Living the dream
Within minutes of its release recently, the teaser of ‘Chi La Sow’, featuring Sushanth and newbie Ruhani Sharma, went viral, with celebs like Nani, Samantha and Sai Dharam Tej too joining the bandwagon like “aam janta” and going gaga over it. Admittedly, actor-turned-director Rahul Ravindran is elated as he wasn’t prepared for this “kind of overwhelming response”.
Within minutes of its release recently, the teaser of ‘Chi La Sow’, featuring Sushanth and newbie Ruhani Sharma, went viral, with celebs like Nani, Samantha and Sai Dharam Tej too joining the bandwagon like “aam janta” and going gaga over it. Admittedly, actor-turned-director Rahul Ravindran is elated as he wasn’t prepared for this “kind of overwhelming response”. “More than anything, it was a lot of relief. Some celebs raved about it even without us asking them to watch it in the first place. The icing on the cake was the memes that were created on a particular dialogue from the teaser,” Rahul beams.
In the Telugu industry for the past six years, Rahul admits acting happened by accident and that it was direction, his ultimate goal. As early as in Class VII, he realised that all he wanted to be in life was either an athlete or a filmmaker. In the process, he tried his hands at several sports but never took anyone sport seriously to make a career out of it. And cinema being his other love, it was but natural to get into movies. “My earliest memory of loving the medium was being mesmerised by Mani Ratnam’s ‘Nayakan’.
I was 12 back then and I watched it on TV– six years post its theatrical release. It was so different from all the movies that were getting made at that time. And since then, there’s been this bug inside me biting and constantly reminding me that I should be a storyteller one day. But as I didn’t have any filmy connection, I decided to complete my education and get a certain work experience so that a) I can save a little money and not go back to my dad who didn’t allow me to take education loan and b) if cinema doesn’t work out, at least I can have a cushion to fall back upon.
I finished my education and was employed with Radio City, Mumbai as an assistant branch manager for 18 months. I saved enough money to take a year off and try my luck at the movies. Initially, I was trying to become an assistant director but an ad commercial happened. Films followed soon after. Since acting gave me the opportunity of learning filmmaking from close quarters and make some good money, I decided why not give it a shot. I’m 11 films old now as an actor and thought it was high time that I donned the director’s hat,” Rahul shares.
‘Chi La Sow’ was not the original title that Rahul, a big fan of contemporary masters like Michael Haneke, Pedro Almodóvar, Darren Aronofsky and Mani Ratnam, had in mind. He wanted it to be ‘Chiranjeevi Arjun’ but as ‘Arjun Reddy’ released around the same time that he and his team just got started with pre-production and went on to be the massive success that it eventually was, he didn’t want Arjun in the title, fearing that he’d come across like a wannabe.
“I also had another title but wasn’t fully convinced with it. I started discussing the new title with the team and they were bouncing ideas off each other, though we couldn’t zero in on one. Days after, I met Vennela Kishore, my best friend, who suggested why not ‘Chi La Sow’. I found it very cool and the team too endorsed it straightway.”
Didn’t he tell the film’s story in the teaser itself? Begging to differ, he comments, “Not really, that was just a tip of the iceberg; it’s not what the film is all about. The idea is a decade old and is inspired by an incident which happened in my friend’s life. He had an arranged marriage. The film is what if it didn’t happen that way. Yes, the basic line is about a guy who doesn’t wish to get married but faces pressure from all ends. It is not complete story as such. It’s partly autobiographical too, as some of the dialogues are straight out of my life.”
Sushanth has been treading a commercial path ever since he made his debut with ‘Kalidasu’, a decade back, but with little success. Rahul admits that the ‘Adda’ actor was not his first choice as he hasn’t seen any of his films, pointing out that it was only after the actor let him know that he was looking to do something he can relate to, did he seriously consider him in his debut. “I wanted a guy who can convincingly look like a man-child as well as a mature man.
I had another actor in mind but was sure that he wouldn’t do it because of his image, so I started to search for other options. I did meet Sushanth multiple times at parties and know how he is as a person but when he, at the engagement of Naga Chaitanya-Samantha, confided in me, ‘I have done a bunch of films because people said they would be right for my career but personally I’d like to associate with a film that I can relate to and that it should be something that I’ve not done before’.
Till then, his name never crossed my mind but after the conversation, somewhere at the back of my mind, I felt that he looks the part physically. I rang him a couple of days later and told him that I have a script for him. He was surprised to hear about my direction ambitions at the outset but asked me to come over and narrate the script. I pitched him the script that I wanted to debut with; he did like it but said he was looking at a love story, which is when I narrated the first 10-minutes of ‘Chi La Sow’. He got very animated but as I didn’t have the energy to give another two-hour narration, I met him two days later and told him the complete script. Within 30 seconds, he said he’s doing it.”