'Thank You' is heading to theatres on July 22. In this interview, Naga Chaitanya talks about his character in the movie at lengh.
He also talks about his Telugu-Tamil bilingual with director Venkat Prabhu, 'Dhootha', and the need to be in tune with the rapidly changing audience's tastes.
If I am looking leaner than before, it is because I had shed before shooting for 'Laal Singh Chadhha' (Hindi) because I am playing a 25-year-old youngster in the movie. 'Love Story', 'Thank You' and 'Dhootha' were okayed before the pandemic. 'LSC' came my way during the pandemic.
Director Vikram is a perfectionist observing whom you can learn a great deal. Doing 'Thank You' was a physically and mentally exhausting experience. Scripts of this sort are rare to come by. I won't be able to play a 16-year-old guy three or four years from now. I will be too old by then. So, I approached 'Thank You' thinking this is my last chance to play a teenager.
The entire story of 'Thank You' is narrated through the eyes of Abhiram, my name in the film. It's his journey and his story. His teen, young and middle-aged phase are narrated in three different segments. Usually, there is a brief flashback in a film and it's not explored in detail. This film goes in-depth. 'Thank You' is not a love story. It touches upon other aspects of a man's journey through decades.
The story was written by writer BVS Ravi. I and Dil Raju garu had been wanting to reunite for 12 years. A lot of things have to fall in place for a project to be made. In this case, it happened because Ravi's story inspired me, the producer as well as the director.
As a person, I am a man of very few words. Before 'Thank You' happened to me, I was not that expressive. I have changed as a person after doing this film. I am now more expressive in front of my friends and parents. I feel closer to them than before.
More than anything, 'Thank You' is an enjoyable film. We thank people for small things but not for big favours that they do. Out of respect, we feel too shy to thank our parents. This film relays the importance of thanking people for substantive reasons.
70% of the story takes place abroad. The scene shifts to India in the flashbacks. The pre-climax phase is once again set in the backdrop of a foreign country.
Director Vikram's stories seem simple on paper but they are not. They are layered dramas, be it 'Manam' or '24'. I like the magical element in his movies. He breaks logic to entertain the audience.
Raashi Khanna's character triggers an inward journey in Abhiram. The story is sparked by her. I have played Mahesh Babu's fan in the movie. Avika Gor is more like a sister character. 'Okkadu' and 'Pokiri', among other movies, have been referenced in the movie to highlight the shifting timeline.
The songs in 'Thank You' are situational. There are no song-and-dance interludes. Like in 'Ye Maya Chesave', they are driven by the specific flavour of the story.
I workshopped for the character. I had three months of time to do my homework. It helped that I am fitness-oriented.
On 'LSC' and other upcoming projects:
I am glad that Chiranjeevi garu is presenting 'Laal Singh Chadhha' in Telugu. The screening recently was a private one attended by SS Rajamouli and Aamir Khan, too. It's a dream come true to get to work with someone like Aamir Khan. I got to know the process. I went with the motive of learning something from talented persons like him. I didn't mind the screentime that I get. I have played Aamir Khan's friend in the movie.
Let 'LSC' release in theatres. I will see how the reception is among the Hindi audience and think about doing Bollywood movies later.
I have got no heroine in 'Dhootha' (web series, Amazon Prime Video). It will be completed by August. After quality controls and other works, Prime will relase it in the first quarter of next year.
The audience have always encouraged me to do love stories/emotional subjects. 'Bangarraju' was an out-and-out commercial fantasy entertainer. I had my doubts as to whether the audience will embrace me in that milieu. It was fun working with my father. Moreover, it was a sequel.
I and Akhil do discuss our movies. He is looking good in an action-driven role in 'Agent'. The genre suits him! He is 7-8 years younger than me and his thinking is different from mine. It's like his generation thinks on different lines!
My film with director Venkat Prabhu is a mass commercial film that suits my image. It's a Telugu-Tamil bilingual that is both sensible and intelligent while being massy. I am a cop in it. Every actor has his own style and texture. I am breaking with the mold with this project. I and Venkat started brainstorming over remaking 'Maanadu' (Tamil) in Telugu. But we faced issues with rights. Rana Daggubati is doing the remake now.
I recently met director Parasuram Petla. The project is very much on. We will be meeting again in 10 days. The script/title hasn't been locked as yet.
Keep the costs in mind!
Production costs need to come down in the industry. The remuneration structure has to change. Maybe, actors have to postpone taking remuneration and work out agreements depending on realizations. Estimations have to be made about theatrical and non-theatrical revenues and fees charged. It has to be a case-by-case basis. Streaming giants are offering year-long content at Rs 1000. A theatrical outing for a family takes more than that! We can't change the audience's mindset. It's content creators and actors who have to tune to the changing realities. A discussion is going on in the film industry to see if films can be mandated to be released on OTT only 50 days after the theatrical release.
My mindset has changed after the pandemic. The audience's expectations are very high these days. In order to bring them to the theatre, the teaser, trailer and the songs have to be most exciting. The audience are in a happy space watching movies on OTT at home. If there is X factor in a movie, audiences will flock to theatres. Take the example of 'Vikram'. We need to tempt them with the trailer.