The actor-turned-director opens up about his second film 'Manmadhudhu 2', directing actor Nagarjuna, why he and Chinmayi may not always agree on an issue and so on.

Nagarjuna is an absolute directors actor Director Rahul Ravindran on Manmadhudu 2
Flix Interview Tuesday, July 30, 2019 - 08:44

Rahul Ravindran, the actor-turned-director, is all set for his second release on August 9, Manmadhudhu 2. If at the time of his last release Chi La Sow in 2018, Rahul was all too sceptical about this change in profession, a year later, the director has on-board one of the biggest veteran actors in the industry, Nagarjuna, playing the central protagonist in his film.

“I was seriously contemplating ending my career in the industry if Chi La Sow tanked at the box- office. But luckily, a year later, I can only be proud of the decisions I have taken in the past decade,” Rahul says.

Manamdhudhu 2 is the sequel to the 2002 Nagarjuna movie by the same name which was directed by Trivikram Srinivas and was one of the biggest hits in the career of the actor. And Rahul says that this increases the responsibility on his shoulders to deliver another hit so as not to upset the Manmadhudhu fans.

“There is a lot of nostalgia associated with the film. I think there are more people from the older generation who are eagerly waiting to catch the star of their times again on screen. As Nagarjuna sir will be seen acting in a rom-com after many years, the anticipation levels are quite high,” the director says.

In a candid chat with TNM, Rahul Ravindran opens up about his second film, directing Nagarjuna, his journey from an actor to becoming a director, addressing social media trolls and much more.

You've directed a sequel to a romcom for which there are few comparisons in the industry. Would you say that making Manmadhudhu 2 was a challenge?

First thing, the movie is not a sequel. But we chose to go with the title of Manmadhudu because it fit perfectly in the genre and it also had Nag sir playing the hero. We aren’t continuing the story here and Manmadhudhu 2 has a different plot. But having said that, Manmadhudhu 2 is the remake of a French film. We have retained the plot and 75% of its screenplay is fresh.

However, ever since the title was announced, to be honest, it has been a challenge to keep up with the kind of expectations it has created among the audience, which I also think has worked in favour of the movie.

Your debut movie Chi La Sow had mostly opened to positive reviews. And in less than a year, you are awaiting the release of your second film. How has the journey from an actor to a director been?

I was an accidental actor. I always wanted to be an assistant director and it was the one burning desire in my life. At the back of my mind, I always kept telling myself that the endgame is to become a director. When I finally made Chi La Sow, I had these jitters - what if people tell me that I was not cut out to become a director.

And at that point, if the movie hadn’t worked, I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to get back to acting. But Chi La Sow’s success was a huge relief. I think Chi La Sow helped me to settle down, it brought in this sense of belonging which anchored me towards making a second film. In short, I made peace with a decision which I had been nurturing from the time I was in school.

You took up direction at a time when your career as an actor was also moving in a steadfast manner. Do you miss being an actor?

No, I certainly don’t miss it. I don’t want to be in front of the camera anymore. Because direction is too much of a high, witnessing all the thoughts in your mind being transferred to the screen which isn’t the case with acting.

From the trailer of your second film, it seems to be a family entertainer, similar to your debut movie. So as a director, is there a conscious effort to balance family values and at the same time bring in the new-age-coolness in your films?

I didn’t have both these factors in mind while writing the movies. It’s only after three or four drafts that we began discussing things like whom are we targeting, what are the things we need to tone down or blow up. The French version of the movie has a universal appeal but we have made a lot of changes to it to suit the Indian sensibilities. The biggest excitement for me in the film is the fact that a vintage star of the previous generation is coming over and acting in a new age film. I think this combination is sure to bring both the young and the older audience to the theatres. Especially after Manam, this is a meter that Nag sir hasn’t done in a while.

Chi La Sow was a very personal film. Not once while writing the film did I think about what the audiences would want to watch. I was very true to the story. In the case of Manmadhudhu 2, after Nag sir read the first draft (who also suggested that we remake the French film), he said the script was good but too classy. We later toned it down but we have tried our maximum to retain the ethos of the original.

Your first movie was presented by Nagarjuna and in your second movie, he himself is playing the protagonist. How was it directing the veteran actor?

During the first week of the film, Nag sir said, “Rahul, you will have all my involvement as a producer while writing the film. I will be involved as a producer during the post-production as well. But once we start shooting, I am all yours!” And true to his words, he is such a director’s actor. 

On the first day of the shoot, I was a little nervous. But by lunch time, he made me so comfortable because throughout his career he has given opportunities to young people and has built the careers of so many. When you direct Nag sir, he is just a blank slate! I would only say that he was an absolute darling while on the sets of the film.

We remember you sharing during the release of Chi La Sow that you were extremely nervous and were standing outside the theatre during the test-screening. How have things progressed in a year?

Haha, I still have a week left to know that. The final reel isn’t ready yet. We have a few dubbing corrections to make for the screenings to begin and only then will I know if anything has changed at all! I will get back on that in 3-4 days.

Being a Tamilian, this is your second film in Telugu. Also, in an earlier interview you had mentioned that you speak six Indian languages fluently. Will you be donning the director’s hat in other languages too?

My mom passed on those genes which I think has helped me a lot in picking up languages. But having said that, the Telugu industry is home for me. The last eight years, I have been here. However, at some point, I am sure I will make a film in my mother tongue. I remember one of my friends telling me that you aren’t complete as a filmmaker if you don’t make at least one film in your mother tongue. And hopefully in Hindi too, at some point, I might make a film.

Manmadhudhu 2 courted controversy after Rakul was shown smoking in one of the scenes. People descended on your social media timelines and even Chinmayi was accused of “double-standards”. Known to be a person who speaks his mind, how do you look at these issues?

I am a person who thinks about an issue in its entirety before speaking on social media. I talk only when I am sure I know all the angles to it. And honestly these trolls are small bubbles which aren’t even worth responding to most of the times.

Rahul with his wife and singer Chinmayi Sripada

Feminism is a concept that people have largely misunderstood. When men smoke on screen, people rarely have an issue. My character in the film smokes, and so be it. And secondly, we as a couple disagree on a lot of issues. If Chinmayi doesn’t approve of smoking, I cannot endorse the same. And we choose to respectfully disagree. But people think that Chinmayi and I as a couple must reflect our opinions collectively. That’s just not how relationships work. And neither do films.

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