'Balagam' was released in theatres on March 3 (Friday). Presenter Dil Raju, whose daughter Hanshitha Reddy has produced the movie on Dil Raju Productions along with Harshith Reddy, says that the movie has been promoted non-stop for the past ten days. Saying that it has already made profits from non-theatrical revenues, Dil Raju adds that the reception has been unanimous.
In this interview, he suggests that the occupancy rate in theatres has been on the rise.
In my initial days as a producer, I made films like 'Arya' and 'Bommarillu' with new directors. As years passed, I lost touch with some genres and access to budding talents. Dil Raju Productions has been floated to regain touch with some kind of stories. My daughter and nephew, the new-gen producers, are heading things at the banner. 'Balagam' has been made precisely with such a motive. 'ATM', the ZEE5 web series, was also taken up in parallel.
In the wake of the pandemic, a lot of changes have taken place in terms of audiences' tastes. Even from the scripting stage of 'Balagam', we worked out all eventualities and economics. I gave guidelines to the producers. The budget did overshoot by about 25%, but the non-theatrical revenue itself is very encouraging. Whatever 'Balagam' makes in theatres will be additional enjoyment.
The reviews have been universal. They are honest reviews. The pre-release feedback gave us immense confidence. When small films work commercially, the kick is something. It's small films that are in the producer's control in terms of cost and other factors. Unless it is really good, nobody cares about small films. 'Balagam' couldn't have been a direct OTT release because it has been made with love. I insisted that it has to have a proper theatrical release.
I knew that the film is solid and therefore, I proposed early screenings to build buzz. Even when I listened to the script, I knew it would turn out to be a good film. How to maximize the reach is what was the biggest challenge. 'Shatamanam Bhavati' was a small film but it eventually fetched us a Nandi.
'Balagam' revolves around a dead person. Death is perceived as a negative event by the audience members. That's why the film doesn't open with the death of the old man. First, the male lead's financial predicament is established. Then it is revealed that the old man is dead. The male lead, who is his grandson, doesn't feel sad. There is no melodrama. The pathos starts only when the old man's emotional daughter arrives on the scene. The trajectory was conceived very consciously.
A culturally rooted film has to be as honest as possible. We didn't bother about the reach of 'Balagam'. After the first copy was ready, we screened it for distributors. Every one of them liked the movie. They didn't feel that it is Telangana-specific; the emotions are universal. Andhra distributors described the movie as superb.
Nobody knew that there is a filmmaker in Venu Tillu. His narration is what made me connect with his story. I myself hail from rural Telangana. I have seen my extended family carry their rural roots and culture. So, it was easier to relate to 'Balagam'. I asked the director not to add commercial frills. I wanted the film to be completely natural. Venu's second film is going to be with us, again. He recently narrated the climax of the movie. It's superb. This time, it will be a commercial film with a well-known actor as the leading man.
We never made 'Balagam' for an award. 'Shatamanam Bhavati' and 'Maharshi' won a Nandi and a National Award, respectively. If 'Balagam' wins a state or national award, so be it!
Since the name of the banner is after my name, everyone thinks I am at the forefront at Dil Raju Productions. As first-timers, Hanshitha and Harshith have delivered their best. My best one was not 'Dil'. It was 'Bommarillu'. The best doesn't happen with the very first movie. Dil Raju Productions is bankrolling another film, which is an experimental one. A dance choreographer is its hero, and a singer is its music director.