'Ahimsa' is slated to hit the cinemas on June 2. Director Teja is expected to make a comeback with a bang. In this interview, the 'Nuvvu Nenu' director says that he has choreographed 3-4 fights out of the film's nearly 15 fights.
Starring debutant Abhiram Daggubati as the hero, the film is about a non-violent youngster facing an existential crisis. "The story is based on the philosophy of non-violence, which I find so confusing. Nobody follows 'ahimsa' because the concept hasn't been taught to us well. My film is an attempt to explain the philosophy in a commercial space," Teja adds.
Abhiram carries the risk of being judged extremely because he comes from a huge family. Everything will be magnified. When I introduced Uday Kiran, the audience were not that extreme in judging his performance. They will now compare Abhiram with the elders in his family, particularly Venkatesh.
The story of 'Ahimsa' takes place in the backdrop of a jungle. Since 'Jayam' is a huge hit, people are instantly correlating the backdrop of 'Ahimsa' with that of 'Jayam'. Most of my movies have no jungle backdrop. People are prone to compare everything and anything. We compare the taste of today's food with yesterday's food. It's such a mindset that is making people say that 'Ahimsa' has the same beats as 'Jayam'.
Cinema is an audio-visual medium. The canvas has to be as good as the story. The audience are very, very smart. They are avoiding movies whose trailers are poor. If the emotional hook in the movie is strong, the trailer will reflect it.
Anup Rubens has composed the background score. RP Patnaik's songs in 'Ahimsa' are not for the sake of songs. Music is powerful. To me, each song has to convey emotions, take the story forward, and must also be tuneful.
An actor is portrayed in tune with the story. I succumb to the demands of the story. Just because Abhiram comes from the Daggubati family, I didn't think of an intro song/fight for him.
I don't invest in realty, gold, etc. I invest in individuals. If I feel someone is talented, I collaborate with them. In my many years as a filmmaker, I have introduced so many individuals. I myself don't know why I introduced some of them.
I didn't narrate the story of 'Chitram' to Uday Kiran. I didn't narrate the story of 'Jayam' to Gopichand and Sada. I picked some artists on the go, going by the gut. I once worked with an artist for two days. I was not satisfied. I sacked him and recruited a youngster in the neighbourhood of my office. I auditioned him without even telling him why I called him. I was satisfied and asked him to come to the shoot the next morning.
People work for money or fame. I have tasted both. There was a time when I would live on the pavement. I approached a cinematographer and sought work. He told me frankly that he won't pay for six months. I said ok. I promptly got up the next day and did menial work for him right from the first day. I did all the work without asking for money. To this day, I never demand this or that figure as remuneration. There are many jobless talents in Krishna Nagar, Hyderabad. They don't have wealth, they don't have a background. I am here to encourage them, to provide them with a platform.
Rajamouli, Sukumar, Sekhar Kammula, Sandeep Vanga, RGV... They all have their own distinct styles. I don't have to become like them. They don't have to become like me. If we mimic others, we will falter badly. We have to hold on to our style. Rajamouli grew gradually. He is now the King of Indian cinema.
I find that aspiring Telugu artists are impatient. They pick trivial roles because of parental pressure. Parents/relatives expect their son/daughter to bag film offers as soon as trials are begun. Telugus are usually impatient. They are prone to making comparisons with others.
My next film is with Rana. 'Rakshasa Raju' is its title. Politics and crime are its elements. The easiest reference is 'Godfather' (Hollywood movie). The structure of story-telling is akin to that classic. But the story is entirely different.
I am also going to do a multi-starrer. I am planning to introduce my son as a solo hero.
Popcorn and cool drink prices are unaffordable in multiplexes. If a kerchief worth Rs 10 is sold for Rs 500 in a 5-star hotel, you will avoid going to that hotel. A similar thing is happening in the case of multiplexes. The exorbitant Food and Beverage rates are killing cinema (in Mumbai, especially). To me, studio and theatre are like temples. We have to protect these temples. I will never get into multiplex business because I will have to price popcorn very high in order to service my debts. At my theatre, nothing is over-priced. Everything is affordable.
If 'Ahimsa' becomes a big enough hit, I will use that money to produce groundbreaking movies in collaboration with new filmmakers on Chitram Movies. New directors must surely be waiting to chart a new style. I want to platform them.