Exclusive: Ram Charan Tej on Orange
Ram Charan Tej, son of Telugu mega star Chiranjeevi had a massive hit with Magadheera, a reincarnation tale set in two time periods directed by SS Rajamouli.
Just two films old in the industry, the actor has shifted tracks and genres with his third film Orange, a love story directed by Bhaskar (of Bommarillu, Parugu fame).
The film also stars Genelia D Souza and Shahzahn Padamsee (daughter of Alyque Padamsee and Sharon Prabhakar, who makes her debut in Telugu).
Radhika Rajamani met the actor at his residence for an exclusive tete-a-tete.
After a stupendous hit Magadheera, you chose to do a love story. Did you want to break away from that image and genre?
Not that I consciously wanted to do it but I had no other option. There will be no other story like Magadheera in the near future. So I chose a pure modern urban love story and could think of only Bhaskar as he has made a niche with his clean love stories which is ideal for a family audience.
Image: Ram Charan Tej in Orange
'In terms of characterisation, I have not seen anything like Orange before'
Love stories are dime a dozen. How different is Orange?
In terms of characterisation, I have not seen anything like this before. Every person -- young and old would have traces of this in their personal life as well. While making this film, I tried hard to get close to the character I play on screen.
Is it that close to reality?
It's very close to people's lives -- their day-to-day lives. There are truths in this movie, and it's educative.
Is the film a contemporary take on an issue or something fictional?
It's all about living a better life -- not about sacrificing but about understanding. We want the youth, the married couples and the aged to realise the intention of two people coming together. The movie shows a path of a better life, more hope, more love, more belief. This is what is lacking in today's relationships. It will lay a new path for relationships.
Image: Genelia D Souza and Ram Charan Tej
'I play the character from the age of 16 to 25'
Is Orange a sweet-sour love story?
You've nailed it right. It has both the flavours. We wanted to give a peppy and happy name, so it's called Orange.
What's your role in the film?
The film unfolds from my character's perspective -- how the rest of the characters disagree to my way of living. I play an honest person whose love turns bitter because of his honesty. Here you will see only the character Ram. I play the character from the age of 16 to 25. I have not revealed this to anyone yet.
So, how was it shooting for this age group -- more so as a 16-year-old?
We worked backwards. We first shot the scenes where I am 25 years old first and then the ones where I am 16. I had to lose a lot of weight. I called my 16-year-old brother to the sets and interacted with him. I asked him questions, got his reactions and then portrayed the role.
Did you draw from your life when you were 16 as well?
There are traces of 16-year-old Charan in it -- you will see a shy 16-year-old on the screen.
Image: Ram Charan Tej in Orange
'This is the real me'
In Orange you sport this uber cool look while in Magadheera you had long hair...
In terms of story and look, I tried to move away from my previous film. This is the real me. I don't think it's cool though [laughs].
The film is set in Australia. Does the country form part of the story?
Not really. It can be shot anywhere, even at Vizag. We wanted a beautiful city. Films have been shot in cities like Bangkok and Dubai. Australia has been untapped as far Telugu films are concerned. So we shot in Sydney and Melbourne.
The film is also shot in Mumbai and Hyderabad...
A flashback scene was shot in Mumbai and because of the Union rules, some portions were shot in Hyderabad.
Image: Ram Charan Tej in Orange
'Genelia would shock us'
You have two pretty young girls Genelia and Shahzahn in Orange. How was it working with them?
It was nice. I thought Orange was Shahzahn's first film as I didn't know she had done Rocket Singh earlier. I got to know about it later. She plays a character who is coming of age and added a lot of freshness to the character. She also did a song Rooba...where she put some life into it.
Genelia has done a number of movies. She has done this genre of movies like Boys, Jaane Tu.. She made me comfortable. She always surprised me. Even during rehearsals she would be innocent and we would think she didn't understand what Bhaskar said in Telugu. But when 'roll camera' was uttered, she would shock us. It was great to work with her. I would love to work with her in more films.
How was it working with Bhaskar?
He was different from my previous directors Puri Jagannath and SS Rajamouli, who were commercial directors. Working in Orange under Bhaskar was like a picnic. I used to wonder whether I was shooting because I used to do breezy scenes unlike in Magadheera where I was breaking people's hands. Bhaskar is strong in content as he is a writer and he handled the pressure well.
Expectations are high after Magadheera. Is that weighing on your mind?
I cannot run away. I am scared a bit. This may be a shock to the audience. It's easy in the industry to be slotted and I don't want that.
Image: Ram Charan Tej and Genelia D Souza in Orange
'I want to do 3 films a year though people say it may not be possible'
In today's times whether you like it or not, the division between mass and class entertainers is clear. Where does Orange fit in?
I don't subscribe to this division. If you go back in time, the film Khushi (Pawan Kalyan's) broke all norms of class and mass. Good cinema will always work. Orange is like universal cinema. These kinds of films should be promoted.
How was it shooting Orange after a long-drawn Magadheera?
I shot Orange for about a year. It was a picnic like I said before. The challenge was how to forget my previous image and believe in Bhaskar and do it.
Your next project is Meruppu with Dharani -- a director who has delivered huge hits in the past. Meruppu is supposed to revolve around football...
Yes, it revolves around football. I wanted to do something sporty -- movies which connect with life than revenge drama. Sports connect to a wider audience.
How far has Meruppu progressed?
We have just finished one schedule.
Are you learning football for this film?
Yes, there is a trainer from Australia.
Have you signed any other project?
I'm doing a film with Krishnavamsi, the shooting of which may start when I am midway through Meruppu.
How does it feel to be Chiranjeevi's son? Is carrying the baggage difficult?
On screen, I have learnt to tackle it. Personally I have to learn to do it.
As an actor what are the kinds of films you want to do? How much would you want to push the envelope?
Pushing it for Orange was daring enough. I want to do 3 films a year though people say it may not be possible. Out of the three I want to do one which is meaningful, strong in content or an art film.
Are you getting used to losing your privacy and being under spotlight?
I don't go out much. Whenever I feel the need, I travel out of Hyderabad. Once in while I do want to sit in a coffee shop with my friends or have dinner in a restaurant. Yes, I miss that.
Do you have any time to indulge in pastimes?
I am into horse riding. I have four horses at my farm and spend a lot of time with them. I like reading self-help books, autobiographies and those on philosophy.
Image: Genelia D Souza and Ram Charan Tej in Orange