Kotapadi J Rajesh: Hero is an extension of Aramm in a way
The producer talks about bankrolling Hero, handling multiple projects, and more
Kotapadi J Rajesh walks into his swanky office in Poes Garden pre-occupied with his multiple phone calls. Rajesh, however, says he enjoys the pressure, and this is clear too from the numerous projects he is juggling. What is his criteria for choosing films? "Peru varanum ilena panam varanum," says Rajesh or KJR as he is popularly known, with a chuckle. "I am drawn to films that deal with social themes," he adds. The Hero producer talks about the various struggles he faced before the film's release and much more.
Excerpts from the conversation:
Right from the beginning, KJR Studios has been picking unique scripts. Even Aramm, your debut production, was a unique choice.
To be frank, Hero is an extension of Aramm in a way. Aramm spoke about how we are investing in rockets, while there still isn't a device that can save a child stuck in a borewell. Hero highlights how we are not identifying people who have such potential. Aramm wasn't a commercial film, but Hero is a mass film. Naanum sambathikanum la. So, I will alternate between off-beat and mainstream scripts.
How do you manage so many projects?
Apdiyae handle pana vendiyathu than. It is a lot of pressure, but it's also a lot of fun. Many people tried to convince me against taking two projects — Hero and Dabangg 3 — at the same time. But I think I have done justice to both projects. Even Salman sir was very happy. He doesn't usually attend a lot of events. To get him to come here and promote our films, made me very happy.
What's your budgeting process?
No matter how well you plan, there should be a 20 per cent margin for bigger films. For a smaller film, it is easier to be accurate with planning. However, I have found it far more convenient to move to a first copy basis.
There was a report of a case being filed on Hero at the writers' union, claiming the story was registered earlier by an assistant director.
Mithran lied to me that Abhay Deol is the villain. Hero had so many villains outside the film. And it does tire you unlike, say, debt problems, which are far easier to handle.
I first met Bhagyaraj sir and he told me that the two stories are similar. I asked him to have a group of people from the union read both scripts in my presence. But he refused to do that and merely said that they have decided that the story belongs to that assistant director. I approached FEFSI, and they said Bhagyaraj expects me to pay 10 lakhs to the AD and also give him credit. I said I'd pay even 15 lakhs, but I wanted them to prove it to me first. I was ready to show them the film and also gave both scripts to them. I even gave a deposit cheque to FEFSI, to be given to that AD, if they prove it.
Chinmayi dubbed for Hero, after an uphill battle against the dubbing union following the MeToo movement. Ironically, the film also stars Arjun, who was accused in the same movement.
I hadn't even thought so much! Neenga solli than yosikaren. America la than poi padam edukanum naa. (smiles) To be honest, I didn't know the issues faced by Chinmayi. We wanted her for the project and hence I sorted whatever came in the way. It took us some time, but that's all. And I generally leave all casting choices to my directors. It's their call.
You were also the first one to come out and say that you won't work with Radha Ravi...
He spoke about my chechi (Nayanthara), so it hurt me a lot. I will frankly admit that I was selfish. You won't react the same way for a third person, that's the reality. Even with Chinmayi, I fought because we needed her for our film.