RRR Exclusive Interview With Indian Superstar Ram Charan ("Rama Raju") On The Oscars, SRK, & More!

In one of our most stellar exclusives yet, we sat down with global superstar Ram Charan to talk about the blockbuster success of RRR, the Oscars, "Naatu Naatu," Marvel Studios, Shah Rukh Khan and more!

Interviews Opinion

Tomorrow night, the Indian epic RRR, a film that has taken the world by storm brings its historic year to a close with a grand showing at the 95th Academy Awards, where its signature chartbuster, "Naatu Naatu," is considered the heavy favorite to win Best Original Song, especially after securing both the Golden Globe and BAFTA in recent weeks. 

Ahead of Sunday's ceremony, we were honored to be granted an exclusive opportunity to sit down with one of the film's stars, Ram Charan (MagadheeraRangasthalam), who is widely considered one of the biggest superstars in the world. 

In the film, Charan portrays the stoic, but fierce, Alluri Sitarama Raju (A. Rama Raju), an ambitious officer in the Indian Imperial Police, who finds himself torn between his duty to his work and his duty to his country when he crosses paths with the mighty Komaram Bheen (N. T. Rama Rao Jr.). The pair form an unbreakable friendship that is impossibly tested and ultimately find themselves on a collision course for the ages - all directed by the visionary eye of S. S. Rajamouli. 

In our lengthy conversation, he explained at length key moments from the blockbuster film and expressed his gratitude at the immense response they've received over the past year. He also talks to me about his friendship with India's grandest megastar Shah Rukh Khan, whether he would want to join a Marvel movie, and a whole lt more. 

Watch (or read) our full interview with superstar Ram Charan below and please remember to SUBSCRIBE to my channel for more exclusive content!

ROHAN: This film is such a mind-blowing epic, you really just have to see it to believe it - what was S.S. Rajamouli's initial pitch to you and NTR Jr.?

RAM: I mean, this narration, this idea came as a surprise to all of us. He called my co-star and me separately, not telling us why he's going to call and what he's going to talk about and I was surprised to see my friend Tarak in the same room when I entered the room and boom, he just said, ‘Hey, guys, I think it's pretty obvious why I called both of you,’ and he said, ‘I want to do a movie and I'm thinking of both of you.’

So, it was a beautiful shock, and we both were instantly ready to do the film and we were excited, and then, of course, we had the complete narration and it completely blew our minds. We knew for sure he is going to think of something beyond any audience expectation, every time he ups his game so beautifully so high, and he challenges himself so well. I think I was so lucky to be part of RRR because it is one of his best writing jobs ever, to date..

ROHAN: Raju was my favorite character in the film - what was your first impression of the character? Did you find him relatable or did you really have to work to get into character?    

RAM: I think I find a lot of similarities in Rama Raju and myself. He's somebody and I am somebody, like I said, I am not an introvert, but I do have a certain introvertness in me, and I do keep things within myself like the character Rama Raju. He has beared all the emotions, he’s not let it out for whatever goals and reasons, which you know when you see the firm. So, I think it was so easy to play that role. I found him very close to my heart, very close to me, and it just flew like a beautiful river with no obstacles.

ROHAN: Your character finds himself in such a difficult position. He wants to help his own people, but he's working for the enemy. How were you able to mentally reconcile that feeling of helplessness while doing your duty?  

RAM: Yeah, funny, that I just said, I'm pretty close to the character Rama and realized well, but no, I'm not that complicated. *laughs* I don't think I can bottle so many emotions, like how the character has bottled up. But it's such an intense character. It's beautifully written. He's got this goal, he's got to maintain that stoicness, that Pokerface and not let his emotions surface while he's harming his own people, for the greater good, which he thinks he’s doing, and then he meets this friend, Akthar, and he develops this beautiful bond, and how he has to, again, for the larger goal, how he had to backstab him and how he could not tell his best friend.

There are beautiful layers, the character arc goes up and down, but he takes his anger on the punching bag. It is beautifully written, and I think with the help of my director, and everybody, my co-stars, it was so easy for us to get into the characters, and the mood of the character, the character arc to nail it perfectly. It was a collective effort of the whole team that each actor was doing their job so perfectly in their characters.

ROHAN: I'm a big fan of two-hero films, they're almost always awesome. Did working with NTR Jr., who I know is a close friend of yours, make the job easier?

