'Spyder' is my most expensive film, says Mahesh Babu

The actor opens up on teaming up with A.R. Murugadoss and Santosh Sivan for his bilingual, which releases on September 27.
He’s been on a whirlwind promotional tour, stepping up the momentum in Chennai and Bengaluru, before talking about Spyder on home ground, Hyderabad. If he’s fatigued, he tries his best not to show it. When Mahesh Babu settles down to talk, the words come out measured at first. It takes a while for him to open up. One needs to wade past the “I’m happy and very, very excited about this film” statements to get him to reveal more. He is genuinely pleased with Spyder but prefers to keep his cards close to his chest. “It’s part of the strategy. This is my career’s most expensive film [an estimated ₹125 crore] and my biggest release till date. We want people to experience this edge-of-the-seat thriller in theatres,” he says.
Mahesh calls Spyder the first ‘proper’ bilingual to be done by a leading Telugu actor. “I am fluent in both Tamil and Telugu and we felt it wouldn’t be tough to pull it off. Once we started working, we realised it won’t be easy. If one shot is filmed in five takes for Telugu followed by a few close-ups, we repeat the same process for Tamil. It was like remaking a film in another language on the same day. I have to applaud director A R Murugadoss (ARM) for ensuring that the energy levels on the sets didn’t dip,” he says. Speaking in both languages helped stave off the deja vu. “The ‘metre’ as we call it, or the modulation, of dialogues is different in both languages. So it never felt repetitive.”
Spyder has Mahesh playing an intelligence official and the story deals with counter-terrorism, with all the markings of a hero saving people from an impending disaster. “More than 1000 people worked for a year-and-a-half. It was an exhausting 190 days schedule,” he states. There are a few differences between the Tamil and Telugu versions, he discloses: “A few actors are different.” We prod him to reveal more and he says, “The main actors are the same. But in the background, you will see different faces in both films to suit the regions.”
The actor says after wrapping up Spyder, Koratala Siva’s Bharat Ane Nenu felt a lot easier: “I would speak in Telugu and the shot would be done; I would be like ‘Inthena?’ [that’s it?].”
Tamil actor Bharath plays a pivotal role in Spyder and director-actor S J Suryah, who had directed Mahesh-starrer Nani, plays the antagonist. “Bharath did the film out of respect for ARM. I can’t say anything more at this stage. And when ARM told me Suryah is the villain, I didn’t react immediately. Two days later it sunk in that he’d be perfect. I’ve seen his Tamil films and he’s fantastic.”
Invisible villain
Mahesh and Suryah don’t come face to face until the later stages of the film. “We’ve followed a unique idea of the hero fighting against an invisible villain for most part of the film,” says Mahesh.
As Spyder gears up for a worldwide release, including Arabic language, Mahesh states, “The budget was warranted for a film of this scale. It has the potential to be a blockbuster.”
Mahesh has often stated that he and ARM wanted to work together for 10 years until this project came about. It’s been a similar case with cinematographer Santosh Sivan, though a tad trickier. “My wife Namrata has worked with him and I’ve been wanting to for a long time. I called him a few times and he told me up front that his working style may not be in sync with Telugu filmmakers. He chooses his work. Once I even made Namrata call him up. When he learnt about this project he called up and said he’d do it. He had worked with ARM earlier for Thuppaki and loved the experience.”
Shooting all night: The team shot for 27 nights in Ahmedabad. Mahesh calls it a strange schedule: “I landed one evening at 8 p.m. and went to shoot. A lot of crowd had gathered and we had to clear the area. This would happen on a daily basis so we would shoot from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. We didn’t experience Ahmedabad by the day.”
Gautam and Sithara: His son is 11 and daughter, 5. Talking about them, Mahesh says, “Gautam has been watching Avengers and likes action films. Sithara likes the songs in my films.”
Teaming up with S S Rajamouli: “We both have committed to a project and will begin working on it once I wrap up the other pending projects. We want to do something special.”
Source-The Hindu

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