Teja Sajja’s up and coming project is touted to be an epic cinematic adventure with enthralling scenes. The moment the first promo was out, movie aficionados went berserk and flooded the internet with positive comments. They began comparisons with Adipurush and lauded director Prasanth Verma for his vision.Teja on his part says he was sold on Prasanth Varma’s one line narration and the film title. He wants to crack this character because it is incredible and every kid and a youngster’s fantasy. HanuMan is an amazing journey for Teja, he has worked really hard and he is stepping into the best phase now; the film promo already fetched him pan Indian publicity. In a conversation with Y.Sunita Chowdhary of Klapboardpost.com, Teja expresses his excitement on the superhero film and comes across as a very secure, patient and mature actor waiting for his space under the sun. With an attitude like that he is sure to go places very soon. Excerpts from the chat:
Q)What was your plan then after Zombie Reddy’s release?
A)Intentionally and consciously, I always was clear about working on only some new content. One and a half year back, I understood (during the lockdown) I was strong on that… I knew theatre experience films will take over eventually. We shouldn’t do just about any film, only if there is a certain amount of novelty will people come to the theatre. This was why I did Zombie Reddy and Adbutham, after that I still became strong on that. Post the first lock down, Zombie Reddy released. Prasanth Varma is a cool soul, I am just the opposite and I feel we make the right balance. Prasanth is not someone who will take things to heart if someone doesn’t speak positively about the film. I am different, I think intricately about every small thing, I’m worried constantly and keep thinking very hard before I take a step. I do a lot of calculations. We had an association of seven years. I was supposed to do other films with other directors, but many were stopped. Leave alone the fact about the audience going to the theatres, the issue that worried me was shooting with a thousand people, during the pandemic. It was a panic moment. Before the theatres opened, we were done with our film. There was a relaxation period of five months and in the time when bars and theatres opened, we capitalised on the latter. We had our doubts, but everything fell in place.
Q)Most artistes revel in success and are seen all over celebrating success. You were low profile weren’t you?
A) Zombie Reddy was a new concept when it got released. Be it theatres, television or OTT, we knew Telugu people all over the world would watch it at least once, it was a fantasy film. I was confident from day one about the subject but it took ten days for me to sink in that the film was a hit. I was constantly thinking about drawing crowds. to the theatres, bringing better numbers, publicity etc. I couldn’t enjoy the hit. The fact is that at the end of the day, the audience will come to the theatre after seeing the trailers or teasers etc and that too if it is as interesting as HanuMan. Even if I do extensive marketing, it won’t help me in any other way. I also believe in putting effort and focus on one film rather than multiple projects. I am in no hurry to do too many films at a time.
Q)Did being a child artsite help you in taking strategic decisions in your career?
A) I might have gained experience being a child artiste but I had this struggling period of five or six years when I came into the industry. I was watching everyone, had the space and was seeing and learning from other’s mistakes. I didn’t want to take either the producer or audience for granted. I believe I am as good as my last film. All love and hype will disappear if you don’t be consistent in your efforts to be successful. There is no use being visible to the people when you haven’t done anything concrete, it is not me. I don’t talk loud. I am not that person. There will be small apprehensions but there are examples right in front of us. Allu Arjun or Mahesh Babu work on a film at a time, if they want they can do so many but they trust one project and put their efforts on it. Similarly, my efforts and idea is on that one project first and I like Adivi Sesh…the way he has fashioned his career is amazing. I plan to be here for at least twenty years, my life shouldn’t be ten dvds, it should have the experiences and the journey as an actor. It is quality and not quantum that matters. Parents’ support is undeniably there for me in an industry that is not organised and that is interdependent for success. As an artist I too face financial crunches like others but I have the inhibitions to ask people concerned. Every artist has expenditure to maintain their lifestyle. It is tough but I keep my sanity intact.
Q)Have you always been a patient listener? How did you bag HanuMan?
A)I heard at least fifty stories, they are all from considerable production houses and directors. I haven’t connected on any one point. I wasn’t convinced. For the films I do, I attract certain types of filmmakers. All the directors are close friends, I am friends with Nandini Reddy and Mallik Ram. I should have a personal connection too to take my projects forward. If you do a certain kind of film, what you get next are of the same genre. The onus is on us to take time, think if it is good for us and if it excites you. I am approachable to all storytellers, nevertheless and I never hurt anyone. We had a tour for Aha..during the publicity of Zombie Reddy. HanuMan happened then during the journey. Prasanth said he was planning to do a superhero cinema. I didn’t know he would cast me. On the same journey, he said the film’s title is HanuMan, I loved it and it was sold over there. It is about an underdog, a youngster who is around 22, who gets powers from Hanuman. After Zombie Reddy, he had many options to work with other heroes. I was hoping he would give the project to me. I never take my friendships for granted so I never asked him if the story is for me. He could be discussing his stories with me as a friend but I can’t presume he is planning it with me or maybe he thought he had conveyed what was on his mind to me . There was one production house who was willing to film with me and was looking for a story. I asked Prasanth if he has any stories. He said yes, he will suggest this. I understood that it was a halfway discussion that was getting complete. A youth like Tom Holland, slim structured was the sketch. An innocent soul. I later hounded him for the narration of sixty scenes and we began shooting.
Q) How excited are you about HanuMan?
A)More than the idea of the film, I was excited about the making part. It was fun, and I had C3 and C4 bulges, injuries, shoulder dislocation. I had the age, time and enthusiasm in me. I still have. At the right time, if a film like this comes to me, obviously there would be excitement and I would do it like crazy. There are certain stunts that I did and would myself be in disbelief if I look back at this after six years. I am a careful person during action scenes but there were days I would get on the ropes at 8 am and get off at 6 pm. I wouldn’t take a lunch break sometimes because of location and budget and time constraints but we all enjoyed it. I wanted to get a six pack and the director said after a month, he had observed a change in me and wasn’t quite comfortable with the idea of having that kind of a body. The story is about a common young man, it doesn’t make sense having a chiseled body. The guy should get super powers. So I was a vegetarian throughout. I had severe injuries and I didnt go to the gym. All the stunts are done by me. Hanmanthu is his name and after he gets powers he is HanuMan like Spiderman and Superman. It is a properly packaged commercial film with divine touch.
Q) Is it a pleasant coincidence..Kantara, K2, Bimbisara etc all are a success? Will the Hindutva concept work for you?
A) Hanuman is a celebrated God and everyone loves him. We started the teaser even before the above films were being spoken about in the media. Having a super power hero at the right time and luckily the above mentioned films being received so well..makes me wonder if there is a divine intervention. In 2019..I was doing a character role in Oh Baby in the lock down and now such a great reception for this promo is pure luck. The film is growing day by day. When we started we didn’t imagine it would become this big. There are many films that are based on Hinduism but most of them don’t work. Only when a good concept is told interestingly does it become a success. We are also catering to a new generation too. We aren’t making a film to educate anyone, if it entertains and creates an impact then the purpose of the film has been met. Sree Anjeneyam is the only film I remember during childhood because it made a lot of impact on me. I am sure you too would be having a favourite film, a simple story that has been narrated in a great way. A simple story should be told in a grand way..in terms of good words, visuals, music etc. That becomes a larger audience cinema. If you tell it in a grand way, you get excited. Some grand films on the ideal level like RRR, Adbutham, Vikram Kumar’s 24 should be narrated in a simple way. That is the thumb rule I believe. I am aware that this film is being compared to a big movie like Aadi Pusush is an honour. That you can think and believe that you can make films in such a grand way, big market is what Prabhas has made us to believe in. He sacrificed his life for six years and has taken Telugu and Indian cinema to a top level.