RAM: Absolutely. Tarak is such a livewire, he’s full of life, and when you do such intense films, and you get into the role quite intensively, and this has been an very intense journey for all of us. And having a coaster like Tarak on the set, it makes my job so easy, because he is the livewire, he is the fun element on the set. He keeps everybody and the whole set so lighthearted, and definitely, there were certain sequences, like the interval episode where we both are fighting like bulls, and that was shot over two years. Over two seasons, in 2020 and 2021, it was 65 nights, we had filmed this one sequence with the animals and both of us thumping each other and cracking each other's heads.

We started in the summer, and then it went to the winter, and we had a break in between that because of COVID, and to maintain through all of this, all these months, the director has constantly been in touch with us, even during COVID, just to check on us if we were in shape. We were not indulging too much. It was tough, because we had nothing to do in COVID, we could not indulge, we had to do that process as an actor and you have my director acting like school principal, like a headmaster, checking on you if you were right in your shape every day, if you're hitting the gym. It was good. It was taxing, but of course, you need a taskmaster like Mr. Rajamouli, and our job was easy when you have this whole team supporting each other.

ROHAN: S. S. Rajamouli is such a visionary director and has done an incredible job of elevating Indian cinema to a global audience. What is it like being directed by him? Is he demanding? Or does he make it easy?   

RAM: Anything Mr. Rajamouli designs, and directs, it looks so impossible, like how the hell did these guys shoot it, you know, that kind of a sense that the audience can get. But trust me, he makes it so beautiful, and so easy for all of us to work because he would have done so much homework and so many rehearsals with his team, the action guys or the choreographers who choreographed the song or the workshops he conducts for the scenes, to get the intensity and to get the right note in the expressions and everything. See the process behind the pre-production is so, so well designed, that actually when we’re on set, we don't exert ourselves and work too hard. We just know what he wants, we don't waste his time, and he knows that we are somebody who understands him so well.

ROHAN: Raju's introduction scene is a real show-stopper. What was it like shooting that sequence and how long did it take to come together?  

RAM: I rehearsed for 15 days, but the team rehearsed for over three months, and trust me, an episode like that, where injuries are so easy. I mean, I would say it's purely an injury-prone episode, with so many people hounding each other, on top of each other, anybody could have broken a leg had braces all over. But the rehearsals were done so meticulously, there was not a single scratch on any of us, not just me, all the stunt men, all the 1000 people around me and all the other 5000 people around them, sometimes.

So, that shows how well planned they all were and how ready they were on the day of the shoot, and we filmed this over 30 days, in hot summer and mid-summer and the dust. The dust used dries up in the air, right when he says cut, and nobody knew where I was in the whole crowd. The team didn't know, the casting directors didn't know. So, there was one guy right next to me, given a white flag, had to rise it and wave the white flag, so they know I'm right there, and this will be a team coming to pick me up. Sorry, take me and ferry me out there.

ROHAN: There are so many insane sequences in the film. There's your intro, the pre-interval fight between Raju and Bheem, the finale, Naatu Naatu, and so on. What sequence did you find the most demanding?  

RAM: The two most difficult episodes were definitely the interval episode where we are fighting against each other, because it was shot over 65 nights, over two different seasons. So, the whole team including, of course, we were tired, but the whole team had also about 350 to 400 people on-set every single day with us, sorting out the CGI for the animals, the British, the soldiers, we were a huge mammoth production. I want to thank the production team, who did a fantastic job, but it was a tedious process.

And the second episode was, of course, Naatu Naatu, or Tarak and me, respectively, in our films, we have done great songs, great choreographies that we were part of, but this particular one, it was not about Tarak’s style or Ram’s style. It was one style that is the Rajamouli style. So, to do that kind of synchronization for the film and for that song, it was very difficult, but I understand what he had in his mind, the director, and look where we are and we achieved such an unbelievable response today, and all thanks to that one man who pushed all of us, not just me, but the whole team to achieve what he wanted.

ROHAN: Have you been asked to perform at the Oscars yet? (NOTE: This interview was conducted prior to it being announced that the song would be performed live during the ceremony. However, it's still undetermined whether Charan and NTR Jr. will perform.)

RAM: I don't know. I'm hearing it here and there. I've got no concrete confirmations as of now. I'm also waiting, I hope. I mean, why not? If there is a request, I would love to do it, because to see the response they have given us, I would love to do it again, and it's like a token of thank you to the audience across the globe who have loved, appreciated us and put us on the nomination list. I think it's like showing my gratitude back again, by doing the hook step for them on stage.

ROHAN: This film has had such a huge impact on Indian cinema on a global scale, and now, you're also seeing the massive success of Pathaan. What do you think it is about our cinema that is finally resonating to western audiences? 

