jagannadh: “Liger” is not a regional but a universal story, says filmmaker Puri Jagannadh

It’s the “best time” to make a pan-Indian film, believes director Puri Jagannadh, who says his latest release, Liger, is a universal story about the rise of an outsider.

Titled Vijay Deverakonda, the Telugu Hindi sports drama hit theaters in Hindi, Telugu, Tamil, Kannada and Malayalam on Thursday.

Jagannadh said he approached Deverakonda, the star of Telugu films like Arjun Reddy and Geetha Govindam, with the script for Liger in 2019.

Supported by its banner Puri Connects and Dharma Productions, the film was to be assembled on an all-India level, which was a first for both the director and the actor.

“I’m glad ‘Liger’ happened. This is the best time to be here, there’s so much cultural exchange going on. Today every good story clicks with the audience. Our film isn’t just a regional story.

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“It’s a universal story about the rise of an underdog. It can be viewed in any language. So we thought of doing it as a pan-Indian film with Vijay,” the filmmaker said in an interview with PTI here.

Jagannadh, who made his Bollywood debut in 2004’s Shart: The Challenge, said he now wants to reunite with his idol Amitabh Bachchan. He had worked with the veteran actor on the 2011 film Bbuddah… Hoga Terra Baap.

The 55-year-old director said he had been looking forward to making a film in Hindi for some time, but his commitments in the south put him off.

“I’ve wanted to come here and direct a film for a long time. After ‘Bbuddah…Hoga Terra Baap’ I signed a film with Mahesh Babu, NTR Jr. and others and I stuck there. I was waiting to come here but I had previous engagements in Telugu cinema.

“Now I want to make a film here and work with my favorite actor Amitabh Bachchan, he is my childhood hero and then (with) all the khans,” he added.

Jagannadh announced that he was in talks for an action movie with Bollywood superstar Salman Khan a few years ago. Khan had starred in Prabhudheva’s 2008 film Wanted, the Hindi remake of his 2006 Telugu film Pokiri.

“I met Salman a long time ago, maybe seven or eight years ago. He called me at his house and I stayed with him all night. He told me, ‘Come with a good script and we’ll catch up. . There are ideas in the action space, let’s see.”

In “Liger,” Deverakonda plays a stuttering kickboxer, and the filmmaker said his decades-old idea of ​​portraying the lead actor with a speech impediment framed the film’s plot.

“I usually create strong and massive characters, but I’ve never created a hero with a disability. When I came up with this idea 10 years ago, I was thinking of many disabilities, like portraying the hero as a blind person or a man with a broken leg, but then the thought of researching stuttering came up. We all felt that doing this against the backdrop of the action would be great fun.

Jagannadh praised the actor for his fight scenes, which he trained for a month in Thailand under stunt master Kecha, and his stuttering.

“I wasn’t worried about the fight sequences. Vijay did everything really well, including the stammering part. If you show deformities of any kind, we were sure that we don’t want to show the character in a sympathetic way. The character is strong and powerful,” he said.

The director further revealed that Janhvi Kapoor was the first choice for “Liger” but she was unable to come on board due to scheduling conflicts. Ananya Panday was later cast to play the female lead.

“I’m a big fan of Sridevi and that’s why I wanted to do this (film) with Jahnvi but it didn’t work out due to scheduling issues. I will work with her one day,” he added.

Getting boxing legend Mike Tyson to star in an extended cameo in Liger was a big challenge, according to the director.

After exchanging emails with his team for about a year in 2019, Jagannadh said he was still unsure if the American boxer would arrive on the sets until he came to Las Vegas for the shoot.

“I’m a big fan of Mike Tyson. It was a long process to get him. He plays a character in the film. What we see of him on screen is different, he’s like a kid and easy to work with, unlike his outstanding personality,” he said.

Also starring in Liger are Ramya Krishna, Ronit Roy and Vishu Reddy. The film is being produced by Jagannadh and Charmme Kaur along with Karan Johar and Apoorva Mehta.

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