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'Balagam' is a natural film whose economics were planned thoroughly: Dil Raju

Saturday, March 4, 2023 • Telugu Comments
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'Balagam' has been produced by Dil Raju Productions. In this interview, Dil Raju throws light on its making, the reception, and more.

Starring Priyadarshi, Sudhakar Reddy, Kavya Kalyanram and others, the film is directed by Venu Yeldandi aka Venu Tillu. the banner is going to make another film with Venu - this time on a bigger scale. Dil Raju is convinced that the new banner has to make certain kinds of films that platform newer talents.

Why did you set up Dil Raju Productions?

Dil Raju Productions comes with a certain context. Hanshitha (daughter) and Harshith (nephew) are producing movies under the banner. My access to newcomers and relatively fresh talents has been cut off due to the pace of my career. We have hit the restart button by launching the new banner. That's how our 'Balagam' and 'ATM' (ZEE5 web series) happened. Another film, headlined by a dance choreographer, is also in the making. It is experimental in nature.

What kind of planning went into planning the economics of 'Balagam'?

When the project was begun, I mentally prepared my daughter that the patronage for some films had fallen after the pandemic. The theatrical release itself is an experiment, especially because the budget went up. Due to delays, the budget increased by about one-fourth of the planned amount.

Theatrical revenues of 'Balagam' has to be viewed as fruits of our planning. Critics' reviews are completely genuine. I derive more pleasure when a small film becomes a hit. Small films don't go overboard in terms of costs.

'Balagam' opened with about 30% occupancy on Day One. By evening, the occupancy rose to 80%. Had it not been for Dil Raju Productions, even those openings wouldn't have come about.

What made you choose comedian Venu to helm the project?

It was a distributor from AP who first listened to the story. He recommended that I listen to Venu's narration. I deputed the work to Hanshitha and Harshith. Once they liked the story, I stepped in.

I come from Telangana. My maternal aunt used to stay with us. When my wife Anitha passed away (in 2017), I witnessed some death rituals. Venu's narration felt completely rooted. I prodded him not to commercialize the script. I encouraged him to keep things simple and slice-of-life.

Did you imagine this kind of response, especially given that it is a small-scale movie with an artsy feel?

That the film would be good was never in doubt. How to make the maximum number of people watch it? That was the question. Small films are not taken seriously. Even the audience view them with a carefree attitude unless it is a wonderful movie. It was tempting to release 'Balagam' directly on OTT. But we are not after just money. So much love went into making the film. We strategized the promotions by opting for early screenings.

The film avoids melodrama for the most part. Was it all conscious?

'Balagam' is set in the backdrop of a death. There is no hullabaloo or drama around it. The death reveal is done in the presence of the male lead (Priyadarshi). The mood is different when the hero is around. When the daughter comes home to see her father's mortal remains, she wails. Suddenly, people around her realize what death actually means.

The behaviour and appearance of the artists is not at all cinematic. How were the artists selected for 'Balagam'?

Director Venu had some portraits in mind. The artists were auditioned and selected as part of an elaborate homework.

How was the response from distributors for the pre-release screening?

It was awesome. The story is set in Telangana and even the language is true-blue Telangana. Distributors from Andhra Pradesh told me emotions will definitely impress the audience. By then, some reviews were out. 'Balagam' might work more in Telangana but everyone is finding it relatable.

What do money and awards mean to you when you do films like 'Balagam'?

When 'Dil' (2003) became a hit, I saved just about Rs 80 lakh. But that hit will always remain special to me. 'Balagam' hasn't been made with the consideration of awards and rewards in mind. It was unexpected that 'Maharshi' won a National Award. It was unexpected that a small film like 'Shatamanam Bhavati' won a Nandi Award. My only aim is to make good films and maximize their reach.

Positive reviews for small films give a push. They don't make much of a difference for biggies, though. If a star hero endorses a small movie digitally, it helps a lot. People will tend to talk about the movie.

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