Tell us about your family, Mr Murugadas
Ours is Kallakuchi in Tamil Nadu. My father runs a general store and I am from a middle class family. Right from my childhood, I am very much fond of films. My father also encouraged me. He used to say that I would become a good director in future. I am in this position now, just because of my father's blessings and encouragement.
Did you work with someone in the film industry?
Yes. I went to Chennai with the encouragement given by my father and worked as a script assistant with a writer called Kalaimani for about three films. SJ Surya is one of my friends, while Udayashankar is my roommate. Like that I worked in story sittings for 'Vaali' with SJ Surya and for 'Kalisundam… Raa…' with Udayashankar. My father used to send me money during my stay in Chennai. So, I have no hassles working with them. Though I worked for story sittings, I did not attend any shooting.
Is there any instance where you felt tense when you worked for script writing?
Yes. When me and SJ Surya worked together for 'Vaali' story sitting. We met Ajit with 70 per cent of the storyline and narrated it to him on June 1 and he just okayed it and asked us to start shooting in a week, i.e., on June 7. We developed the subject immediately and planned the schedules. We are very tense about the person who has to cast opposite Ajith, the other artistes, dialogues and finally how would be the final product. As my first experience was coupled with a lot of tension, I learnt how to handle a script easily and had got a firm grip on script writing.
You just worked for three films in Tamil and got an opportunity to work with a Mega Star like Chiranjeevi in Telugu? How was your work experience with Chiranjeevi?
When I am doing 'Gajini', there is not much age gap between me and Surya. So we moved very friendly and he used to ask me whenever he got a doubt about acting. Even if he did not perform properly, I could be able to tell him and extract the performance which I wanted from him. But, when it comes to Chiranjeevi, narrated him the story. On the first day of shooting, I felt very nervous. I just went to him explained the scene and escaped from the place. The situation continued for about a week. One day, Chiranjeevi came to me and told me clearly like this — "You are the director of this film and I am the hero. My duty is to perform as you said. You can even command me and extract the correct output. Let us be friendly." The entire scene changed at that one moment. I felt very much relieved from all my tension. I don't know Telugu much. But Chiranjeevi could speak in Tamil. Whenever the artistes failed to understand the scenes explained by me, he used to explain it in Telugu to the others. He did not have any ego or inhibition, though he is a Mega Star. He is such a great personality.
Stalin is a Communist… Then what about this 'Stalin'?
Yes. Yes. As you rightly said, whenever we talk about Stalin, it reminds us of the Communism. But this Stalin is a person who lives for the society. It is not just enough if some one alone work for the society's uplift and everyone should partake in it is the message. Our character Stalin preaches this kind of social service.
Then why did you choose the name of 'Stalin' because Gandhi also preached a similar thing? Isn't it?
Of course, it is true. But when you say 'Stalin', it sounds a little powerful. We don't want to give message in a Gandhian way. But to impose it like a powerful person Stalin. I will explain. Tagore is just a writer, but our Tagore is not such a person. Isn't it? Likewise, our Stalin is like that. The hero's father is a Communist. So he named his son as Stalin and his daughter a Jhansi.
It is learnt that you got an inspiration in preparing the story by watching the people, who rallied around Chiranjeevi during the 175 days function of 'Indra'? Is it true?
Yes. My Tamil film Ramana is being remade here and I came here all the way to change the anti-climax scene. The earlier day I spoke to Chiranjeevi in a room and thought that he is an ordinary hero. The next day I accompanied him to Vijayawada for the 175 days function of 'Indra'. I am shell-shocked after watching the huge ocean of fans of Chiranjeevi and learnt how big following he had. Keeping in view those huge number of fans, Chiranjeevi had started eye donation, blood donation and other such welfare activities and made all his fans involved in the activity. On watching the huge fan following who were ready to do anything for the sake of Chiranjeevi, a storyline struck to my mind. I immediately told that to Chiranjeevi, who okayed it and asked me to develop it further. That is Stalin.
Are there any scenes which prompt Chiranjeevi to join politics after this movie?
I don't know much about Andhra Pradesh politics. But in this film, he will wear khadi and don the role of a people's representative, who wants to change the people in the society, with the help of each and everyone around him. The film is nothing but the fight for society waged by Stalin.
It is learnt that Prakash Raj is playing the role of an 80-year-old Home Minister in this film and there are some scenes involving politics? Is it true?
How come you are able to predict the entire story. It is true to some extent but they are not political related scenes. But there will be heated arguments between both of them. But all the scenes involved by both of them give good twists to the subject.
What kind of character is Sarada playing?
