It’s my privilege to interview Mr. Raj Madiraju for the second time in my career as an entertainment editor. Raj Madiraju is a Nandi Award winner (Best Story for Rushi) and won the Best Director Award at the prestigious Dada Saheb Phalke Film Festival. Let’s wait no further and dive into the blab I had with him.
Sandy: Firstly, Hello to you Raj Sir. It’s good to be blabbing with you once again 🙂
Raj Madiraju: Hey Sandeep!! Been a while. Yeah, good to catch up again.
Q. Uncle in 2000 and Rushi in 2012. Why such a big gap between your first and second film?
A. I was too engrossed in skepticism and fear of failure to go meet and narrate stories. I didn’t waste my time though, as I did a lot of commercials and infomercials during that period and wrote a lot of stories.
Q. Rushi won many awards and laurels for you. Winning the Nandi Award and being picked as the Best Director at Dada Saheb Phalke Film Festival is a great feat. In what ways did Rushi change your life?
A. Rushi brought me back into the game. It gave me the self-confidence which I lacked. It gave me the recognition in the industry that there’s a guy named Raj Madiraju. Recognition in audience through Social Media. Awards are very important but the best thing that happened to me was the association with Mr. Ramesh Prasad and his coveted organization.
Q. Can you let us know your experience of working under the legend, Late Sri. Dasari Narayana Rao garu?
A. Oh! I owe my film knowledge to my guru, i.e. Dasari Narayana Rao garu, especially the scripting part. I have been with him for a little over 3 years and worked as an AD for seven of his films including Osey Ramulamma.
It was a rollercoaster ride with him. You can choose either to work relentlessly, think passionately or stay low, be lazy, take your salary and go home everyday to count the number of days you’ve worked with him. I chose the first option and those thousand days made me what I am today.
Q. After Rushi, you picked a Marathi film and remade it into Andhra Pori. After winning the Nandi Award for Best Story, what made you pick a subject which was already present in the market and not go with your own story (that too after receiving the prestigious award for your own story) 🙂
A. It was a good story and had the same sensibilities as I have. But more importantly, I was looking for a story that connects Andhra and Telangana (even before the two states) just to mellow down the hot exchanges between the two regions and when I saw Timepass, I thought I should experiment. And, the icing on the cake was the idea that I should do a film in Paloncha where I spent my childhood and had a lot of memories around the place. Lot to explore in that area with its great natural habitats around.
Some projects are generated by one idea but others evolve. I guess Andhra Pori evolved over and over as we proceeded with the production.
Q. Can you tell us about your working experience with Aakash Puri and Ulka Gupta?
A. Aakash is a wonderful boy with a great upbringing. He owes it to his parents. We were a little worried about the baggage he would come with, being Puri Jagannath’s son. But, his simplicity and humility bowled us over. There’s a natural charm in him that makes him a good performer. He didn’t take the role easy though. He practiced Telangana accent to perfection and almost owned it while rendering.
Ulka was famous already by virtue of her award-winning performance as Jhansi Ki Rani. She was challenging us in the workshop we had during preproduction with lot of options up her sleeve.
She had all her Telugu lines by heart before she came to the workshop and it was hard to keep her passion down. She was charming everyone with her skills and we had to redesign the setting to suit her movements.
Aakash was instinctive whereas Ulka was rigorous. Aakash thinks like an actor whereas Ulka thinks from the director’s shoes.
Akash was a quiet observer while Ulka was a meddler. Aakash did everything in front of the camera while Ulka was hyper even back of it. The chemistry between them was quite apparent and we were happy it translated onto the screen.
Q. You as a director, and Ramesh Prasad garu as a producer returned to making films after a long time with Rushi. Some anecdotes about the collaboration?
A. I went to him with a project idea that a Triangula arrangement between Infrastructure holders, Investors and Production teams is to be made and produce films of different genres, sizes, languages and markets and Ramesh Sir agreed to be a part of it immediately.
The next question he asked me was if I were ready with the story for the first project. I said yes, I have some scripts. I knew that he listened to at least a thousand stories for over 3-4 years in the past when I went to him. And, I had to tell him a unique story with human value as the central theme.
I narrated RUSHI and he said its good. But he called me that night at around 11 p.m. and suggested a change. That’s when I thought he is going to produce it.
It took us over 8 months for all the preparation including a test shoot of an episode, lot of photo shoots, auditions etc. to convince ourselves that we should produce it. He always said NO to my first suggestion but was always ready to listen to my point and let me implement what I thought is good.
I can write a book on my experiences with Mr. Ramesh Prasad thru the period between 2011 and 2016 but all I can say is, If at all I owe my life to anyone other than my parents, it’s him. He helped me regain my ground, gave me back to back chances with Rushi and Andhra Pori but above all, he inspired me to be honest, human and loyal.
Quick Shot Round: One word about the following
- Uncle: Bad Choice
- Aravind Krishna: Brilliance
- Aithe 2.0:Vulgar but Human
- Direction: Soul
- Montages Cinema: Future
- Tollywood Industry: Rocks
- Politics: Sucks
- Zara Shah: Confused
Q. I heard that you are also a good singer. Anything interesting coming up on that front?
A. Nope! I was (not am) an okay (not good) singer. I left singing just before I plunged into filmmaking. Now I make people to sing and dance to my tunes.
Q. What was the idea behind picking Aithe 2.0 as the title for your latest flick
A. As a storyline, it resembles the original film “Aithe”. Four unemployed, frustrated young men turning criminals. Thus, picked the title as “Aithe 2.0”.
Q. What went behind choosing Bollywood Model Indraneil Sengupta for a prime character in Aithe 2.0?
A. Budgets for sure. No known actor was affordable. But, when we saw his performances in Bengali films, met him personally we understood what he was as an individual and an actor. Our respect for him grew everyday when we worked with him.
Q. From 1 to 4, can you rate Uncle, Rushi, Andhra Pori and Aithe 2.0 (in terms of a fruitful product) ?
2. Aithe 2.0
3. Andhra Pori
Q. You were seen acting in films such as Kalyana Vaibhogame, Majnu, and others. How different is acting from directing? Which one are you more comfortable in handling?
A. I am confident and comfortable in directing. I consider acting as a passing phase which keeps me in the loop and feeds me a bit. In one sentence, for me, acting is boring while directing is exciting.
Q. Piece of advice for newcomers trying their luck in films.
A. Know the technique, know the people, know the trade and most importantly, understand the release process. Enjoy whatever you do.
Q. What next for Raj Madiraju?
A. Montages (his entertainment company). We have some plans. Will let you know as they unfold.
Few words about Hyderabad Local:
Raj Madiraju: Looks quite promising. The attempt to sound different is quite inherent and subtle. Try and do something about the Indie culture rising slowly but steadily in TFI. All the best!
Interview by Sandeep Rao Kanukolanu (Sandy)
can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org