Sreekar Prasad on RRR: Ram Charan's intro scene was hard to crack

Sreekar Prasad speaks about his work on Rajamouli's latest film RRR, in this exclusive interview with Cinema Express
Sreekar Prasad about RRR
Sreekar Prasad about RRR

Editor Sreekar Prasad has been involved with RRR from its scripting stages, an association that began sometime in June 2018. SS Rajamouli had a draft — which went through various changes over time — and he was ready to shoot. This was the first time the National Award-winning editor was collaborating with director SS Rajamouli, despite both having been part of the industry for decades. Here, Sreekar reveals some fascinating details from his experience of working on the pan-Indian film...

Excerpts from the interview:

How did you approach your editing work for RRR?

As Rajamouli would be shooting, I would be editing. And then, time permitting, I would sit with him to finalise sequences. RRR is a film heavy on VFX, so we know that the work would take about 8-9 months. Rajamouli was passionate and armed with a meticulous plan to make such a film. It required a lot of pre-planning, planning, and then pre-visualising. He provided a great brief on what he sought.
The length of these sequences had to be decided, and it was imperative that we made such a call quickly. If not, over a period of time, the cost would increase because of CGI work and the sheer duration of the work. It was all a lot of work, but it was done well, after plenty of planning.

Can you break down the process of working with the VFX team, particularly in the execution of that pre-interval portion that has Jr NTR jumping out of this truck, alongside wild animals?

Typically, the director explains a scene, and then, we go through a process called pre-visualisation on paper, where a storyboard is created. During the edit, you assume the time it would take for animals to jump out, and you make such calls along with the director. We have to imagine it all in the first edit.

The CG department then visualises these animals and they give a rough sketch of the animals. It is a stage-by-stage process, and then, another edit happens after the CG team includes these portions. In this CG world, a lot rides on our judgment of time—it is almost like calculating how long a person should react in a particular shot. We have to go by our gut feeling as well.

Jr NTR's opening scene in the jungle seemed to involve a lot of work as well.

Everything was on the storyboard, but we had no tiger to shoot. So, it was going to be either a dummy or just empty space. So, according to the storyboard, we edited the sequence and asked whether it was getting too long or short. This sequence was then given to the CGI, and they did the pre-visualisation that included the movements of the tiger. Even as the CGI team updates their work, the edit continues to change accordingly. It is a parallel process that goes on till a point where 60-70% CG comes into place and then, the sequence gets locked. Finally, it is a matter of making the CG better in terms of getting the skin, texture, movement, and body language.

Ram Charan's intro scene, that had him fighting a mob, seemed to involve lesser CGI.

Editing Ram Charan's intro scene was a difficult process, in fact, as it is not a conventional fight sequence a normal hero would get. Here, he went with the story to try and establish Ram as a powerful man. Also, we remembered that he was doing it all in his capacity as a cop. So somewhere, there is a sense of realism as well, even if it is all larger than life.
The challenge was to retain the violence and show him being trapped in it. On the surface, it was tempting to say such events wouldn't be possible. But if you can execute it in a way that makes it seem possible... you create euphoria.

For Rajamouli, there was a crowd, and he had to ensure individuals reacted and responded the same way. He had a tough time with the crowd as he had to convince everybody to bay for his (Ram Charan) blood. We had to make sure that Ram was moving through the crowd, and show him getting hit. It is to bring in some sort of realism. We couldn't take too much time here as well, as it is not logically possible for him to fend them off for too long. All this was tough and this scene went through a number of versions of editing and fine-tuning before we arrived at the final scene you saw.

How would you summarise the whole experience of having worked with Rajamouli?

It is important not just to be successful... I sensed this need to push the bar up in filmmaking. This is why I was very interested to work with him. He will make what he wants in an uncompromising way, and he knows that the standard and the aesthetics of the making, and the presentation are improved with each film. We have done that. This is all the hallmark of a good director. Good artists try to get better with each project, instead of doing the same things.
We were on the same wavelength on the edit table. Within a short span of time, I could sense where he was coming from. His reaction shots are good, and his emotional quotient is quite high. So, I had to adapt myself to that. He pushes the emotions to a high point before he breaks them down. It was overall a great experience.

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