Filmmaker SS Rajamouli’s epic action drama RRR not only performed exceptionally well at the Indian box office but also garnered heaps of praise from celebrities and audience from the West. The film became the fourth-highest-grossing Indian film and second highest-grossing Telugu film worldwide. In fact, it emerged as the highest-earning foreign film in Japan within a week of its release in October. Needless to say, fans were disappointed when RRR wasn’t selected as the Indian entry for the Best International Feature Film at the 95th Academy Awards.
Soon, Rajamouli kick-started an Oscar campaign for the film and submitted it across all major categories (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Screenplay, Best Original Song, Best Score, Best Editing, Best Cinematography, Best Sound, Best Production Design, Best VFX, Best Supporting Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Best Original Song). The campaign was officially launched in September this year after a screening at Los Angeles’ Chinese Theatre.
As the filmmaker continues to actively campaign for his labour of love, News18 exclusively catches up with actor Shriya Saran, who played a short but significant role in the film. Happy with the way Rajamouli is pushing for RRR to be recognised by the Oscars committee, she says, “It’s great. That’s what I love about Rajamouli sir. He’s such a believer, he’s such a doer!”
Recalling the time when she became a part of the magnum opus, Shriya remarks, “When he was doing Baahubali, everyone went like, ‘What!’ The budget was so massive. But he turned around and made it the biggest hit. I always told him that I would do any part in his film. After I did the screen test of RRR, he told me, ‘Chal, let’s shoot!’ That was it! I had no idea that the film would become so big.”
The film not only proved to be one of the biggest highlights of her career but also helped her fulfil her dream of working with the master storyteller. “All I knew is that I wanted to work with him. He’s an amazing director to collaborate with. I loved doing that part. It was so intense and difficult but was a lot of fun,” she shares.
Shriya further adds, “I know that he’ll always do great films because he loves cinema. His whole family is about cinema. It’s amazing that he’s so loyal to his entire team. They all work together always and I love the lunches on his set because they all sit and have lunch together.”
So, has she spoken to Rajamouli after he began campaigning for the project? “I haven’t got the chance to speak to him yet. I’m just very happy to be a part of the film,” the 40-year-old says.
RRR proved to be an interesting and memorable addition to the slew of pan-Indian films, a phenomenon that has become the order of the day. It not only is helping films made in different languages penetrate across every nook and corner of the country but is also encouraging a healthy exchange of talents among various film industries. While Shriya acknowledges the same, she asserts, “Indian cinema has always been a collective entity. There were no boundaries earlier either. Back in the day, Waheeda Rehman ji and Hema Malini ji worked in different industries. Rajini (Rajinikanth) sir did Hindi films years ago.”
So, what caused a halt in the trend? “It stopped for a while in between because it wasn’t possible for a hero [from the South] to come and do a Hindi film, which would take eight to nine months, and then promote it. That would mean losing out on an entire year,” says Shriya.
The actor, who was recently seen in Drishyam 2, echoes the popular consensus and feels that the boom in the web space has caused a paradigm shift in the way content is being made and consumed today. “But now, language isn’t a barrier because of OTT platforms. All that the audience cares about is good content. They’re open to watching great cinema even if it’s not in their mother tongue,” she explains.
Shriya further believes that looking at several film industries as one entity was long due and it’s only a reflection of the value that Indians are known for. She opines, “It’s great that we’re now calling it ‘Indian cinema’. When I go to the South or travel in general, I get a feeling of oneness and people believe that we’re all a part of one country. That’s the beauty of our country and that should reflect in our cinema as well.”