Ram Charan
Ram Charan Image Credit: Supplied

Telugu superstar Ram Charan, whose latest period saga ‘RRR’ is still eviscerating the box office globally, claims he has never felt this “content” as an actor in his 14-year-old artistic career.

Director SS Rajamouli’s ‘RRR’, set in 1920s colonial India, sees two of South Indian superstar Jr NTR and Charan becoming thick friends only to realise that they belong to enemy camps. Charan plays Ram, a macho and fierce police officer who’s seemingly keen to get his white boss’ validation and promotion. ‘RRR’ is poised to become the biggest hit of his career.

“I am content and I am satisfied to know that all our hard work put in by the entire team has paid off. It’s a giant driving force when we get a hit on our hands,” said Charan in an interview with Gulf News.

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Ram Charan. Image Credit: Supplied

Charan is one of Telugu cinemas’s most bankable and box office friendly stars, but he doesn’t carry the weight of expectations on him.

“I don’t have a profound or a fixed process when it comes to acting … As an actor, I am fluid and that works for me,” said Charan, adding that he loves to take the shape of how his director envisages him. And his biggest dream? To make movies that are territory-agnostic.

“‘RRR’ shows that it’s the beginning of the era where borders don’t matter,” said Charan.

He’s now gearing up for the release of ‘Acharya’ on April 28, an action drama thriller that sees him unite with his acting legend father Chiranjeevi. Excerpts from our interview with Charan on his latest blockbuster, his intense physical transformation, and more:

How are you enjoying the success of ‘RRR’?

I am just digesting the whole thing. With the pandemic dominating our lives for the last [few] years, it was all very volatile. But slowly, it’s just sinking in now. It has been more than two weeks since its release and I am just understanding the whole extent of the film’s success now. It’s heartwarming and I am humbled about it.

Did your role in ‘RRR’ — where you are strong yet vulnerable — give you a sense of validation as an actor?

This is one of the best roles that I have done in my 14-year-old career. It’s quite inspiring and very rare. Two years ago, my role in ‘Rangasthalam’ was equally satisfying. But this was a challenging film with three variations, three physical transformations … It was very satisfying as a person. I feel immense gratitude towards my directors.

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Ram Charan, SS Rajamouli and NT Rama Rao Jr. Image Credit: ANI

Do you feel like you have crossed borders and amassed a Pan-India audience after ‘RRR’?

Exactly, this is what director Rajamouli did with ‘Baahubali’ and knowing that I was a part of his journey for another film as one of his actors makes me feel incredibly lucky. Recently, I was in one of the oldest and most iconic theatres in Bombay [Mumbai] and I received immense appreciation there. It was my first time receiving such incredible love. More than the box office numbers, connecting with people on the ground level and hearing them cheer for our film made me immensely happy. It was so satisfying.

You were mobbed in Mumbai, and that’s something I expected from your fans down South …

I felt love that transcended and crossed all borders. It’s a great responsibility and a burden. Their love made me keenly aware of this sense of responsibility to choose directors and films that strengthen their belief in us. It’s a good burden to bear.

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Ram Charan in 'RRR'. Image Credit: Supplied

You did the heavy lifting in ‘RRR’ and NTR Jr played the perfect foil … Many felt that you did the larger chunk of lifting, do you agree?

I truly believe that when Rajamouli makes a multi-starrer, he has done justice to every one of us. I have been hearing this a lot [that he has done the major work in the film], and I feel very awkward when I hear it. In fact, when I saw the movie I felt there was justice done to both characters. But sometimes, an audience reactions isn’t factored and swings here and there. Sometimes, that isn’t considered. And sometimes we declare that such and such movie will make Rs100 or 200 crores, but it goes to make Rs300 crores. This indicates that audiences sometimes love certain characters, but I truly believe the director had no such thoughts in his mind when he designed his multi-starrer. Both our characters supported each other beautifully. And we as actors supported each other beautifully.

Yes, you could detect that sense of close bond and camaraderie in the film too…

Yes, friends quarrel and they patch up and we are no different.

Rajamouli described you as talent who surprised him with his acting range and prowess, while NTR Jr as someone with a photographic memory whom he knew like the back of his hand … Your thoughts.

They have worked together in more projects, and I have just worked with him in one film before. But as actors, everybody is evolving constantly including me. It’s nice that directors like Rajamouli recognised that and as actors you have to be equipped to deal with anything that’s thrown at you. You have to perform no matter what. He’s there to make sure you do well, but if we understand his vision, it’s the proverbial icing on the cake. And it gives me great pleasure to know that he has acknowledged it in public and I am eternally grateful to him.

Ram Charan in RRR-1585720907228

Tell us about your physical transformation for this film … In the second half where you are jailed, you looked remarkably leaner and emaciated …

A: We worked on it hard and sometimes it goes unnoticed. But it was a conscious effort and that’s why he’s [Rajamouli] is called a master filmmaker. Every detail that you see is complementing the main plot. Every detail that you see was worked on. The lean look was difficult to achieve, but we were given enough time. What I love about Rajamouli is that he doesn’t want his actors to look lean or bulky in 10 days. He gives you times because he understands the process required in transformation of a body. But I don’t see it as a burden or a cause for stress. As actors, we wish that directors would ask us to transform and design roles that require it. I look at it as an opportunity to showcase us in different forms. Mentally and physically, we love challenges an actor. It’s never a pain, but a pleasure.

Has your famous actor-dad Chiranjeevi seen your work and is there reflected pride there?

For the first time, I have seen him call all his friends and saying: ‘let me have a show for you all’. He was excited and he has been showing this film to all his old school friends and I have never seen that.

You have thrived in Telugu cinema for the last 14 years. How do you look back on your journey in an industry that’s known to be fickle and unpredictable?

I don’t know because I keep hearing that acting or being a part of films is like a pyramid. At the peak of the pyramid, there’s only so much space for people. But the key is not to take ourselves too seriously as actors. If your film flops or succeeds, don’t take it too seriously. I have become immune to hits or flops. It’s not that it doesn’t affect me, but I seriously don’t know how it should affect me. I don’t know how to feel bad about my flops and I don’t know how to enjoy my success either. Ignorance is bliss in my case. When my film ‘Magadheera’ was a huge hit, I didn’t step out of my house for over two weeks and that worried my dad. He was wondering if something had happened to me. He was asking me why I wasn’t partying with friends in London? I go into a shell even after my film is a big hit. I am constantly worried about what I will do next. Surprisingly, I had a party when one of my films flopped.

So you celebrate your failures more than your success …

I don’t want to sound philosophical, but somewhere I feel a sense of relief after a film is declared a hit or a flop. I get instant clarity. Having said that, I don’t ever wish for a flop [laughs].

You have another film ‘Acharya’ coming out. Do you feel a great sense of pressure to perform?

I am great at deflecting that pressure and I immediately transfer it to my directors. I don’t take it on me and I want my directors to take the pressure and the credit of a movie’s success … I just want to survive and start moving forward.

Don’t miss it!

‘RRR’ is out in the UAE cinemas now and ‘Acharya’ will release in the UAE cinemas on April 28.