Telugu hero Nandamuri Kalyan Ram is excited about his socio-fantasy fictional film Bimbisara which takes us between 500 BC and 2022 and is a time-travel movie of sorts as well. However, while Bimbisara is a king who lived in 500 BC, there is no correlation to the real historical king who ruled over Magadha.
Known for his action films, Kalyan Ram has taken a step in a different direction with this film, directed by debutant Vasisht. In an interview, the Bimbisara star and producer spoke about the film, which is touted to be made on a budget of Rs 40 crore, and releasing today (August 5, 2022). Excerpts:
Your role in ‘Bimbisara’ is that of a cruel king who comes from a different era. Did you choose this film because you are playing a sort of negative role for the first time and it’s a fantasy mythology?
Yes! The third reason why I wanted to do the film is that it’s about karma – what we call ‘karma siddhantam’. What you’ve done in the past will come back to you in the same life and how you should face it. There’s a nice story that is told through the fantasy element and the cruel behaviour of the king. The realisation and the journey from evil to good is that main element in the film. These are the three reasons why I wanted to do this film.
How confident were you that debutant director Vassishta could pull off such a big project?
I have worked with debutant directors earlier in films like Athanokkade (2005) and Pataas (2015). If I find the script very interesting, I sit with the director for a long period of time to see how they are developing the script. If they are on the right track, then it gives me confidence.
As for the making, I make sure we have the best technicians – in Bimbisara, we have cinematographer Chota K. Naidu, background score by Keeravani, and VFX by Advithaa Studios.
The team should be right since one person can’t make a film. I took care of these aspects.
Why did you want to produce this film?
I wanted to produce this film because he (Vassishta) never came with a producer (laughs). When a director comes with a producer, I can’t take the project away from them.
What do you look for in a film as a producer versus as an actor?
As a producer, I want to give different content to the audience. The audience should feel surprised and great about the production values I give them. I am very clear on that. If the project involves higher budgets and more risk, then I don’t leave that risk to another producer, I produce the film myself. When it comes to acting, I look at what my character is all about – I don’t want to play the same character that I’ve played.
How challenging was it playing Bimbisara?
The only challenge (was) to tap my subconscious memory, to bring out that aggressive nature. As we grow up, we become more conformed to the ‘proper behaviour’ that society expects from everyone. As a kid, I used to be aggressive and arrogant, so I had to bring that out for this role.
Are you short-tempered by nature?
No one can be a sadhu (laughs). As a kid I used to be, and I think I have a lot of anger in me, but I try hard to suppress it.
You spoke about how tough it was to wear those mythological costumes and how it would have been for your grandfather, legendary actor N.T. Rama Rao. What have you learnt from your grandfather?
In life what I’ve learnt is commitment. If you give a commitment to someone, stick to it and before making that commitment, think through it. That’s something I always keep in mind.
When it came to Bimbisara, I learnt about the hardships he would have gone through in wearing those costumes – we are in a comfort zone today, wearing jeans and T-shirts in films, but the costumes and headgear they wore are extremely uncomfortable. I felt I should learn more about acting in that time period.
How was it working with Catherine Tresa and Samyuktha Menon?
It was great. Catherine plays a strong queen and I don’t know, if she’ll take it the wrong way, but her face itself looks arrogant (smiles). So I think it was very easy to do the role of Ira. As a person she is very sweet to work with.
For Samyuktha who plays Vijayanthi, this is her debut Telugu film but Bheemla Nayak released before this. She is extremely hardworking, and the first day on set, she had difficulty with the dialogues, but now she speaks fluent Telugu. I’m honoured to work both of them.
Your film got delayed because of the pandemic. Has it turned out the way you envisioned it?
I shouldn’t say this but the pandemic actually helped our film. The pandemic unfortunately created havoc in a lot of people’s lives. Since we were confined to the home, the team would get on Zoom calls every day and talk about the film in detail. We nailed the script and shots to add, and with the VFX team, we pre-visualised the entire shoot for reference so that when we went on set, we shot exactly what we wanted. This helped us a lot, even in cutting costs.
Are you concerned that this film may be compared to other films which had the mythological aspect?
No, I’m 100 percent sure it won't be compared. Magadheera was about reincarnation and my film doesn’t deal with that. Baahubali had grandeur and was about war and family drama. My film doesn’t have any war sequences. My film is about socio-fantasy, time travel, demons and tantras. The genre is new – this is sort of like Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings.
As a child were you influenced by Indian comics?
Oh yeah, I used to love them! Amar Chitra Katha, Tinkle and Chanda Mama Kathalu. We have grown up listening to and reading those stories. We see Marvel doing all these fictional stories and Disney doing films like Peter Pan. When I heard the Bimbisara script, I was excited and thought kids will love it. It’s a family film.
Do you take any advice from your brother Tarek (NTR Jr) on your films?We are brothers. We definitely have each other’s back, so we discuss everything and then do it. It can’t be that we each do our own thing and then meet for dinner – that can’t be called a family. We are more than that. Tarek was excited and said that he couldn’t believe that this movie had come out so well. He said it was an extraordinary film for me.