The Dil Raju interview: Man with the Midas touch
National Award-winning producer Dil Raju gets candid on working with Pawan Kalyan, his Bollywood debut, and this week's release Jaanu
"This year (2020) is going to be really special for me, as three of my wishes are already fulfilled. Firstly, Jaanu, my first-ever remake as a producer, is gearing up for release on February 7. I am also venturing into Hindi cinema with the Telugu remake of Jersey. Last but not the least, my long-time dream to bankroll a film starring Pawan Kalyan has turned into a reality with the Telugu remake of Pink (PSPK 26)," says producer Dil Raju, with a sense of excitement as we settle down for an interview at his Banjara Hills office.
With more than half a dozen films in the pipeline, he is one of the busiest producers of Telugu cinema. "Like how students have five-six subjects to study for, I am associated with five-six projects at the same time. I treat every film as a subject and follow a time-table to keep track of the developments. I also work closely with my brother Sirish and my nephew Harshith Reddy, and their contribution is also remarkable," says Dil Raju.
His upcoming production, Jaanu, is a remake of the Tamil hit 96. All these years, the ace producer consciously stayed away from remake culture as he believes in developing an original subject. “I like to have creative conversations with all the departments while getting involved in the scripting process,” he says.
However, he asserts that he is not against the idea of remakes. “It's not that I don't believe in remakes. I actually wanted to remake Premam and Bangalore Days in Telugu, but I dropped the idea after producer Naga Vamsi wanted to produce the former with Naga Chaitanya. It's just that I am comfortable making my own films,” he says.
This changed when he saw 96. “Prem Kumar's film has a soul-stirring story with rippling emotions and wins your heart in every way. I watched the teaser of 96 and liked the concept of how two high school sweethearts from the 10th class meet at a reunion after two decades. I caught the film at a preview theatre and watched it again on its release day at a local theatre in Chennai. I felt that it's a relevant subject that needs to be told in Telugu too,” reveals Raju.
Interestingly, when he shared the idea of remaking 96, Samantha Akkineni wasn’t keen to reprise Trisha’s part. “Samantha had many apprehensions, particularly because comparisons with Trisha are inevitable. I convinced her to meet Prem Kumar, and after meeting him, her perception changed and she agreed to come on board. She enjoyed the shooting process and left a heartwarming message on the last day of the shoot,” says the producer, who is known for his envious success streak.
The conversation veers towards PSPK 26, which will be his second remake, and Raju says that it's going to be different from what we have seen in both Hindi (Pink) and Tamil (Nerkonda Paarvai). “The Telugu version will have a fresh take and it's going to be a perfect comeback for (Pawan) Kalyan garu. It is the second adaptation of Pink and you will see a different dimension in terms of Pawan Kalyan's characterisation. You will know more about it when the time comes. We will announce the film's title for Ugadi and are planning to release it on May 15,” he says.
On his Bollywood debut, Raju says, “I am producing Jersey in association with Allu Aravind garu and Aman Gill in Hindi. I feel happy to see our banner transcending boundaries. We are planning to release the film on August 28,” he shares, adding, “Bollywood is more organised and disciplined. We are planning to adopt that culture here. That's not all, we will also continue producing films in Hindi and are working on two-three scripts at the moment.”
Up next, he is going to launch his nephew Ashish Reddy and director VV Vinayak as lead actors. “My nephew's film has been titled Rowdy Boyz. We have locked the script and will commence the shoot later this month. Vinayak's Seenayya is a different genre film, which takes us beyond regular cinematic settings. The film tells the story of a father and is set in the 80s backdrop. Vinayak is a good performer and is at ease as an actor. He perfectly fits the bill. We will announce the female lead and other details soon,” says Raju.
The National Award-winning producer is excited to team up with Mahesh Babu again for an untitled film. “It's going to be Mahesh's next project after Sarileru Neekevvaru. Director Vamshi Paidipally is working on the script and the film will go on floors once we fix on the final draft.”
Refuting rumours that his upcoming film, Icon, starring Allu Arjun, has been shelved, Raju announces, “The film is definitely on cards. After PSPK 26, director Sriram Venu will start working on this film.”
Ask him about his success mantra and the star producer is vocal about what constitutes a good film. “The script is paramount and content is the king,” he signs off.