“RRR” director S.S. Rajamouli says the sequel to his blockbuster action hit is well underway. The filmmaker tells Variety that his father and screenwriter Vijayendra Prasad is “seriously working on the story,” with his revolutionary heroes set to return for another epic battle with the colonizing Brits.
Rajamouli assures a sequel wasn’t initially on the cards, but has become more of a prospect as the film has found international success.
“When we were making it, we didn’t have an idea about [a sequel],” he says. “With the initial success of it, we discussed a little bit and threw out some good ideas, but we didn’t feel there was a great idea that was worth pursuing, so we left it at that.
“Then, after the international success, when the topic came up again, my cousin [M. M. Keeravani] — who is also a part of my core team — gave an idea which we felt like, ‘Oh my God, this is a great idea. This is the idea that is worth pursuing.’”
The director says he asked his father — who narrates the story to Rajamouli and others, who then write up the first draft — to “immediately sit on it and expand the idea.”
“At present, he’s seriously working on the story; he’s getting it done,” says Rajamouli. “But once this script is done is when we really look into how to make it, when to make it, and how to bring it onto the screen.”
Shot over 320 days, “RRR” is Rajamouli’s most expensive film to date, and indeed, one of the priciest Indian films ever made, with an estimated budget of $66 million.
While specific details about the sequel are under lock and key, the director confirms that his two heroes, Bheem (NTR Jr.) and Raju (Ram Charan Teja), will be returning, and the British colonial villains will once again play a major role in the story.
Rajamouli notes the film is being campaigned this awards season across a number of categories, but has high hopes for original song and score. And indeed, the three-hour action-musical epic earned two Golden Globe nominations last week, for original song for the track “Naatu Naatu” as well as best non-English language film.
Rajamouli was also awarded best director by the New York Film Critics Circle.
The helmer, who spoke to Variety prior to the Golden Globe nominations and his New York Critics Circle win, says it “feels good” to be recognized, but more so for the Telugu film industry to be in the spotlight on such a vast, global scale.
“It feels good when you’re recognized not just under the umbrella of Bollywood, [but when] people start to recognize you by your own language film. That obviously feels great,” says Rajamouli, who adds that his other historical epic, “Bahubali,” was among a host of films that have helped to break down the north-south divide in India’s film industries.
“People in India weren’t aware that there’s a Telugu industry, a Tamil industry, a Kannada industry. And then the film started travelling across the borders, and travelling into the West. They started realizing, ‘Oh, it’s not just the song and dance of Bollywood. There is something else here. There are great action sequences and great stories that are coming from the south of India!’”
For anyone trying to watch “RRR” on Netflix, however, which is likely where many around the world will access the film, it’s only available to date in Hindi. This is due to a carving up of rights when the film was first sold.
“I essentially shoot in Telugu and we dub into other languages, such as Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada and Hindi — and Hindi is big,” explains Rajamouli. “We have a big Hindi market for for my films, at least for ‘RRR,’ so I guess when the rights were up for sale, maybe Netflix had only allocated budget so they could spend only so much on one particular film.”
The rights, he says, were “not cheap” and it’s likely Netflix could only select one, and ultimately went for Hindi. The Telugu streaming rights, meanwhile, were acquired by ZEE5.
“Many comments started pouring in that, ‘Oh, this film is good, but it is not the original language.’ I wish it was in the original language when I see many comments on social media, and yeah, it feels like maybe all the languages should have been available on Netflix,” says Rajamouli.
Nevertheless, even with solely the Hindi version, “RRR” remained on Netflix’s top 10 for 14 consecutive weeks. “People loved it — even in Hindi,” says Rajamouli.