GAFX 2022: ‘The Ramayana’ pitted to be India’s most expensive project is not just a film but a purpose for producer Madhu Mantena

Renowned Indian film producer Madhu Mantena who is one of the producers of the upcoming trilogy on The Ramayana spoke about their ambitious project which is said to be the most expensive film ever made in this country at GAFX 2022. In conversation with Technicolor Creative Studios country head and ABAI president Biren Ghose, he revealed how he plans to use all available knowledge to fulfill his purpose of taking the mythological epic to the world. For him, even if the budget reaches a 1000 crore, the outcome has to be really grand. 

Ace producers Allu Aravind, Madhu Mantena and Namit Malhotra have joined hands for the live-action trilogy film in 3D. Nitesh Tiwari of Dangal fame and Ravi Udyawar who directed Mom will steer the grand project.

Besides sharing his vision of the grand re-telling of the epic drama with the young audience, Mantena touched upon important points about filmmaking, freshness of content, engaging the audience with creative ways of story-telling, making optimum use of the latest technologies and so on.

“Filmmaking is nothing but curation. A producer is a curator. As a producer, I am constantly listening to ideas and stories,” Mantena said. According to him, it is the commercial form of storytelling.

Ghose interestingly pointed out that we should stop using the term-filmmaking, we should call it image making, as there is no use of film anymore. The industry has come a long way in terms of content, technology, overall budget and so on.

Mantena elaborated on the importance of the ability of a filmmaker to relate with the audience and understand what they want to see. Citing his film Bombay Velvet, the producer explained that if the audience does not like a story, they will not go and watch the film.

When asked if the movie Bombay Velvet was made today, would the scenario be something different, to which he said that he doesn’t think so. Mantena feels that if a film doesn’t do well in theatres, it will not do well on OTT also. The only way to pull the audience is to stand out in terms of the content and creative storytelling. Hence, filmmakers cannot rely on the same old imagery again and again.

The modern day content has come a long way in terms of its production value. It is not about the platform, but the way of presenting one’s story is of foremost importance to ensure success.

“The storytelling format of a lot of successful films is faster and more engaging. They are not waiting to explain themselves. The audiences have become smarter,” he said.

Mantena mentioned that he is trying to do something similar to that of Amar Chitra Katha and is trying to bring back Indian mythology; not just as a television series but he wishes to do that in the form of spectacles.

“I think for the first time technology has come to a place where we can depict what was written in these epics. If you see the descriptions of Valmiki or Ved Vyas, showing them perfectly on-screen was not possible earlier. I think there is an opportunity in the time and space to do those things,” he pointed out.

Moving further, Ghose highlighted how, the social media influencers are relying on the data with all analytics ready informing them about the kinds of content that is working and what is not working. He wonders if something similar can be done in filmmaking with pre-visualisation, and other tools to see the film as a whole even before it is made.

“I am making The Ramayana, which is pitted to be the most expensive film ever made in this country. So I wouldn’t have a choice but do that and spend almost 1000 crores, taking Ramayana to the world. For me it’s a purpose. It’s not a film, it’s not a commercial enterprise,” Mantena said. The ambitious producer feels that the Ramayana needs to be grander than what it was 10-12 years back.

He concluded by saying, “Without the pre-production tools, I don’t think India can make spectacular world class content.”

The key takeaway of the AVGC discourse was that the face-to-face interaction almost after two year hiatus was the need of the hour. Most of the speakers of GAFX 2022 were amazed to witness the footfall, interact with tomorrow’s talents, meet industry friends and exchange ideas.