Producer Dil Raju: I have decided not to start a new film until I understand the pulse of our audience
The National-Award-winning producer speaks of the issues plaguing the film industry, his upcoming release Thank You, and its similarities with his life
Producer Dil Raju is betting big on the success of his upcoming film Thank You. The Vikram K Kumar directorial featuring Naga Chaitanya and Raashi Khanna tells the story of a young man from being a nobody to becoming a billionaire. The Maharshi producer says that the content in the film has a similarity to his life. "Writer BVS Ravi pitched the idea of Thank You before the pandemic and the thought of politely expressing our feeling when acknowledging a service or help has touched my heart. A lot of people have helped me to build my career and what if I go back and thank each of them now is the crux of Thank You. The story, in a way, bears testimony to my journey," begins Dil Raju.
The story of Thank You takes precedence in three phases of the protagonist's life. "The journey of the hero unravels in three stages -- teenage, college life and the progress in professional life. It was an exciting story to tell, but not an easy one. We have struggled a lot to give a cinematic feel to this story because the protagonist's character exhibits a lot of emotions and it should sync well with the audience," avers the producer.
The story of Thank You bears certain kinds of similarities with Naa Autograph (2004) and Premam (2016). However, Raju was quick to deny that the storyline of Thank You is not similar to any of these films. "I have come across these comments, but I would vouch for you that our film is unique and bears no resemblance with Premam, Naa Autograph, or any other film whatsoever. But I am confident that Thank You exists in a zone that is similar to those widely appreciated heart-warming love stories," reveals the distributor-turned-producer.
On the making experience, the National-Award-winning producer says, "When you want to tell a story that is close to your heart, then convincing your team to put their heart and soul into it can't be easy. It was indeed a challenge to give a vision to a confusing story. But, Vikram has been fantastic and honest with our film. He worked with an open mind and has wonderfully handled his craft. Despite the fact that the role requires a lot of preparation, Chaitanya, too, instantly gave his nod to work in this film. In fact, the chemistry of Chaitanya and Vikram has worked wonders in making this film. I am really happy to be associated with such a passionate team."
The conversation veers from Thank You to the theatres receiving a lukewarm reception from audiences in recent times. Dil Raju observes that the audience have evolved post-pandemic and he agrees that it's time for the filmmakers to re-evaluate their content, cap budgets, and reduce the spiraling production costs. "The audiences were exposed to quality world cinema on OTT platforms during the pandemic. They have an increased appetite for diverse yet qualitative content. So it's time for us to complement their interests and make films with an increased focus on storytelling. The audiences are not wrong and the onus is on us to ascertain what they want. The theatrical and non-theatrical business dynamics have changed drastically. As a result, the filmmaking process has changed and the budgets shot up."
Refuting reports of an indefinite strike from August 1, Dil Raju says, "There is no plan as such. Personally, I have decided not to start a new film until I understand the pulse of our audience. Other producers, too, echoed similar views and we all are united in this regard. Our industry has a meager success ratio. Like how there are many reasons behind Karna's death, there are many reasons for a few recent releases not doing well at the box office. One of the reasons is due to increased ticket prices. A decline in income and an increase in spending is also one of the reasons for receiving low footfall. We are regulating all these things, including the increased production costs and other expenses, and will come up with renewed energy in a month's time."
The ace producer opined that OTT platforms are eating into the theatrical revenue and has demanded a clear window to be drawn out for the digital release. "OTT has more disadvantages than advantages. As a producer, we won't get anything if a film becomes successful on OTT. However, it will be a great morale booster if the same film releases in theatres and becomes successful. The daily collections and the economics are part and parcel of the business and it makes us more passionate about making good films. Come August 1, we are working towards screening a film on OTT platforms only 50 days after the theatre release. The heroes, too, are concerned about our (producers) well-being. We are hoping that these OTT platforms will understand our concerns and work closely with us in larger interests of our industry, failing which Telugu cinema will perish," signs off Dil Raju.