Joined: 21 June 2005
As I find my way to the Golconda Fort for the period film Sri Ramadasu, I encounter Nagarjuna enacting torture scenes in the 'corridors' a little below surface level. Dressed in an 'unbleached gada dhoti' with chains tied around his hands, and bloodstains on his body, he presents a perfect picture of the saint-poet of medieval Andhra. The serenity on the face, despite the torture wounds, is very much present.
This is not the first time Nag is essaying the role of medieval saint-poet/composer. He did it a few years ago with Annamayya, (a film on saint-composer Annamacharya), which was very successful. In fact, it is the same team -- Raghavendra Rao (director), J K Bharavi (scriptwriter), Nag and M M Keeravani (music composer) behind Sri Ramadasu as well. Another highlight of the film is the presence of both father and son. Thespian Akkineni Nageswara Rao and Nagarjuna share screen space as Kabir and Ramadasu.
Keeravani suggested to Raghavendra Rao about doing a film on Ramadasu. They approached me when the script was ready," says Nag.
As the legend goes, Ramadasu, the tahsildar at Bhadrachalam, built a temple for Sri Rama (his lord) with unauthorised funds from the treasury. For this, he was incarcerated at Golconda Fort (the room is still there) by Qutub Shahi king Tanesha. Ram and Lakshman are supposed to have come personally to Tanesha and paid back the amount.
The biopic revolves around Ramadasu's life – his marriage to Kamala (played by Sneha), his official duties and the construction of the temple. "While the basic storyline is in tune with his life as gleaned from history and legend, cinematic license has been taken in dramatising certain parts," says Nagarjuna.
"There was a strange feeling. I had studied about Ramadasu in school and used to see the fort every day from my house in Jubilee Hills. Our school excursions also brought us to the fort. So I feel a sense of deja-vu. The feeling is rather difficult to explain. The path Ramadasu walked was unique. I am fortunate to play this character, the strength of which is strength and sacrifice. He sacrificed his life and family for what he believed in."
In between shots, Nag talks about various aspects of the film. The music is a highpoint. With Keeravani, one is sure of melodious tunes -– a sample of which was being played while the shoot was on. Director Raghavendra Rao is a rather reticent man who prefers to let his work to the talking.
A part of the shoot was done at Bhadrachalam, while some scenes were shot at a house roughly belonging to that period at Tirthahalli, about 100 kilometres from Mangalore. "The house, incidentally, belongs to the Tahsildar family of that area. "It is a beautiful structure on the banks of the Tungabhadra river with beams of sandalwood," says Nag.
All scenes featuring Nageswara Rao (as Kabir) were shot at Tirthahalli, Bhadrachalam and Rajahmundry. "I am amazed at his intensity even now. He is a perfectionist and the whole experience of acting with him has been humbling," he adds.
Nag has the lean look that is apt for the role. "I am on a diet but not working out." For him, the experience of working on this film has been "incredible".
Interestingly, some people on the sets are writing the Ramakoti – the name of Lord Rama one crore times. It will subsequently be presented at the Rama temple in Bhadrachalam.
Rukmini Krishnan, who has styled clothes for Nageswara Rao and Nag, is happy with the result. "It has been a joy designing. I love doing period films and have done quite a bit of research."
J K Bharavi did extensive research too, before writing the script. "I went through plays and harikathas, besides the kshetramahatmyam (which gives the importance and details on the shrine at Bhadrachalam) on Ramadasu and met the ninth generation of people at the Bhadrachalam temple. We have also touched upon some unknown facts," he says. Nasser, who plays king Tanesha says, "It is interesting because one rarely gets a chance to do historical films. I cannot refuse when offered such a role on a platter."
Nag has the last word. "They say that when you do something connected with Ram, one is bound to face some difficulties before emerging successfully. We had a tragedy but we are hoping to complete the film successfully."
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