The keenly awaited Allu Arjun-starrer Pushpa is hitting the screens worldwide on December 17 and Kerala is also gearing up for a grand release. The film has Fahadh Fasil as the antagonist and the teasers have raised the curiosity level. In a candid interview with Manorama Online, Allu Arjun, known as the Stylish Star in Kollywood, speaks aboust his association with director Sukumar, the challenges of shooting Pushpa and why the filmmakers chose Fahadh. Excerpts.
You are associating with Sukumar, who made you an icon and established your superstar status in Andhra and Kerala, for the third time. What exactly does 'Pushpa' mean to you?
Associating with Sukumar has always been amazing. My career started with Arya. And Arya 2 is a memorable film which fetched me a lot of respect and recognition all over. We are now collaborating for the third time for Pushpa. We have been waiting for a long time for this. We didn’t want to do an ordinary film when we came together, but a special one. So Pushpa is a very special film. I hope Pushpa becomes the hat-trick movie and a memorable one for us.
How was your experience working with Fahad?
Working with Fahadh was a fantastic experience. I have watched his films and liked his electrifying performances on screen. It was a pleasure to see him perform live. I admire him. He is one of the best actors in the country and I really like his style. I have huge respect for him because he doesn’t take any prompts. He writes his dialogues and repeats them. I have never seen an actor who doesn’t know the language do that. He told every dialogue almost like a Telugu speaking person. That’s one of the qualities that I, the director and everyone else admired in him.
You have almost always donned protagonists who are innately good. In Pushpa, you are portraying the role of a sandalwood smuggler. Do you think playing a character whose profession is leaning more to a negative side could affect your public image or stardom?
I don’t think that’s much of a problem because sandalwood smuggling has come down a lot. This is a film that happens in a different period. When people watch the film they will also see a title saying that the characters are fictitious. I don’t think people would take that (the role) into consideration. They are smart enough to understand that it is a movie.
Fahad Fazil plays the villain in Pushpa. How do you see Fahad as an actor? How do you feel about him portraying the antagonist's role?
As an actor, it’s less about a role being positive or negative and more about how much scope does it have for performance. Fahadh is an amazing actor and has so far pulled off both the shades perfectly well in his movies.
How did you zero in on Fahadh to play the villain role? Fahad is not someone whom we have seen in a police officer's costume before. What was the reason that triggered you to pick him for Pushpa?
The reason we wanted Fahadh was that he is a wonderful actor. We wanted someone who has a lot of gravity as it is not a simple antagonist role. It is a role that challenges the actor. We needed somebody who could perform and has the star image and Fahadh was a perfect fit for it. It was the most obvious choice. Fortunately, he liked the character as well and came on board. We are all very happy about it.
You have mostly donned stylish, bright, charm-inducing characters. In Pushpa though, your character seems more on the rugged side. What made you choose to take up such a different aesthetic? Did you have inhibitions when such a rough character was introduced to you by the director?
As an actor, I always feel that we have to keep experimenting. People have seen me be stylish and charming on-screen. I have done that. But this is one area that I haven’t touched. Many Telugu films haven’t explored much in this space, and I wanted to be one of the first actors to do that. There is always a certain line of glamour that is followed in commercial films. I wanted to let go of that and see how it would work. Waiting for the result to see how people receive it.
One of the most important factors that made the audience eager to watch the second part of Baahubali was its giant cliffhanger at the climax of part 1. Does Pushpa have something like that to keep the viewers on tenterhooks for the second part? Or what was the reason you decided to split the movie into two parts?
The movie was split into two parts because there is a lot that the director wants to say. Sukumar garu’s vision for the movie is massive and Pushpa’s story deserves that kind of duration. As for the cliffhanger, I can’t reveal anything about the plot of the movie. It’s for you to experience in theatres on December 17.
The film seems to have a lot of 'raw' action scenes. How challenging was it to shoot such scenes? Did you have any memorable experiences from that time?
Pushpa has a lot of raw action scenes and it was quite challenging to shoot them. We were in the middle of the forest and there were no facilities. Some people had to stay in camps, others in small rooms. We were there for months together. This film was very demanding. I give credit to my producers for providing us with the best facilities possible in those tough conditions.
Some parts of Baahubali 2 was shot after the release of the first movie. Have you shot both parts of Pushpa?
The second part of Pushpa has not been shot yet.
Is it true that a whopping Rs 6 crore was spent for a single action scene in the movie?
I genuinely don’t know about the cost of production but I can tell you that a lot of money has gone into the action sequences.
I believe some parts of the movie were shot in Kerala. How much did you enjoy working and being in Kerala?
We were supposed to shoot in Kerala but unfortunately, due to the pandemic, we had to shift our plans. However, I would like to add that I always enjoy my time in Kerala. I have received so much love and appreciation from this state over the years.
How difficult was it to complete the making of such a huge movie project during the time of pandemic?
It was difficult to shoot this film because it’s huge and in the initial days of the pandemic, we could only shoot with a limited crew of 35-40 people. We had to sit idle for many months because we couldn’t shoot at that size. Our unit crew had a minimum of about 300 people. We shot during difficult times. This is also a very difficult film to shoot as we had to shoot in the forest and there were no facilities, transportation or roads. We had to erect all these. It is one of the most difficult films I have ever shot. It has been a hectic, but memorable journey.
There is talk that Fahadh's character appears only by the end of the first part. Is it true or is he present throughout the movie?
Watch the movie in theatres on December 17 to find the answer.