As 'Yashoda' is all set to hit the cinemas on November 11, producer Sivalenka Krishna Prasad talks about making the thriller on a rich scale, working with Samantha Ruth Prabhu, and the making of the film. Catch him shower praises on the star actress and more.
This is my first film since the 2018 movie 'Sammohanam'. Hari Shankar and Harish Narayan, the directors, are inseparable. When they pitched the storyline in 2020 around the time my uncle SP Balasubrahmanyam garu passed away (I was in Chennai to show solidarity with SP Charan), I was stunned by its novelty. Since the coronavirus pandemic was still there, we waited for the right time to commence the project.
My initial estimation was that it would take a bomb to do justice to a story like this. But the directors told me they can complete it within a budget of Rs 3-4 Cr. They took another eight months to rework the script and came back to me. We then finalized the budget. Naturally, the final budget was much more.
The central crime 'Yashoda' deals with is of an international scale. That's why we wanted to make it as a multi-lingual film. By that time, Samantha had become nationally popular with 'The Family Man 2'. When she listened to the first narration, she was excited. The nod came immediately.
It has been a terrific journey with Samantha. Since 'Shaakuntalam' was over by the time our film started, she was able to completely focus on 'Yashoda'. She was completely involved and taking care of how she was looking in the frames. The directors were also open-minded. Everyone felt responsible for the output. Therefore, I was quite at peace.
I came to know about Samantha's health issues after she completed her dubbing. She was uncompromising and went out of her way to dub in Telugu and Tamil. Her energy levels dipped while dubbing for the Tamil version since medication was tiring her out. Since her character has got an emotional journey in the film, she didn't want to compromise.
The backdrop of 'Yashoda' is a crime thriller where surrogacy forms an important element. Varalaxmi Sarathkumar has played a substantial role that anchors a segment of the film. Unni Mukundan has played a fitting role. Sampath Raj has got another nice character. Every actor fit the bill.
When it comes to thrillers like 'Yashoda', filmmakers tend to dilute the gravity of the subject by going for commercial elements. We shouldn't misunderstand the audience's tastes. They don't like forced elements. They want to enjoy the story. 'Yashoda' has been made without force-fitted ingredients. Songs in a film like 'Yashoda' can become speed-breakers. But there are bit songs.
The running time is 135 minutes. Everyone from composer Mani Sharma to the cinematographer, has worked really well.
I haven't splurged money on the project fancying myself as a big-ticket producer. I know that I am a middle-class producer. We are going for 'own release' in the Telugu States with the support of Suniel Narang of Asian Cinemas. In Tamil and Malayalam, we are releasing by ourselves with the help of Suriya. In Kannada, Disney is helping us out. In Hindi, UFO is helping us out.
I am not a producer who thinks purely in commercial terms. I don't call 'Yashoda' an experimental movie. 'Aditya 369', one of my early films, was exciting to the core. At that time, nobody had dared to make a film with time-travel as a crucial fantasy element. It was an untold point till that film. I have always held onto excitement. Nani's 'Gentleman' was appreciated by everyone. 'Sammohanam' was seen as a sensible film by one and all. It is a relief when such films are accepted by the audience.
Even in the olden days, beautiful movies did flop. 'Janani Janmabhoomi' is an example. A good film is a good film regardless of what their theatrical result. In the OTT era, people are expecting novelty because of the exposure to a wide range of content. They are unforgiving and movie collections get affected adversely in no time if the 'word of mouth 'is negative. Producers can no longer afford to rely on "combinations".
I am ready to make a film with Balakrishna garu if I come across the right script. Recently, when I bumped into him, he told me 'Yashoda' must be good since I am its producer.