Muthiah Muralidaran, the legendary off-spinner, has been loved by people across countries and cultures. That’s because he is a sui generis genius and is the only bowler in the history of International Test cricket to take 800 wickets. Movie Train Motion Pictures has made an authentic, grand sports-based film titled ‘800’ as his biopic. Madhur Mittal of ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ fame is essaying the role of Muralidaran in the film. Directed by MS Sripathy, the film is up for a grand theatrical release. Sivalenka Krishna Prasad, the famous Tollywood producer and the head of Sridevi Movies, has acquired its All-India theatrical rights. The movie will be released in theatres on October 6th.
Krishna Prasad today interacted with the media ahead of the film’s grand release. Here are the excerpts:
You have known director MS Sripathy for many years. How did your journey start out?
My uncle, SP Balasubramaniam garu, and I had a common friend who knew Sripathy. They are a Telugu family settled in Coimbatore. He speaks Telugu fluently. As someone who is passionate about movies, he completed some filmmaking courses. When SP Charan remade ‘Varsham’ in Tamil, Sripathy was hired as an assistant director. I happened to oversee all production works related to that film. After that, Sripathy worked in the direction department for four to five films under Tamil filmmaker Venkat Prabhu. We wanted to introduce him as a director in our production company. Had I known that I had the opportunity to produce the biopic of Muralidaran, I would have happily grabbed it.
At which phase did you take over ‘800‘?
It was in the first week of August that I got a call from Sripathy who requested me to take over the project. Ever since the start of this project, he has been informing me about the developments and production works. He used to update me whether he was in London or in Sri Lanka. I told him to talk with Muralidaran first about the proposal. I got a call from Muralidaran half an hour later, saying that he would be happy if I took over ‘800’.
* As a producer, you have always been involved with the making process at an intimate level. Did you make any changes or additions to ‘800’ after you took it over?*
This is a biopic. What can be changed in a biopic? It has been made as it should be. At the same time, this is not a documentary. Muralidaran’s life has all the commercial touches. You won’t believe that he faced extreme adversities. The audience will be surprised to know those scenes on the big screen. Sripathy took Muralidaran’s permission for every scene. Muralidaran doesn’t like false representations.
We heard that our Telugu hero Nani also listened to the story. Is that true?
Yes. It is known that Vijay Sethupathy was supposed to play the lead. Due to a controversy caused by some people in Tamil Nadu, he opted out. Then Sripathy tried to tell me and Nani the story. By that time, it was only one and a half years since Nani had done ‘Jersey’. Nani was not willing to do another film in the backdrop of cricket. Muralidaran likes Nani a lot. Nani had already told me that he would only listen to the script. He judged the script as a very good one.
You have met legendary cricketers like Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, VVS Laxman, and Anil Kumble as part of the promotional campaign for ‘800. What memories have you made?
Meeting all of them is a great feeling. I discovered that they are down-to-earth people.
In how many theaters is the movie going to be released?
In India, we are releasing it in about 1100 theaters. We are focusing mostly on multiplex screens. Later, we will gradually increase the screen count. Lyca Productions is doing the overseas distribution. In the Telugu States, Suniel Narang is distributing it in Nizam. Dil Raju is doing it in Visakhapatnam and Uttarandhra. Geeta Film Distribution is doing it in East Godavari. In West Godavari, LVR is doing it. Annapurna Studios is doing it in Krishna. Nellore is being done by Anjali Pictures’ Bhaskar Reddy. S Cinemas is doing it in Ceded. In Guntur, Padmakar Cinemas is doing it. UFO, which distributed ‘Yashoda’ in North India, is also distributing our film.
Isn’t it being released in Sri Lanka too? Are you taking care of the release formalities there?
No. I am looking after the India release formalities. Muralidaran is involved in the Sri Lankan release. The film has been made only in Tamil. I advised them to dub it only in Telugu and Hindi.
Muralidaran recently said that he has seen many Telugu movies. Have there been movie-related discussions between you?
He has watched many Telugu movies, including those dubbed into Tamil. There are many people who know him from Tollywood. Victory Venkatesh is one of them. He was supposed to attend the pre-release event recently. He could not make it because of the shooting of ‘Saindhav’. But Venkatesh called and spoke.
What new films are you going to do as a producer?
Sripathy’s next film is with me. There is a movie with ‘Yashoda’ directors Hari and Hareesh in the works. We have already completed the script work. Discussions are going on with director Pavan Sadineni as well. Sai Shekhar, the director of Siddhartha’s film ‘Vadaladu’, recently narrated a story. Four or five stories are currently in the works. After the lead cast is finalized, the films will be announced. I have always tried a variety of genres. After ‘Gentleman’, I did ‘Sammohanam’ and ‘Yashoda’, which were different from each other.