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Allu Arjun, one of the most popular stars of South Indian cinema, has started principal photography on action drama “Pushpa.”

The project was delayed by several months due to the spread of the coronavirus pandemic and finally started shooting in the thick forest of Maredumilli in Andhra Pradesh on Nov. 10.

The film revolves around the smuggling of red sandalwood, a rare, protected species of timber, also known as red sanders, that grows only in a small part of India, and has medicinal properties.

Arjun is one of the few stars who has a fan following across the four South Indian language groups, as does his co-star Rashmika Mandanna (“Kirik Party”). Arjun’s last film, January release “Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo,” was a $35 million box office hit.

“I was very excited after hearing about the character because it’s a first-of-its-kind film,” Arjun told Variety. “No film has been made on red sandal smuggling as yet. It has a very unique and international appeal which is set in a very rooted story.”

“Amid the pandemic, we’re taking all the precautions to shoot this film with the utmost care,” Arjun added. “While we’re striving for the quality of the film, we’re also observing the health and security measures.”

The film is directed by Sukumar Bandreddi (“Rangasthalam,” “Nannaku Prematho”). “Pushpa” will be released in 2021 in the Telugu, Tamil, Hindi, Malayalam and Kannada languages.

The pandemic has also created a massive audience for streaming content as Indian cinemas remained shut for seven months and are now slowly reopening. The producers, Mythri Movie Makers, responsible for $30 million 2018 hit “Rangasthalam,” are cognizant of the new paradigm.

“As producers, we see the massive change in the mindset and the collective consciousness of people with the power of streaming being in its full might. Theaters now have quite a bit of catching up to do,” producers Naveen Yerneni and Y Ravi Shankar of Mythri told Variety. “We’re molding the production of ‘Pushpa,’ keeping the changing standards in mind to make the film consumable and entertaining for all kinds of viewers.”

“While we curate this experience for the audience, as producers we’re dedicated to shooting the film with the requisite precautions and adherence to safety guidelines,” the producers added.

“The red sanders heist in the hills of Andhra is a convoluted nexus that unfurls in the course of the narrative through a coolie-turned-smuggler,” Bandreddi told Variety. “It is an engaging and gripping story about the lives of those interwoven with the illegal trade. It’s a powerful, authentic and compelling story with fascinating characters that will keep viewers on the edge of their seats. With the large canvas offered by the producers, we’re excited to create a unique cinematic experience with the story of an unusual heist.”