Ram Pothineni: I didn't want The Warriorr to be a dubbed film
As he gears up to enter the next phase of his career with The Warriorr, actor Ram Pothineni opens up about the film and the challenges of shooting a bilingual
Sixteen years after debuting with the YVS Chowdary directorial, Devadasu, actor Ram Pothineni is set for another debut, this time in Tamil, with The Warriorr. Is he nervous? “Not really. It is a mix of different emotions,” Ram opens up. “I am curious about most of my films. Yes, sometimes, even we aren’t happy with the outcome, and I wonder what I got myself into. With the majority of projects though, we love the film and look forward to knowing whether the audience will reciprocate similarly. It is always their enjoyment and laughter in the theatres that we think about. You can call it a mix of excitement and curiosity,” he says with a laugh, adding that his expectations from The Warriorr are no different. “I want people to enjoy the film as much as I did.” Ram speaks rather philosophically about his expectations of the film. “We can’t control things that are beyond us. When it is not in our hands, we shouldn’t expect anything from it.”
Although Ram has made a name for himself in Telugu cinema, his Tamil connection is strong too, having grown up and spent a substantial time during his formative years in Chennai. Talking about why it has taken him so long to foray into Tamil cinema —an aspect even he wonders about—Ram shares, “I don’t know… so many films I was supposed to do in Tamil did not work out. As someone who was brought up and here and has many Tamil friends, I know exactly what works and doesn’t for people here. For instance, I had the opportunity to remake a lot of Tamil films in Telugu, but I knew they would not translate well. Likewise, I know for a fact that a few Telugu films wouldn’t have worked in Tamil. Few rare films work in both Telugu and Tamil and The Warriorr is one such film. Moreover, Lingu[samy] sir’s films like Run (2002) Sandakozhi (Pandem Kodi, 2005), and Paiyya (Awara, 2010) worked in Telugu even though their dubbed versions were released.”
Unlike many titles that have jumped onto the ‘pan-India’ bandwagon, The Warriorr is a true-blue bilingual and it is a decision that Ram willingly took, completely aware of the challenges involved. “I was particular about The Warriorr not being a dubbed film. I knew shooting every shot twice—once in Telugu and once in Tamil—would be painful and tiring, because one shot is not just about my performance but other factors on the shooting spot like lighting come into play. Giving the same shot with the same intensity too, is difficult, but I have no regrets,” he says.
While he shares that “any well-written part is easy to perform,” performing one emotionally charged scene was particularly draining. “We used to film a shot first in Tamil, so I could understand what Lingu sir needs, and then in Telugu. So there’s this heavy scene where I emotionally deliver a long dialogue, break a bottle in a rage and walk away. I loved when I read it and even hugged Lingu sir and told him that we should do it as a single shot. So I performed the scene, broke the bottle, and the whole unit clapped. I felt content for a moment before a member of the team comes up to me with another bottle. I asked him, ‘What?’ to which he responded, ‘Sir, it’s time for Telugu now’. I took a pause and then asked him to give me five minutes to unwind from the previous shot. As the broken glass was being cleaned, I took the scene paper of the Telugu version and worked on the corrections with Lingu sir,” he says, adding that he believes that it is vital that he shares a strong bond with directors he works with to ensure he delivers his best. “Even if the hero and heroine don’t share chemistry, the hero and the director must. I should really like a director if I have to work with them. It’s crucial because we are creating something out of thin air.”
Over the past one and a half-decade, the actor has been through different phases—there was an inclination to comedies at one point and light-hearted dramas later. “I did a lot of comedies because Ready (2008) worked. Had my second film, Jagadam (2007), worked, I might have taken a different route.” After the success of iSmart Shankar (2019)—which he reveals he did out of “sheer frustration to see an unabashedly massy film”—he seems to be carrying this image forward. His last release, Red, ran along similar lines, The Warrior too gives the impression of a masala-laden actioner. Ram’s ambitions are only getting bigger, with his next set to be a pan-India project with Boyapati Sreenu, the man behind some of the most successful over-the-top masala films of our times. “It’s too early to talk about the project, but I can say that Boyapati Sreenu is strong with emotions. I couldn’t sit in the chair when he was narrating the story. Even though it is over-the-top, if you connect to the emotions, you will have a blast. My film with him will release in all major languages,” Ram signs off confidently.