Rajamouli opens up his heart a day before the release of Eega. In this interview, he speaks at length about how he developed his father's idea in to a full-length film, what went into the making, the graphics, and how Eega is radically different from a cartoon film.
How it all started:
After doing Maryada Ramanna, I wanted to make a small film that could be completed in 4-5 months. I wanted to relax before starting a big movie with Prabhas. However, I was not sure about what that was. Comedies and love stories are not my cup of tea. I dislike horror films. I wanted to try something which had never been tried by anyone.
I revisited an idea which my father had told me many years ago. The concept was about how a small fly overwhelms a man. I developed a story from that concept. (Vijayendra Prasad used to share one idea or another with his son).
There is so much emotional substance in the story. It reads like a David And Goliath story. How a trivial and weak creature triumphs over a villainous human being affords a lot of drama. That is what Eega is all about.
How Eega grew bigger and bigger:
We wanted to shoot the film on digital or with a hand-held camera. The idea was to release it in a few multiplexes. As I started writing the script, I grew apprehensive about the budget. Each scene involved so much extraordinariness and thus, it could not be completed on a small scale. That was when Sai and Suresh Babu gave me full freedom. They believed in the novelty. They said, "Forget all about the budget. Write as your thoughts take you." They said to me that we are going to show something new to the audience.
Magadheera & Eega: The difference:
There is a world of difference between the graphics in Magadheera and that in Eega. Here Eega, an animated character, is the foreground; whereas in Magadheera, graphics were in the background. That is why we cannot afford to commit any error in the graphics. Some loopholes in Magadheera's graphics were overlooked by the audience. Be it the conception or the execution, Eega is a much tougher job.
Designing the Eega:
A good actor expresses a lot through his facial expressions and his body language. The facial muscles around the eyes do a lot of talking. In the case of a fly, eighty per cent of its face is eyes. How could love, anger and such emotions be shown? So, I relied on the body language. A film made on pixar gave me the hint. A table lamp could be shown expressing varied emotions. We got Nani cover his face and made him express fear, pity, etc. We studied how body language could be used for telling the story of a fly. We put before the animators the reference material we had prepared so they could begin designing a fly.
To my utter shock, the first team of animators gave me a bad output. After six months, they designed a fly that looked very ugly. We had already expent Rs. Ten crores! In the ten years that I have been in the industry, I was never so terrified. Had we spent only a crore, I would have shelved the project. I told them that I want a realistic fly. We did a photo op with a fly. We freezed it to make it unconscious and shot its pictures. I commissioned a new team after one Ramayya designed a fly using the reference material we gave him. Thankfully, we had a convincing fly in just two months.
The cameras and technology:
Everyone was so excited to work for the film regardless of their seniority. Senthil used to learn about different kinds of cameras. Lots of special lenses were used. From Arri to Canon 5D and Go Pro camera. Extreme close-ups, cranes like Scorpio and Strada were used. Digital Intermediate was done at Annapoorna Studios.
Selection of actors:
This was the first time that the actors were selected after the writing was done. I like Nani because he is such a natural; he behaves very realistically. For the heroine's role I wanted a simple, girl-next-door girl yet attractive. Samantha fit the bill. For the villain's role, I wanted to rope in someone who was both stylish and looked menacing. I was impressed by Sudeep's performance and attitude in Rann. Not many can act with Big B with such elan. My villain should deliver a stylised performance; he should not show his anxiety by screaming and all. Sudeep's performance is subtle. I had my doubts before approaching him as to whether he would accept the role. I knew that though he was a star, the actor in him would like the script. Sai suggested me his name.
A learning experience:
I learnt a lot during the making. Visual effects industry is pretty much developed here, but when it comes to animation, we do not have access to good animators (given the budget constraints) as the industry is lagging behind. I wanted a realistic animation for the movie. A few cinematic liberties were taken, but the desire for realism was not abandoned.
The emotional content:
More than anything, the emotional content works. No one can guarantee a film's success. We wanted to publicise about the film in a novel way. I was not afraid to tell the story beforehand. How much interesting it is that matters. We know the stories of Ramayana and Mahabharatha, yet to go to watch whenever a movie based on these Epics is made. When the Eega trailer was viewed 10 lakh times in 3 weeks, my confidence increased.