Sarada is playing the mother of Stalin. Hers is a family-type character. She did not involve in any issue other than her family. The character reminds the audiences of a mother in every family.
Which kind of audiences would get attracted towards the film?
This film is not targeted at a particular class of audiences. It has several elements that could attract family, youth audiences besides software engineers, advocates, ministers, and those who stick and watch TV serials as well. The film would attract all classes of audiences. It is really a wonderful subject.
You are basically a Tamil director. How do you think that you could mesmerize the Telugu audiences?
All films I did so far are universal subjects. It is not just Telugu or Tamil. Even I can do films in Iran and Iraq countries. I know script work well. I will look into the shot and I will decide where to begin and end that particular shot on a particular artiste. Once you get the grip on screenplay, there is no bar about the language. I remade my Tamil film Ramana in Telugu. I wrote the script for both the films. Likewise, I did Gajini keeping in view both the languages. Both the films got appreciation from all quarters. Regarding Stalin, the film is getting tremendous response even before its release. I am quite confident that the film would definitely reach the expectations of the audiences and there will be no let up in it. Stalin has a good message, which is adoptable by one and all.
On one occasion Chiranjeevi said that people would not say 'thanks' after watching this film? What is it?
That you will know after watching the film. It is one of the main themes of this film. We explained the real meaning of Thanks in Stalin.
Tell us about producer Nagababu?
All my earlier films like Dina, Ramana and Gajini are medium budget films. But Stalin is a heavy budget film. Each scene has around 500 to 1000 junior artistes. In the climax there are about a whopping 15,000 junior artistes. We shot Kargil war for about seven days in Nasik. We shot the songs abroad. Each scene was shot in a rich atmosphere. The entire film came out extraordinarily. It is all because of the production values. Nagababu used to provide whatever I want for each scene. In fact, it is like a 'Gladiator' in Telugu. Stalin came out with such a richness and extra ordinary.
It is rumoured that you are doing the film in Tamil. Is it true?
Yes, I thought of doing it. But I fear that I may not afford such a heavy budget film, involving Kargil War and other scenes. I fear whether I could put a similar effort in that film. Because, I don't have such a stamina. Moreover, I don't like to do the same film again and again. We plan a subject and do it. After completing it, we have to think of some other novel subject. Now I need rest. Other things next.
In Tagore you tried to rout out corruption through ACF. Did you do any such experiment in this film as well?
Definitely. But you will come to know what is it after watching the film. However, the message sent across the society in 'Tagore' is only good to watch and is impracticable in real life. But the one that was done in 'Stalin' is a message that could be adopted and practiced.
Who are the others who played roles in Stalin?
Sarada played the mother, Khushboo played the sister, Prakash Raj as an 80-year-old Home Mininister, Suman in another honorary character, Ravali played the role of Prakash Raj's sister in this film. Anushka could be seen in a song.
How was the music in this film?
There is no need to mention about Manisharma's music specially. Moreover, the choreography of all the songs came out brilliantly for the tunes. You must have already heard the songs and watched the promos. The promo in itself speaks a lot about the film.
Tell us about your future projects?
There are many. All are in my mind. I have not put them on paper. But I wanted to do a small budget film in my immediate next venture. The film to be made with a small hero would be done either in both Tamil and Telugu languages or exclusively in Telugu. I will reveal the details soon. But one thing I can tell you is that the film would begin in next February.
Why you are taking so much long gap between two films?
As I told you, my stamina is very less. I thought of doing one film for every two years. I love cinema very much. I don't have any habits. As cinema is everything for me, I will come to sets with a perfect script and hence such a long gap.
Chiranjeevi is basically a commercial hero, but how you dealt with him with a message-oriented subject?
That you have to watch on the silver screen. Though the film is basically a message-oriented film, it will stand as a big commercial hit in a huge range. It is the biggest commercial film that came never before on the Telugu silver screen.
Tell us about your feelings on Chiranjeevi's fans?
I saw many heroes in many films and also the fans who adore those film stars. But for the first time I saw a real hero and real fans in Andhra Pradesh. Especially those fans are Chiranjeevi's fans. Thousands of fans are get inspiration from their hero and coming voluntarily to donate eyes, blood is not a simple thing. It belongs to Chiranjeevi and his fans alone. Though they are not brothers are father and son. They don't have any blood relation. But, they have a mere filmy relationship. Despite that those fans are coming forward and donating their eyes and blood is not an ordinary thing. Moreover, they are celebrating their favourite hero's birthday like a festival and taking up several welfare activities on that day. Coming a step forward to give a helping hand to the HIV positive victims is also a rarest thing. Chiranjeevi's fans gave a new definition to the word 'fans' and Chiranjeevi is a real noble personality.