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Venkat Prabhu on Custody: Picked Naga Chaitanya because I wanted an actor sans any baggage

The director opens up on his first Tamil-Telugu bilingual Custody, starring Naga Chaitanya, Krithi Shetty, Arvind Swami, which releases on May 12

Venkat Prabhu on Custody: Picked Naga Chaitanya because I wanted an actor sans any baggage
The team of Custody

Last Updated: 12.02 PM, May 04, 2023


Director Venkat Prabhu isn’t new to Telugu audiences and many of his films dubbed from Tamil - including Mankatha, Saroja - are quite popular here as well. It took him over 16 years to set afoot in Telugu cinema with the Naga Chaitanya, Krithi Shetty starrer Custody, that’s releasing in theatres on May 12. Ahead of its release, the filmmaker interacted with the media in Hyderabad on Wednesday.

“This is my Telugu debut and I’m thankful to the producers for backing my most expensive film to date and believing in the script. Tamil audiences know me for over 16 years and this is my first time in Telugu states; there won’t be much expectations from a Tamil director and it’s the best thing for me. They wouldn’t know what I’ve made in Tamil and I can start on a clean slate,” he said.


The director opined Tamil audiences will be surprised to see Custody for how it is unlike his earlier films where there was space for comedy and several quirks. “This is more intense, action, emotional film. I am also from the industry, much like Naga Chaitanya. My father Gangai Amaran is a musician, has directed a few films and is the brother to Ilaiyaraaja; Yuvan, Premgi are my brothers.”

Custody was a fun ride, he adds and calls it a realistic action film. “We didn’t want to do anything larger than life or cinematic with it. My cinematographer SR Kathir (Nadodigal, Subramanyapuram) is making his debut in Telugu too and I’ll be thankful to the production designer Rajeevan, my stunt directors, the young Mahesh Mathew and Stun Shiva for his work in the climax portions.”

That everybody in the set knew Tamil made the job easier for Venkat Prabhu to extract work. “We have an ensemble cast. If you want me to summarise the story in one line - the hero has to make sure that the villain won’t die. In every film, hero and villain want to kill each other. Here too, they would do that but the hero has no choice but to protect the villain. I’ve tried something fresh.”

He states Naga Chaitanya and Krithi were glamorous actors and that he had to de-glam them. “Krithi had a few complaints about it (laughing). The film unfolds over two days and they wear the same costumes throughout. We couldn’t have dream songs but even if we did, it would’ve slowed down the film. Chaitanya was particular that I stayed true to the script and not try anything more.”

The director and Chaitanya casually met for a script discussion before Maanadu’s release. “I wanted an actor sans baggage who’s grounded and didn’t need mass elements to be squeezed into the film. I’ve known Chaitanya since a decade. After my first draft, he was the only hero in my mind. I’ve been looking to work with my producer Srinivasaa Chitturi for a long time and I’m so glad I’m debuting in Telugu with his banner.”

The thriller was shot for over a 100 days in two languages; every scene was filmed twice. “It’s a proper bilingual and there won’t be lip sync issues. Custody is a simple story and more a screenplay-driven film, will surprise you. You’ll be at the edge of your seat; I can promise that. I’ve seen most of his films and I wanted to give a different Chaitanya to Telugu audiences. The story is about his character called Shiva, it was one of the titles we considered too.”

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