Critically-acclaimed Tamil film, ‘Jigarthanda’, directed by Karthik Subbaraj, that fetched a national award for actor Bobby Simha and editor Vivek Harshan has been remade in Telugu.
Titled ‘Valmiki’, this gangster tale is directed by Harish Shankar, known for commercial hit films such as ‘Gabbar Singh’, ‘Ramayya Vasthavayya’ and ‘Duvvada Jagannadham.’
What makes ‘Valmiki’ a much-awaited film is the makeover of romantic hero Varun Tej. Tej reprises Bobby Simha’s role from the original. He is Gadalakonda Ganesh, a gangster. Tamil actor Atharvaa plays an aspiring filmmaker who documents the life of the gangster.
“I was completely onto another script,” said Shankar. “Like it is said, you can’t choose a film, the film chooses you. ‘Valmiki’ chose me.”
It happened when he saw the poster of Karthik Subbaraj’s last film, ‘Petta’.
“The name struck a bell and ‘Jigarthanda came to my mind,” said Shankar.
“I was drawn to ‘Jigarthanda’ the first time itself and contemplated about remaking it in Telugu. After a second watch, I decided to go ahead. And, why not make the gangster the pivotal character? Moreover, I felt it would be interesting if a popular hero played this role,” he said.
Shankar wrote the screenplay making changes to suit the culture of the Telugu audience. When he met Tej with his script, the star was keen on the new experiment despite friends asking him to rethink about playing a character with negative shades.
“I like taking experiments, though this is not like my earlier films, ‘Antariksham’ and ‘Kanche’,” added Varun Tej.
“We are used to seeing films narrated from the hero’s perspective. Valmiki is different and a good watch, because it is told from the bad guy’s side. Primarily what motivates me to pick a film is the content and the character I have to play. In ‘Valmiki’, I found both.”
Tej grew his hair and beard, also gained weight. With a scar on his face and kohl lined eyes, Gadalakonda Ganesh was ready.
Before shooting, Tej and director Shankar had workshops for around eight to 10 hours a day.
“We discussed on my body language and how to express various feelings. We did not want Varun Tej to be visible on screen but Gadalakonda Ganesh,” added Tej.
While ‘Valmiki’ is centred around Gadalakonda Ganesh, it’s the content that speaks about the role of cinema, added Shankar. “Cinema is the hero here and how cinema transformed this gangster.”
Shankar reveals that there is a scene in the film where the gangster says-‘Until now I presumed that cinema will bring money and fame but did not know that cinema will give so much love that I can’t hold in my heart. People whom I don’t know are showering me with love.’
Praising Tej, Shankar said that the actor did not sign any other film for eight months.
“With mass dialogues spoken in Telangana slang, Tej has done a brilliant job.”
About casting Atharvaa, Shankar said that he wanted a fresh face and a performer too. “Telugu heroes carry an image from their earlier films. I am glad I went for Atharvaa.”
Pooja Hegde plays the heroine. However Shankar is mum about her role. Mickey J Meyer has composed music. Cinematography is by Ayananka Bose.
“I have immense respect for Karthik Subbaraj and I am his biggest fan. I have shot many scenes exactly the way he made it, but ‘Valmiki’ is not a scene by scene remake of ‘Jigarthanda,” added Shankar.
‘Valmiki’ produced by Ram and Gopichand Achanta releases in UAE on September 19.