RAM: I mean, keeping aside, just the reputation that's coming from friends and close friends, which are family, unanimously, I think any film lover, any film goer, who starts appreciating good content, good film, good writing, and good direction, had called me. He didn't need to be my best friend, it was a surprise to see the number of calls from people I hadn't spoken to in years, five years or six years, and those kinds of friends and family and somebody so random calls and appreciates. I think that's the power of a good script. That's the power of good drama. That's the power of film, it transcends. Film doesn't have a language. It's so universal. It's just your emotion, which got connected from the East, the West, and in India. And I always believe, there's a saying that cinema doesn't have a language, it's just the emotion. So, I second that again.

ROHAN: Shah Rukh Khan congratulated you and your team after the Golden Globes, and even said he'd love to visit South India to show Pathaan, but only if you accompany him. I know you're friends, so have you talked to him recently about getting together?

RAM: I mean, we all have congratulated him. I think he did a fantastic job. Everybody says it's Shah Rukh’s come back, but Shah Rukh has never gone anywhere. He is there and he will be there, and he was always going to be there. He is definitely the King Khan like they say, and he just had a small break, and he's back like never before.

It was a nice gesture of him to ask me to launch his trailer, and I was more than happy to do that for him and be a part of the success of Pathaan. And yeah, everybody here in Hyderabad wants to see Shah Rukh in a theater, and I mean, I'm waiting, if he gets a free day off, and then he comes to Hyderabad, I will definitely take him to a theater, I'll be more than happy to. It would be my pleasure to see Pathaan along with him.

ROHAN: You were already an international superstar, but this film has brought you even more recognition. Have you had any conversations about Hollywood projects?  

RAM: It has to happen one day or the other. Eventually, it is going to land up where we're going to see one big global cinema that's going to happen. Forget India, I think we're going to see talent crossovers happening from the West to the East and also, in India. There's a lot of exchange of talent that's going to happen. I am looking forward for that day. It's just the beginning.

RRR is not just a film, it is a film that broke all stigmas and, thanks to the pandemic as well, people have been exposed to world cinema and RRR was was in that boat, sailing in a successful direction of opening up the artists, the talent of India to the world, and I hope this becomes true, and it's just not for one film, but it's really a beautiful amalgamation of great talent coming together.

ROHAN: With all the action you do in this film, I think you'd be really perfect for a superhero movie, maybe even as someone like Wolverine. Would you consider joining a Marvel film, if asked?   

RAM: Thank you, thank you, Rohan. I think it's every kid's dream to be in a superhero film. I was also a big fan of any kind of superhero, and I did watch a lot of superheroes movies. Also, I don't know what kind of a role I would fit into, but obviously, I would love to have a director from one of the Marvel series look at so many superhero characters we have in our history, in our mythology in India, and take that character and be part of the bigger Avengers, I think the bigger team that is there.

ROHAN: RRR has been a global phenomenon for over a year now, when did you realize how big this film was going to become and the impact it was going to have?  

RAM: On Day One. The day is released, the second it released, we knew. I mean, of course, being in this industry, I was born in this industry, and I know the pulse of the audience a little bit. And, you know how it is going to be and we knew we have done - when we were working, of course, we knew we were doing something so different. We didn't know how big that it was going to be, but we, for sure, knew we were doing something new, something very exciting, because we were so excited doing it and being part of it everyday on the shoot, on the sets. We were so excited, and I'm sure that that's the same kind of reflection when people in the audience come to the theaters and experience this film. And it was very instant. Definitely it was an instant reaction.

ROHAN: Naatu Naatu was shot in Ukraine, which has been through a lot since you were there. What are your memories of shooting in the country?  

RAM: Frankly, I didn't have any idea about how Ukraine was, I had never been there or I’d never been to a country that was close to Ukraine. But my first impression of Ukraine was shocking because it was such a beautiful country. The people, more than anything, the people were so warm. There was so inviting they made us feel like guests. I don't know how, I don’t know if people were planted, it was so unreal. You know, wherever we went, probably people were planted there, but it was that unreal. People was so, so helpful there and the country for some reason - For some reason, I had never gone to that country but I would have gone back again if I had a break. The architecture, the food was phenomenal, the places to go visit, the countryside, it was beautiful. We shot in the President's Palace, the main president's palace in the city, which I think is still intact, Thank God. It's so sad that all the good, beautiful years, beautiful time we had, it just ended four months after we got back to India. It was shocking. It’s sad.

A fearless warrior on a perilous mission comes face to face with a steely cop serving British forces in this epic saga set in pre-independent India.

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