'Pushpa is the equivalent of four films for me': Allu Arjun

Actor Allu Arjun, along with music composer Devi Sri Prasad and writer Madhan Karky, discuss their highly awaited pan-Indian film Pushpa: The Rise
Actor Allu Arjun, along with music composer Devi Sri Prasad and writer Madhan Karky, discuss their highly awaited pan-Indian film Pushpa: The Rise
Actor Allu Arjun, along with music composer Devi Sri Prasad and writer Madhan Karky, discuss their highly awaited pan-Indian film Pushpa: The Rise

In a career spanning nearly 20 years, Allu Arjun has seen many highs and lows. He is no stranger to adulation and criticism either. What’s new to him though, is that his latest project, Pushpa: The Rise, is a pan-Indian release, and a pinch of pride and ambition is palpable when Arjun addresses this prospect at the film’s press meet in Chennai. The Hindi-dubbed versions of his films, in his own words, “have managed to occupy top spots on YouTube,” but releasing a film in five languages across the nation, however, is exponentially more “exciting”.

Allu Arjun was set to make his Tamil debut with a Lingusamy directorial in 2016, but the project did not materialise. With Pushpa, directed by Sukumar, he is days away from fulfilling his longtime wish to make a Tamil film because part of his identity was forged by his formative years in Chennai. He also believes that Pushpa is rather like a Tamil film on many counts. “Devi [Sri Prasad], in fact, has been reiterating it from day one that Pushpa is a true-blue Tamil film, from the rustic look-and-feel to the way the characters have been designed,” Arjun says. Composer Devi Sri Prasad, who has scored for several films starring Arjun, including Pushpa, agrees. “I have been persuading, you may even say, pestering, Bunny (Allu Arjun) to act in a Tamil film for long. I’m rooting for him and believe that Pushpa is the perfect film with which to take this leap.”

The composer adds that several sequences from the film left him spellbound and speaks with special love about an action sequence. “There’s one action sequence in the film, you see,” Devi begins, careful not to divulge too much. “It’s hard to describe it in words. Considering it’s high on emotion, I’m not sure if it’s right to call it a ‘fight scene’ either. Bunny and Sukumar have given their everything for the film, and I can assure you that it will be a feast in the theatres.”

The production of Pushpa has beheld several hurdles—from the cast and crew, including Arjun, testing positive to the sheer difficulty of filming in a forest. Speaking of the challenges the team has endured over the course of the making, Arjun shares, “There were a few locations that were impossible to reach by road. In fact, there was no road for a couple of kilometers. To ease the travel, the producers went to the extent of building roads! It used to take over two hours to reach the shooting spot. 

After leaving at four in the morning, we would reach the location by six and spend the next two hours wearing makeup. Moreover, the sun would set early in the evening, and it would take another 45 minutes to remove the makeup. It felt like we were making four films at a time’; such were the challenges. Having done Pushpa, I can tell you that it is the equivalent of four films.”

While the story might not span four films, it is certainly expansive enough for a duology, and Arjun believes it’s a “character-driven story” focussed on protagonist, Pushpa Raj. Speaking of how he got under the skin of the character, Arjun says, “While I’m far from a method actor, I worked extensively on the diction for this film. The character speaks in the Chittoor dialect, and to master it, I practised dialogue delivery four to five hours every day for three months during the first lockdown phase with the director, dialogue writers, and assistant directors via video calls.” Writer Madhan Karky, who has penned the dialogues for the Tamil version, too, acknowledges the dialect, before making a witty remark that it further challenged him to ensure immaculate translation. “I was initially reluctant to write the Tamil dialogues, but I’m glad I didn’t turn it down. The team, especially the first assistant director, was quite supportive throughout the process, helping me with the dialect. KP Sekar, who dubbed for Arjun, too has done an excellent job.” When asked about why he hasn’t dubbed for his character in Tamil, Arjun quips, “Because I wanted the film to be good.” Elaborating on this decision, he adds, “It is natural that when I speak Tamil, it comes with a heavy Telugu accent, and personally, I don’t enjoy it when the dubbing is not up to the mark while watching a Tamil film. I don’t think it’s important whether I lent my voice or someone else did.”

A dance number from the film titled ‘Oo Antava… Oo Oo Antava’ (‘Oo Solriya… Oo Oo Solriya’ in Tamil) has been a subject of discussion across social media ever since it hit the internet. The lyrics of the film, which take a dig at the male gaze, have drawn criticism from men… for ‘generalising men’. When asked about his opinion on the discourse, Arjun jokingly put an end to the conversation by cryptically asking, “It’s true, isn’t it? When you look at it, you can see it’s true.”

Pushpa is set against the backdrop of red sanders smuggling, a sensitive subject to deal with, considering the real-life incidents that have transpired over the years in the Southern states. Madhan Karky, however, clarifies that the film doesn’t explore the topic in-depth and neither does it delve into the details surrounding the issue. “It is a fictional tale chronicling the step-by-step rise of a 
character. The film is not against any particular community; it’s a beautiful and stunning journey of a character.”

Arjun adds, “Let me simplify further: if the film was about red sanders, we would have named it ‘red sanders’, right? It’s the story of a man named Pushpa. It’s a jolly, family film. It’s meant for mass entertainment.”

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