Praveen Sattaru: Nagarjuna is learning Krav Maga and katana fight for our film
The director talks about handling a different genre in his upcoming film starring Nagarjuna Akkineni and Kajal Aggarwal
Always game for experimenting with genres and concepts, Praveen Sattaru has reinvented himself constantly over his decade-long journey in cinema. Following the warm reception to PSV Garudavega, Praveen is now teaming up with actor Nagarjuna Akkineni for an action-packed emotional entertainer.
This untitled film aims to revive the hardcore action entertainer genre in Telugu cinema. It narrates the story of a retired RAW agent who returns to his motherland for a mission. It was during a conversation with producer Sunil Narang that the seed of the story was born. “Initially, Sunil Narang wanted to remake Ajay Devgn-starrer Raid (2018) with Nagarjuna garu. During our interactions, he also expressed his desire to make an out-and-out commercial action entertainer with Nagarjuna and it was then I conceptualised this film,” reveals Praveen Sattaru, adding, “Both Sunil and Nagarjuna were captivated by the script.”
Describing Nagarjuna's character in the film, Praveen says, “He plays an ex-RAW (Research and Analysis Wing) agent who had held multiple positions in the armed forces, secret services and intelligence before hanging his boots as an agent at the Indian embassy in the UK. He is a loner and leads a private life. One day, he receives a distress call from his beloved sister, who hasn't seen him for the last twenty years. He then lands in India to take care of his family.”
Nagarjuna will be seen in a salt-and-pepper look in the film and Praveen says the makeover idea comes from his character. "Nagarjuna will be seen in two distinct avatars. In the beginning, when he works as an agent, he is an active and attractive officer. After retirement, he gives up hope in life and doesn't want to prove anything to anyone and goes on to sport this shaggy look. This look reflects his careless attitude.”
The 61-year-old actor is taking a lot of pain to get into the role. He is being trained in specialised combat and martial arts. "He is taking online classes from Bangkok-based top martial arts experts in Krav Maga technique and also receiving training in Katana, a samurai sword fighting style. The film has high-adrenaline action sequences and we have roped in the biggest international action choreographers to design these sequences," confides Praveen.
The National-award winning director says the action in the film will be realistic. "There won't be over-the-top action and I can confidently say that each action set piece will be unique and form a part of the story as well. We have decided to make sure that the action really measures up to Hollywood standards."
For the first time, Kajal Aggarwal plays the leading lady opposite Nagarjuna and she will also be seen as a RAW agent. Elaborating, Praveen says, “She plays a powerful and confident woman, who is emotionally stronger than the hero. They are two mature lovers and love is just hanging in the air for both of them. It's not the kind of love story we usually see in our films.”
Like his earlier films, Praveen points out that the Nagarjuna-starrer also has strong women characters. "Our film has three strong female characters played by Kajal Aggarwal, Gul Panag and Anikha Surendran, who will be seen as Nagarjuna's sister and niece. The character essayed by Anikha is going to be one of the highlights of the film."
Nagarjuna's last release, Wild Dog, had no songs, dance sequences and romantic interludes. However, Praveen says the audiences can look forward to all these in his upcoming film. "There is a fine blend of action, music and humour. The jokes arise out of the situations and Nagarjuna's comedy and dialogues will be subtle."
Responding to comparisons with Wild Dog, Praveen says, "Wild Dog is an action film based on actual events, but my film is a hardcore action entertainer that's also high on emotions. The action sequences in the film are driven by strong emotions and strong characters."
The film went on floors in February and the makers have already completed a schedule each in Hyderabad and Goa. "The next schedule will commence in Hyderabad in the second half of this month. The combination scenes between Nagarjuna and Kajal will be shot in this schedule. After this, we will head to Ooty and Europe to film the remaining portions."
For Praveen, the challenge lies in mounting a larger-than-life film in the times of Covid-19. "Shooting a film of this magnitude amidst a pandemic has become more expensive and more time-consuming. Those who make films in these trying times are coming to terms with the fact that the sets are going to look different for the foreseeable future," he adds.
Ask him what can one expect from this film, and Praveen says, "It is one of those summer blockbusters that come with a larger-than-life action."