Exactly a week after Varisu/Vaarasudu hit the screens, Vamshi Paidipally is a relieved man. “I have gone on the biggest rollercoaster ride in the world,” he says with a hearty laugh, adding that he couldn’t be happier with the response at the box office.
“Right from the start, we have maintained that it is a straight Tamil film, and [Dil] Raju garu just told me that the film’s Telugu version, Vaarasudu, collected nearly Rs 11 crores in the first four days. In comparison, Vijay sir’s biggest hit, Master, made around Rs 14 crores in Telugu, and we are going to beat that record in no time. However, the biggest surprise for Vaarasudu is how despite the limited promotions due to crunched timelines, positive word-of-mouth helped us market the film. However, I can say that the purpose with which we set out to make Vaarasudu has been fulfilled.”
While the filmmaker admits that Vaarasudu might have a lavish canvas, it’s the innate emotion at the core of the film that sealed its success across regions. He believes it is this emotion that eased his process of adapting and understanding the sensibilities of Tamil viewers.
“I think everyone, regardless of their language and culture, reacts the same way to a particular emotion. The phenomenal reception of films like Bahubali, RRR, KGF and Pushpa are testaments. Sensibilities vary, but responses to emotions are common,” says Vamshi, who tapped into his previous experience of helming a Tamil-Telugu bilingual, Oopiri, to mount Vaarasudu.
“Oopiri was conceived as a true-blue bilingual with separate shots for both versions, and we even had different actors for Tamil and Telugu. In Vaarasudu, however, we strengthened the Tamil factor, and of course, I have been following Vijay sir’s work for a long time and it all helped.”
The USP of Vaarasudu, in a way, is that it brought back Vijay to a lighter and more pleasant family zone after nearly a decade, with the actor inclining more toward action dramas in recent times. “There is no major action sequence in the first half of Vaarasudu at all!” Vamshi laughs. “The idea was to bring the vintage Vijay from the times of Thulladha Manam Thullum (1999) and Kadhalukku Mariyadhai (1997) and blend it with his immense ‘Thalapathy’ image he now commands. That was our challenge and I believe that’s also the film’s biggest strength.”
Many celebrated bits from Vijay’s filmography—be it a funny iteration of the iconic ‘flower’ dialogue from Poove Unakkaga (1996) or a crowd-pleasing sequence set in a boardroom that pays tribute to some of his recent hit dialogues—are sprinkled all over the screenplay of Vaarasudu. The filmmaker goes on to add that his collaboration with lyricist and writer Vivek encouraged him to explore the strength of the star further. “I was supposed to collaborate with Raju Murugan, who worked with me in Thozha (the Tamil version of Oopiri) too but he was busy with Japan.
Then, I got to know that Vivek was writing dialogues for Shankar sir’s film with Ram Charan. Since he is from Tamil Nadu and is a huge fan of Vijay sir, he knows what’s expected from the star. If I would tell him a dialogue, he knows how to tune it to Vijay sir’s body language and this collaboration helped us a lot,” he says, before revealing one other collaborator who helped him shape the boardroom sequence. “Although I had a basic idea about the sequence, I took some help from Anil Ravipudi (director of F2 and Sarileru Neekevvaru) for that and the climax. He enhanced it well. I believe filmmaking—from the germination of an idea to the final output—is teamwork.”
Vamshi began his career with the action drama Munna (2007) and followed it up with crowd-pullers in the form of Brindavanam (2010) and Evadu (2014). Although his last three films, Oopiri (2016), Maharshi (2019) and Vaarasudu are still crowd-pleasing entertainers, they have a stronger emotional core compared to his first three films.
Vamshi too stresses the importance of creating an emotional resonance among viewers with his films. What created this inclination towards ‘emotion’ in his films? “I think the change began with Oopiri. I learned filmmaking from Munna, Brindavanam and Evadu, and if not for these films, Oopiri wouldn’t have come into existence. Nobody expected a film like Oopiri from me back then and the overwhelming response and respect I received from it made me understand the capacity and power of cinema. My path changed there. And with Maharshi and Vaarasudu, I have to thank the lead actors for trusting me because these films don’t follow a regular ‘hero’ template. Maharshi was a journey of realisation and how the character becomes a ‘Maharshi’ in the end. My films are about characters evolving into heroes. The same extends to Vaarasudu. Had Vijay sir perceived it as his previous films and questioned me about the commercial elements, the film wouldn’t be what it is now.”
The filmmaker goes on to reveal that Vijay would ask him only one question throughout the filming. “He would just ask me, ‘Are you happy, sir?’ And I asked him the same when we met at the success party and he told me he was quite happy,” says Vamshi, who recalls a rather funny anecdote surrounding the delayed release of Vaarasudu. “Dil Raju garu met Vijay sir on January 7 and told him that there will be a delay in the release of the Telugu version but assured him about its success. A couple of days back, Vijay sir told me in a lighter vein that even he was shocked looking at Raju garu’s confidence back then.”
Beyond the box-office records and praises pouring in, Vamshi feels that the most memorable compliment was the tight hug from his father after the screening. “This is the first time my father reacted this passionately after watching one of my films. I think the final dialogue in the film where Vijay sir tells his father, ‘I might not walk in your path but you are the one who taught me to walk’ reflected my relationship with him. I think many fathers and sons out there relate to it. That, I believe, is the success of Vaarasudu,” a content, proud Vamshi signs off.