Back in 2006, when AR Murugadoss made his directorial debut in Telugu with Chiranjeevi’s Stalin, his career was still at a nascent stage. And since he was working with the Megastar of Telugu cinema, the director acknowledges that he was always under immense pressure which kept him on his toes.
“He was much more senior than me. Moreover, it was the first time that I was doing a film in a language I wasn’t too familiar with. But I didn’t really lose touch with Telugu cinema, I suppose. Most of my subsequent films were dubbed or remade in Telugu,” AR Murugadoss says.
11 years later, he’s back with his first ever bilingual film, Spyder with Mahesh Babu in the lead role.
“It was a lot different when I was working with Mahesh Babu. We were on the same wavelength and our ideas about how heroism should be depicted on screen were similar. That made it a lot easier for me to pull off the film. Hats off to his dedication. I have never come across an actor like him," the director says.
AR Murugadoss’s latest spy drama Spyder narrates the story of a junior officer, who works at the Intelligence Bureau, and how he springs into action when he comes across a psychotic villain (played by SJ Suryah).
The inspiration for 'Spyder'
One of the things that really attracted Mahesh Babu was the role of an IB officer, which he has never played before. This concept is further linked with a bigger message that Murugadoss is pinning a lot of hopes on.
Talking about the genesis of the film, he says, “These days, people have changed a lot. When someone is struggling to survive after an accident, people end up clicking photos or shoot videos, instead of helping the person. But when there’s a natural disaster or a calamity like floods, people help each other out. We don’t really have to wait for a big disaster to strike to help others."
The director further explained the inspiration behind the film: "Another thing that I found interesting was that people have become more attached to devices, like their phones or laptops, than other people, which I think is bad for everyone. Another aspect that we have dealt with in the film is that of cell-phone tapping. If the government wants to listen to you, then they have the capability of tapping into your cellphone conversations. There’s no concept of privacy anymore. And the fear of being caught on cameras has become far greater than that of God himself! All these things inspired the story behind Spyder.”
On making socially relevant films
Over the years, the director has built a brand for himself for making films which are laced with socially-relevant themes. Katthi, in particular, made a huge impact since it dealt with the issue of farmer suicides and how MNCs are draining out water resources.
A long time ago, Ramana, another film which he had directed, dealt with corruption at every level of society.
So, what’s the trick to finding such relevant stories and making them work each time?
He broods over the question for a minute and says, “When you want to make a commercial film about a social issue or a burning topic, it’ll work when the audience feels that the evil that they see in the film is present in their real life too. We read about farmer suicides all the time in the newspapers. So, when you make a film about it and do it well, people can relate to it more easily. In a way, the villain in your film should be someone whom the people hate in real life as well. That’s how good commercial cinema is made.”
More on the villain
Incidentally, the villain in Spyder, played by SJ Suryah, has different motivations altogether. For starters, the actual confrontation between the hero and the villain occurs only during the climax; however, the villain’s presence is ubiquitous.
“You’ve seen Mahesh Babu chase goons in Sumos, take on multiple villains, but in Spyder, he’s fighting against a villain who is invisible for most of the time. That in itself becomes a challenge and I hope it’ll keep people guessing about what’s going to happen next. Moreover, he has his own ideologies about life. He doesn’t believe that we should protect an animal just because it’s beautiful or endangered. SJ Suryah has done an amazing job in the film. His presence will create an impact that’s equal to having 10 villains in the story,” Murugadoss opines.
Ever since the promos of the film went on air, a section of people on social media have been pointing out that the villain seems to have been inspired from Joker of The Dark Knight; however, Murugadoss begs to differ.
“If you look at our epics like Mahabharata and Ramayana, you’ll find villains who might be physically weak, but they are very cunning and manipulative. Like Shakuni in Mahabharata. SJ Suryah’s role in Spyder is in that category. I don’t feel that you have to compare him with Joker in Dark Knight,” he clarifies.
What else does 'Spyder' have on offer?
Admittedly, the story unfolds in Hyderabad and the team shot, almost for 80 days, during nights.
“There are plenty of action sequences which we had to shoot at night. You’ll see why when you see the film. Spyder has a racy screenplay, but at the same time, we made sure that it has a good romantic subplot too. Rakul has done a fabulous job in the movie," he shares.
Spyder is one of the most expensive films made in south Indian cinema in recent times, and despite being shot in Telugu and Tamil, with different sets of supporting actors, Murugadoss avers that it has universal appeal to reach out to a wider audience.
“I’ve been asked if the film will work in both Telugu and Tamil. I must say that when you get the emotions right, then the language becomes a secondary issue. Look at Dangal and Baahubali - both the films worked really well in every territory and language that they were dubbed into. Spyder isn’t a complicated film. Everyone knows about cellphone-tapping, although they might not know how it’s done. The film has universal appeal and it’s about humanity,” Murugadoss signs off.