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'Custody' is edge of the seat from the 40th minute: Venkat Prabhu


Talented director Venkat Prabhu began his career in the 2000s. It was in 2007 that he made a debut as a director with the critically-acclaimed Tamil movie 'Chennai 600028'. Since then, the Kollywood filmmaker has done acclaimed movies such as 'Saroja', 'Mankatha' and the more recent 'Maanaadu'. 'Custody', starring Naga Chaitanya as the hero, is his upcoming release. Set to hit the cinemas on May 12, the film is a proper bilingual. "I have cast actors like Ajith in negative shades. Simbu had a fresh role in 'Maanaadu'. I have cast Chaitanya a new spin. I have shown him in a new light altogether," Venkat Prabhu says, suggesting that even the fans will be believable despite possessing a massy element.

The 2021 Malayalam political survival thriller film 'Nayattu' is the inspiration behind 'Custody'. My protagonist is an ordinary constable from a humble background but he is in a commercial space. I began building on a storyline I had in mind keeping the tastes of the Tamil and Telugu audience in mind. Unexpectedly, I happened to catch a song from Naga Chaitanya's 'Love Story'. I then decided to cast him as the hero. I wanted someone with no image (in Tamil), someone who could be molded for the role, someone without a massy image, and someone the audience would watch with zero expectations.

I contacted Chaitanya before the release of 'Maanaadu'. At that time, he was still doing 'Bangarraju'. When I told him the storyline and the 'race against time' element during a 30-minute narration, he was excited.

Shiva (Chaitanya) hails from a small town and has got a loving family. He has got a love interest (Krithi Shetty as Revathi). The movie starts with Shiva's problems. It then introduces a problem which is not his at all. He gets embroiled in the problem that is not of his making. Twenty minutes before the interval, the actual action starts. The second half is going to be completely edge-of-the-seat.

I am conscious of the sensibilities of both Tamil and Telugu audiences. Telugu audience, too, like realistic films. When it comes to commercial films, Tollywood is larger-than-life. 'Custody' falls somewhere in between realism and larger-than-life commercialism. The story is universal. Even the Hindi audience will like to watch it with subtitles.

The story takes place over a period of four days. Chay's character gets to know about Arvind Swami's character at the same time as the audience. Usually, the screenplay pattern is different. In commercial movies, the hero would be introduced. In parallel, the villain would be introduced. In this, the audience know the villain before the hero knows about him. I didn't want to follow the hackneyed screenplay style.

The music (by Ilaiyaraaja and Yuvan Shankar Raja) has changed the flavour of the film. You have already seen the BGM in the trailer. Country music with a tinge of pathos is what we have tried.

I am a big fan of the movie 'Siva' (directed by RGV and starring Nagarjuna). Even in Tamil, it was an acclaimed movie. Since the movie is so popular, I felt I should title 'Custody' as 'Siva'. Chay was reluctant because 'Siva' is a cult movie carrying so much weight and reputation. He asked me to opt for some other name.

Krithi Shetty is a tribal school instructor in 'Custody'. The movie starts half way. We try to get to know her and other characters as soon as possible. As much info as possible is given in the shortest time. Krithi has done a suitable job in the role of a little quirky, funny and little mature character. I saw her in 'The Warrierr'. She played a glamorous part in it. I was a little hesitant whether to cast her. When I met her, my perception changed. The way she spoke and her mannerisms convinced me that she can be my Revathi.

Updated on May 9, 2023