Not many changes made to Jigarthanda's story: Harish Shankar

Monday, September 16, 2019 - 17:00

Director Harish Shankar is looking at a box-office hit more than two years after the release of Allu Arjun's 'Duvvada Jagannadham'. 'Valmiki' releases on September 20. A remake of ‘Jigarthanda’ (Tamil), it has Varun Tej, Atharvaa Murali, Pooja Hegde and Mrinalini Ravi as key actors. In this interview, catch the director talk about the movie, what made him go for a remake and more.

How did the project fall into place?

I was trying to rope in Varun Tej for a film titled 'Daagudumoothalu'. During one of the interactions with him, he asked me why I want to work with him. I told him that I want to show him in a new way after films like 'Toli Prema' and 'Fidaa'. He too showed interest in being portrayed in a new light in my film. Around that time, the First Look of 'Petta' released. I like the works of its director, Karthik Subbaraj. It was then that I happened to watch his 'Jigarthanda' (Tamil) and liked it. That's when I decided to remake it in Telugu.

What kind of changes have you made to the original?

When I remade 'Dabbang' as 'Gabbar Singh', I had to make a lot of changes. But this time, I haven't made too many changes. 'Jigarthanda' is a beautiful script already. So, I have only made nativity-related changes. Coming to Varun Tej's character, I have moulded it keeping his image and style in mind. Bobby Simha's character in the original is something else.

There have been complaints about the title. What is the title justification?

Maharshi Valmiki is the epitome of what a changed man can do. He has inspired generations of mankind. The change in the mindset of Varun's character in 'Valmiki' is one of the key highlights. That's why the film has been named after Valmiki.

Pooja Hegde has done a short role in the movie. What is her character like?

She comes in the second half and is very important to the story. We have planned her character to give an element of surprise to the audience. That's why we haven't revealed much about her.  

What made you go in for the remix of 'Velluvochi Godaramma'?

The song is as per the demand of the story and the characters played by Pooja and Varun. It's not there for commercial reasons. If I wanted to play to the gallery, I would have chosen to remix a blockbuster song of Megastar Chiranjeevi garu or Pawan Kalyan garu. There are four songs in the movie. Action episodes are few and far between. Despite this, the run-time is the longest in my career. It's because the film is purely content-driven.

What kind of care did you take to design Varun's character?

Long before Varun debuted in movies, Naga Babu garu happened to send me his pics. He used to be more or less what he is like in 'Valmiki'. His look has stayed with me over the years. I asked him to grow a beard and he did.

What made you go for Atharvaa Murali?

I did audition a few Telugu actors for the role. But I wanted to cast someone who looks the part, someone who is believable as an aspiring filmmaker. At the same time, he has to be a performer. Atharvaa meets the criteria.

Was it a tough call to choose Mickey J Meyer for the mass movie?

I had done 'Subrahmanyam for Sale' with him before. I was not totally happy back then because I didn't get to spend much time with him. I felt that he would give much better output if we spend more time together. Micky has done a great job in 'Valmiki'.

How was it working with 14 Reels Plus?

I have known Ram Achanta garu and Gopi Achanta garu even before they produced 'Namo Venkatesa'. They are very passionate producers. I am happy that the banner has been launched with my film.

Have remakes become your comfort zone?

This is my first remake since 'Gabbar Singh' in 2012. For that matter, all films are remakes in one or the other sense. A film is inspired by a novel, a book, a person, etc. When so many things can inspire a movie, why can't a movie inspire another? As a lover of cinema, I am all for remakes.

What about the rumour that you might do a film with Pawan Kalyan?

I hope everyone, especially fans, strongly wish for it. Maybe, it will be materialized because of the wish. I am eagerly waiting for the day when I can wield the megaphone for his movie. I happened to meet him a week back but we didn't discuss cinema at all. He has appreciated the trailer of 'Valmiki'.

Do you have plans to produce movies?

I have. I want to produce content-oriented movies. Since I am always busy with writing and direction, I can't produce a movie on my own. I will team up with Krishna of 'Jawaan' fame, Mahesh Koneru and a few other friends.

What is your next project?

Two-three projects are in the pipeline. I will talk about them once 'Valmiki' releases.