Director Harish Shankar believes that the opportunity to work with Allu Arjun is the realisation of a 13-year-old dream. “I’ve been wanting to work with Bunny from the time I watched Arya. As they say, when you wish for something with all your heart, the universe conspires to give it to you,” says Harish, who is gung ho about the prospects of Duvvada Jagannadham produced by Dil Raju under Sri Venkateswara Creations, which is set for a massive release on June 23. Excerpts from a conversation.
The title, Duvvada Jagannadham has a traditional Telugu ring to it…
Yes. Nowadays, protagonists in Tollywood have very cosmopolitan names. But I’m a big fan of characters like Diwakaram from Vamsi sir’s films like April Okati Vidhudala etc., which have a lot of nativity. I first decided on Jagannadham and Duvvada came next. The day the title was announced, we got a thundering response from everyone.
Allu Arjun shed his Stylish Star image and transformed into a simple brahmin boy for this film. Did he have to struggle a lot?
Oh yes! Bunny worked very hard to get into the skin of the protagonist, Duvvada Jagannadham. He underwent special training to get his diction right and even abstained from non-vegetarian food while preparing for the role. We wanted to ensure that the look and feel of film is top quality. So we roped in Bollywood stylist Subarna Ray Chaudhuri who worked in Salman Khan’s Bajrangi Bhaijaan and cinematographer Ayanaka Bose who worked in films like Kaabil, Kick and Dhishoom. His dedication is awe inspiring. That is why, I think most directors want to work with him. Bunny’s performance is going to be a treat for the audience.
When the controversy over the usage of the phrase ‘Namakam Chamakam’ in the song, Gudilo Badilo Madilo… broke out, you strongly defended that there was nothing derogatory about it. Dil Raju announced that the lines were changed a couple of days later…
When the controversy first broke out, we consulted experts and got them to listen to the song. And they said there was a possibility, albeit a remote one, of the lyrics being misinterpreted. So we had fresh lyrics written. What pains me most is to hear people complain that the lyrics are still not been changed. The original song must have been downloaded many times before we changed it and that could be the reason.
And, when shooting in Belur, a complaint was filed against the filmmakers for installing a Shiva statue in a Vaishnava temple….
I honestly found that charge absurd. Our religion tells us that Vishnu is Shiva and vice-versa. We had taken all necessary permissions for the shooting in Karnataka. But some mischief-mongers turned up at the location and started clicking pictures. When we prevented them from doing so, they took offence and tried to stir trouble this way. They still leaked Allu Arjun’s picture online prior to the official release.
A lot of people say the film has benefited from the controversy…
With a top star like Allu Arjun and a top producer like Dil Raju, do you honestly think our film needs a controversy to get noticed?