

We didn't have any particular title in the mind initially and we began referring to it as RRR. What started as a reference for us was the title audiences expected too. Even before we could finalise it, the audiences couldn't think of another name and they had decided it.

Shooting in Ukraine

Team RRR in Ukraine
Team RRR in Ukraine

Filming in the country was a great experience and we were completely unaware of the delicate situation then. Only when we returned from the shoot did my friends ask me about managing the shoot amidst the political tension. However, we didn't face any major hassles during the shoot. Jr NTR and I interacted with a different set of Ukrainians during our time there. My assistants, driver were handling most of the situation and once the war started, I tried reaching out to them, the stories are heart-wrenching of course. One can only hope that this dreariness comes to an end soon and people go back to their normal lives.

The long wait during the making and the release

On the sets of RRR
On the sets of RRR

When we started making the film, we had the intention of releasing it in 2021 or as early as we could. One must remember COVID-19 and nearly three lockdowns almost took away two years of the making. During the lockdown, we couldn't even go to the office for props and arrange any material that we may require for the shoot later. The budget increased immensely but we weren't the only ones to suffer during this phase and everyone went through similar turbulent times. 

My main focus, despite the chaos, was about bringing my visual imagination alive onto the screen. That's my biggest fear with any film. Like any crisis, one major advantage of shooting amidst lockdowns was the perspective I gained about the film. Watching the film after many months between such gaps helped me look at the film in a different light. 

We fine-tuned a lot of aspects during the second lockdown. The third lockdown gave us a window to enhance the impact of the 3D version with a finished output. I am generally against the idea of 3D, but watching NTR, Ram so close to my eyes made an emotional film like RRR even more hard-hitting. We worked hard and pulled through, like most of them around us.

On MM Keeravaani, the lyricist beyond the composer (who wrote Janani)

MM Keeravaani and SS Rajamouli
MM Keeravaani and SS Rajamouli

The world may be recognising him as a lyricist now, but I always remember him as a writer right during his teenage years, long before he came a music composer. He is a very instinctive person at heart and that's why his lyrical flow is so good. The lyrics come to his mind right when he's composing and the process is effortless, without any calculation. That's why the energy he brings in as a lyric writer is unique in terms of flavour and everybody are taking a liking to it.

Casting Alia Bhatt as a Telugu girl based in Visakhapatnam

With Alia Bhatt
With Alia Bhatt

Whenever I cast someone for a role, I do it based on the character in the film and not exactly the place they come from. For Sita, a character set in Visakhapatnam, she is an innocent woman, whom one should feel like helping, without a second thought. She is strong, has her own set of vulnerabilities but also can withstand any force that comes her way (water and fire - Jr NTR, Ram Charan). 

When I cast Alia as Sita, I saw her as an actress who could depict that strength on the screen without losing sight of that vulnerability. Her casting is about what her face makes you feel and not at all because of her skin tone, looks, features or the part of the country she comes from.

If RRR is a global film?

One can't call every film a global project, just for the sake of it. Indians are there across every part of the world and they watch our films whenever we release them there. Only when foreigners embrace an Indian film equally, can we something a global product. With Baahubali, it happened with Japan and the film enjoyed a cult following. It can't happen with every film. I can't make a film thinking if a Japanese audience would relate to it. I can only deliver emotions that everybody can resonate with it. Let's wait to see what happens with RRR.

Help from AP Government with ticket pricing, maximum number of shows

The CM (Jagan) has made it clear that the proceedings will be smooth henceforth. The way he had received us at his office, the warmth with which he spoke and promised us, has given us enough confidence about it. He understood the fact that we had made the film on a vast canvas but also wanted to take care that the common audience isn't affected. Over the last year, there was a lot of tension between the industry and the government owing to miscellaneous factors (COVID-19, miscommunication and so on) and most of the issues have been resolved now. 

The final say - what to expect from RRR?

What I've been saying for the last twenty years is similar - we worked hard for this and gave it everything to create a wonderful product. I will never make bombastic claims about my film but I can assure you that it'll move you immensely. I can guarantee the impact but I'm very awkward while talking about a film's commercial prospects.

Get the latest updates in your inbox