Telugu actor Varun Tej’s new film Antariksham 9000 KMPH is helmed by Sankalp Reddy, who made his directorial debut last year with the National Award-winning The Ghazi Attack. In a recent interaction, Varun talked about the challenges of making Antariksham 9000 KMPH on a limited budget.
Excerpts from the interaction:
Q. Tell us about your journey with Antariksham 9000 KMPH.
My journey with this project started almost two years ago. Director Sankalp approached me when I was shooting for Tholi Prema. He told me about making a space film with a Telugu touch. I was excited about his idea. Initially, I had my concerns about how the Telugu audience will receive this story. But, Sankalp took his own time to research about astronauts and their work. He developed a screenplay that suits the taste of the Telugu audience.
Q. There will comparisons between Antariksham 9000 KMPH and Hollywood space movies.
Unlike Hollywood, we can’t make a film investing hundreds of crores. Even during the making of Kanche, I was asked how did we manage to make such a film on our budget. CG is like a white elephant, it costs a lot of money. You can invest in as much as you want and keep making your film better. We have given our best within our limitations. It will be on par with it (Hollywood film). In any space film, beyond the grand visual effects, the story and emotions are what drives it. You will also find a strong story in Antariksham 9000 KMPH.
Q. How was your experience shooting for Antariksham 9000 KMPH?
We practiced on ropes with astronaut suits for three weeks under the guidance of an action-choreography team from Bulgaria. Stunt-choreographer Juji supervised our practice sessions. Sankalp had a clear vision of every action sequence. He clearly communicated his ideas to the action choreography team and planned it very well. In spite of our training (before the shoot), when we wore our astronaut costumes, it became very difficult. Just the backpack weighs around 10 kg. The first three days were very difficult but later we got used to it.
Q. Tell us about how you filmed the anti-gravity scenes.
In Hollywood, the zero-gravity scenes are shot inside huge vacuum rooms. We can rent such a setup but it’s a very expensive affair. Apollo 13 filmmakers rented a spacecraft and created real zero gravity space. We saw another film called Gravity. And the filmmakers majorly used ropes. The VFX team from Mumbai made customized rigs for us considering our movements. This was more cost-effective. Because our budget is not Rs 200 crore. It was Rs 25-30 crore. Our producer is also important for us, so we did about 6 months of pre-production and we completed the film in 70 days.
Q. What in Antariksham 9000 KMPH will click with the audience?
Antariksham 9000 KMPH is the story of an astronaut called Dev. It is about his aspiration to bring glory to India. Its story is not something unheard of but when you put in a space backdrop, it looks totally different. Not everyone has seen world cinema. For those people, it will be a new experience to see such a Telugu film.
Q. Tik Tik Tik, which came out a few months ago, was also a space movie.
I heard that the filmmakers of Tik Tik Tik did a good job on a limited budget. The film made more than its budget. The success of Tik TiK Tik encouraged us. In fact, our producer and director discussed with the makers of Tamil as to how they made the film.
Q. What are your upcoming projects?
My next film F2 with director Anil Ravipudi is getting ready to hit the screens for Sankranthi. It’s an out-and-out comedy drama. It deals with the problems between a married couple and the relationship issues between unmarried couple. I have signed a new sports drama, which will be helmed by debutant Kiran Korrapati. Geetha Arts and my cousin Siddhu are producing the project. I will be playing a boxer in it. I am doing another film under 14 Reels banner. It is a period film and it needs extensive pre-production work.