Indian star Nandamuri Taraka Rama Rao Jr., popularly known as NTR Jr, is elated with the success of S.S. Rajamouli’s “RRR.”
An action-drama set in the 1920s, the historical fiction story by Vijayendra Prasad and Rajamouli makes real-life Indian freedom fighters Alluri Sitarama Raju (played by Ram Charan) and Komaram Bheem (NTR Jr) meet and become fast friends. The occupying colonial British are their common enemy.
The film opened March 25 with $65 million, making it the leading film globally that weekend. Gross revenues have now crossed $105 million.
“I was very clear about what the result is going to be. But, being the number one film in the world, I don’t think we expected all this,” NTR Jr told Variety. “But these are all added bonuses, and I’m elated to be a part of this franchise.”
An “RRR” sequel is not beyond the realm of possibility as writer Vijayendra Prasad has recently revealed to the Indian press. “I’ve used the word franchise thinking, hoping that there would be another world of ‘RRR’ again,” said NTR Jr. “Sometimes you just hope and you say a few words hoping it would happen, it will happen. It’s just a way of positive thinking, wanting for more.”
To prepare for their roles, Rajamouli workshopped the cast, which for the leads involved a detailed questionnaire breaking down their roles. “He’s not very well read, he’s not very well prepared to fit into the society of humans, he is very strong in the forest,” NTr Jr says of his character, the forest-dweller Bheem. “But how does he fit in with these humans? So these were the details which we worked on the questionnaire, how does he eat? How does he emote? How does he laugh? How does he smile? How does he cry?”
This was the first time in his 29-film career, spanning more than 20 years, that the actor had experienced a workshop. “When a workshop like this happens, unknowingly, subconsciously, you have all these embedded into the system of an actor. So, when that scene comes, he is very well prepared because he’s [already] answered these questions. Not only does it make the job of a director easy, but it also lets the actor explore, enhance his acting abilities on screen.”
NTR Jr provides the example of a pivotal scene midway through the film where, thanks to the workshop process, he came up with the idea of an agonized scream, which was not in the script. Rajamouli was taken with the idea and the scream was incorporated.
Coming off his previous film “Aravindha Sametha” (2018), where he was lean, the actor also had to achieve a natural-looking muscle mass befitting a strong man from the forest and for this he had to consume 3,000 calories a day and work with trainer Lloyd Stephens. “In order to maintain that muscle mass and not put on a lot of fat was really tough, and it really took a toll on me as a person,” said NTR Jr.
The Indian cinema tradition of multi-starrer or two-hero films gradually gave way to solo hero projects and one of the big takeaways from “RRR” for NTR Jr is seeing “the long lost glory of two stars coming together, which somewhere just vanished.”
“Today, hopefully, watching ‘RRR,’ filmmakers are going to come up with concepts where two stars can be a part of a film,” says NRT Jr. “Rather than competing on the level of fans, you can complement each other, that’s exactly what Rajamouli has showcased in ‘RRR’.”
Next up for NTR Jr is a project identified currently as “NTR 30,” to be directed by Koratala Siva, whose “Acharya,” starring Chiranjeevi and Ram Charan is due an Apr. 29 release. “It’s going to be loaded with drama, because I believe in a lot of drama, drama sells a lot,” said NTR Jr about the project. “Drama is what unites audiences beyond linguistic basis, so it’s going to be high on drama for sure. And, of course, what all the fans want – they want their hero to have a lot of heroism. You’re going to have everything, what the fans want and what the audience expects post ‘RRR’.”
After “NTR30,” which begins shooting in June, will be “NTR31,” to be directed by Prashant Neel, who had a massive hit with “K.G.F: Chapter 1” (2018). “K.G.F: Chapter 2” will release Apr. 14, after which Neel will focus on “Salaar,” with “Baahubali” star Prabhas in the lead. “NTR31” will commence after that.
“Expectations are definitely going to be there, but I think we want to work with a lot of fear, because I feel that fear is something which is very good. If you learn to respect fear, it tends to make you give a perfect product,” said NTR Jr. “It’s going to be an amazing project to work on.”