In an exclusive chat with Firstpost, director Praveen Sattaru spoke about his new film — PSV Garuda Vega, which is being pitched as the first Telugu movie on the National Investigation Agency (NIA); working with yesteryear star Rajasekhar, and the action sequences, which have generated quite the buzz. Slated for release on Friday (3 November), the film also stars Pooja Kumar and Shraddha Das. Excerpts from the interview:
It surprised a lot of us that you chose actor Rajasekhar, who hasn’t been in great form, for this big-budget action spectacle…
I felt he’s the right choice. When he was at the top of his league, some of his popular films had insane action sequences and this film too has realistic action which I wanted my lead actor to perform with minimum to no support from a body double. You’d be surprised to know the kind of effort he (Rajasekhar) has put into this film, especially in the action scenes. From underwater action to jumping off a fly-over, he had no qualms about doing these things. Moreover, he’s fit and was quite apt for the role. All I had to do was change his mannerisms to play a contemporary NIA officer, who is struggling to balance his professional and family life.
Was Rajasekhar the first choice when you wrote the script?
I wrote the first draft of the script in 2006. I never approached anyone with the script because I needed an actor who can stand tall in the character. When I got a call from Jeevitha (Rajasekhar’s wife) and we sat down to discuss a few scripts, I pitched PSV Garuda Vega and I was confident that it’d work with Rajasekhar. I told him the film will be a modernised version of his highly popular cop drama Magaadu. Since I first wrote it in 2006, I had to make changes to suit the contemporary setting and at the same time customize it for Rajasekhar.
Rajasekhar is the biggest star you have associated with in your career so far. Did that have any effect on your working experience?
I always consider the script as the star. If a character and the script demand certain things, then we give it and the actor has to adapt. In his case, he came to the set with no expectations. He treated himself as a debutant and gave full freedom to me to make the film I had set out to deliver. He was clear about the fact that he was not used to contemporary characters as most of his films had in-your-face kind of drama, so he wanted me to extract work out of him. If you see the trailer, you don’t find his usual mannerisms and that was the first step of our success.
Given that this is a Rs 25 crore action extravaganza, did it never occur to you that you could have made this film with a bigger star with bigger market potential?
When you start a project with some actor, the thought should not cross your mind that you could have made this film with a bigger star because then you’re not focusing on your product. It really doesn’t matter how much budget is spent on the film because times have changed. Post-Baahubali, the industry has opened up and the market has widened. If a film like Arjun Reddy, made on a budget of Rs 2 crore, can rake in around Rs 40 crore, where is the concept of ‘star’? It’s all about whether or not a film is able to engage the audience and it doesn’t matter if it features a star or not. Audiences don’t go by the fact that Rajasekhar is in a film anymore because if they are engaged, they just don’t care about anything else. In our case, having Rajasekhar in such a big budget film helped us garner a lot of attention because people wanted to know what we are doing. When the teaser and trailer came out, their curiosity was piqued and it took their expectations to the next level. I think audiences have set limitations to what Rajasekhar could do going by his past work and this is exactly what we wanted because when they watch the film on Friday, most of them would be blown away by what we’ve achieved with him.
The high-end action, going by the visuals from the trailer, has already created quite the hype. Could you elaborate on what you’ve achieved in terms of action?
I strongly believe action has to always blend in with the story. I designed the action sequences while writing the script because I wanted them to be realistic. I designed it in a way that it’d make sense. I wrote elaborate action sequences and we choreographed each action episode with miniature toys even before we went on the floors. Also, the action in the film will have an emotional appeal and I believe it’s very important to connect with the audience. I can’t think of a better example than the amazing 10-minute highway sequence in The Matrix Reloaded because it had a lot of elements and it was not just mindless action.
The film talks about the NIA and how it operates. Did it require extensive research to write a script around the lifestyle of an NIA officer?
In India, we don’t have a clandestine organisation such as the CIA, or FBI. There is the CBI, but it has its limitations. When you’re writing about an FBI counterpart in India, you’re giving the writers the scope to run their imaginations wild. NIA, in a way, gave us the freedom to imagine a lot of things because nobody quite knows it operates.