Maruthi's 'Pakka Commercial' hits the cinemas on July 1. In this interview, he talks about the film, working with Gopichand, and more.
The star director also talks about his future projects with Prabhas and Megastar Chiranjeevi. He also throws light on the issues facing the film industry, the problem of high ticket prices, and more.
On 'Pakka Commercial':
'Pakka Commercial' is a revenge story with a plot point related to the law. Gopichand's character may have a grey shade but the greyness is only meant to entertain you.
I believe that this film is going to help us a big deal. Gopichand is going to bounce back for sure. It's up to the audience to deliver their judgment.
I have shown Rao Ramesh as a romantic villain in the movie. Tollywood has got great artists. We need to use their talents. We have had greats like Kota Srinivasa Rao garu. Unfortunately, many talented comedians like Dharmavarapu, MS Narayana, AVS and Venu Madhav are no more. If Telugu cinema has to thrive, the director has to write the best for our artists. Why do we have to rope in non-Telugu-speaking artists and make them blabber on set?
Bunny (Allu Arjun) once told me I have a special talent to use Telugu artists the best way. He has previously encouraged Rao Ramesh and Prakash Raj.
'PC' is a theatrical film. Don't expect it to stream on OTT anytime soon. Usually, the family audience like to watch my films in theatres the most. 'Prathi Roju Pandage' and 'Bhale Bhale Mogadivoy' proved it.
These days, audiences are very alert. They are observing continuity issues closely. Digital media has made them more knowledgeable than before. I have tried to infuse this awareness in 'Pakka Commercial'.
Commercial films don't have to adhere to logics. My hero can do any impossible thing. Whether I make a film with Prabhas or Chirnajeevi garu, they will be on the lines of what the audience are going to enjoy.
On film with Chiranjeevi:
I and UV Creations' Vikram have been planning a project with Chiranjeevi garu. It was confirmed long back. Megastar publicly confirming it on stage yesterday is motivating. Directors like me would feel encouraged by such gestures. We now have hope that someone as big as the Megastar will always be there for us. His announcement has re-energized me! I have always had an image of how he has to be shown on the big screen. When I make a film with him, that will come to the fore! There are a few storylines in talks already.
On film with Prabhas:
Clarity about Prabhas' movie will emerge 20 days after the release of 'PC'. I am definitely going to team up with him. But I don't want to talk about the genre or title for now. Social media has been imagining stuff. Rumour-writers might also call some random movie a Prabhas-Maruthi film someday and release it themselves!
Be an audience more than a director:
More than a filmmaker, I am an audience member. Only if you see a story as an audience member can you become a good filmmaker. I have been associated with the film industry as a distributor for many years. Maybe, that's why I have my hand on the audience's pulse. Filmmakers can believe that they have done great stuff, but the audience may not like it. The medium of cinema is about crores of investment. Given this, the director has to know the audience's tastes. Only then can he make profitable films. The director is the mediator who ensures the transfer of profits from the audience to the producer/distributors.
Directors shouldn't get carried away or blame others for their failures. Some filmmakers find fault with the audience for their failures. Why make films that are ahead of time and burn your fingers? Trust the audience's intelligence. If they don't like your product, just believe that you went wrong. I always play safe games. I fall back on entertainment and comedic tropes.
Take director Lokesh Kanagaraj of 'Vikram', for example. He took a long time to shoot action scenes. A skilled director spends more energy on the production and doesn't pass the buck to the editor. If you are giving the editor too much useless footage, you are indirectly saying that you have failed as a writer/director.
If you want to put a leash on the budget, you have to plan well. 'Bhale Bhale Mogadivoy' had production costs of Rs 2.61 Cr. The total cost, including remunerations and the publicity costs, was Rs 7 Cr.
You have to keep reworking your script. Revisit your script after a gap of a couple of months. If your script is not good when you close your eyes and visualize the scenes, you will not be inspired to make it. 'Ratsasan' in Tamil was written over a period of 4 years. That's why it was a unique movie.
Crisis in film industry:
The film industry is in a crisis since the pandemic began. The director is duty-bound to keep in mind his responsibilities towards the producer/distributors. Today's audiences are glued to the mobile screen. It takes tremendous creativity on your part to draw him to the theatre and grab his undivided attention.
'Manchi Rojulochaie' was not made for profits. I made it to provide employment to 200 workers during the pandemic. The script was written in 20 days. I didn't expect such a script to fetch me a blockbuster. I would be wrong to expect wonders. Everyone was jobless during the pandemic. So, I made the film as a quickie. Despite the limitations, it made profits. I would draw an analogy. In a supermarket, you will find expensive items and also trivial ones like bubble gums. 'Manchi Rojulochaie' was like the latter (laughs). The film made superb returns. If it was a crappy one, it wouldn't have made such kind of profits.
The OTT conundrum:
OTT platforms are not acquiring movies just like that. They want you to complete the movie, release it in theatres and publicize it widely. A lot of producers have made films recklessly thinking that some or the other OTT platform will buy them. They are now regretting their haste. Every day, I receive many requests from industry colleagues, urging me to talk to Allu Aravind garu to recommend their movies (for AHA). Things don't work that way!
On high cinema ticket prices resulting in flops:
Producers are now having to go to the town to tell the audience that their film is available for low ticket prices. Producers like Allu Aravind garu and Bunny Vas know how much is the ideal ticket price for a film. Families won't spend Rs 2K or 3K on watching films in cinemas when they have OTTs. If we don't make cinema ticket prices affordable, the film industry will be in trouble.
Films like 'Major' and 'Vikram' have made huge profits. 'RRR' and 'KGF 2' were massive hits. The audience are ready to spend monies. Just that you have to give them what they want.