Madhu Mantena: I thought we can make ‘Ramayan’ in Rs 300 crore, but I don’t think that is enough today – Times of India

Madhu Mantena is busy working on creating a mythological universe and his ambitious venture will feature a grand re-telling of the Hindu epic Ramayan, followed by Mahabharat narrated by Draupadi’s point of view, followed by more projects. ‘Ramayan’ will be directed by Nitesh Tiwari and Ravi Udyavar, while Deepika Padukone will be starring in and co-producing ‘Draupadi’. Currently, extensive pre-production work is on in full swing. In an exclusive interaction with ETimes, Madhu shared his thoughts on the epic stories, budgets, and competition from other similar Bollywood movies. Excerpts:

What made you want to create a mythological universe?
The purpose that I gave myself about two years back is to bring back our history and mythology to our youth, because the thing is today technology has come to a place that if you can imagine it, you can see it. We haven’t had the opportunity to present our mythology in all its glory to our audience and also to the world. We want to start with the biggest one of them all–Ramayan. We had an idea a few years back and then we got Nitesh (Tiwari) and Ravi (Udyawar) to work on that. They have been doing extensive amounts of research–both literary and visual–to create a world that will make us proud of our epics. When I first told Ravi that I wanted to make this kind of a project, I felt that I didn’t have the maturity in my age to make something so grand.

During the lockdown, Indians revisited Ramayana… how challenging will it be to compress the grand epic into a 3-hour movie?

We’re actually telling it in a different manner; we are going to narrate the traditional Ramayan in all its glory. What we all revisited last year was an epic that was told years ago; the feel, and technology was different. We are now using new means to present it on a bigger scale by using the latest technology available. Making a movie on Ramayan presents us an opportunity of a lifetime to tell these stories again.

You have envisioned a grand movie. What is the budget like?
Initially we didn’t have a budget in mind and even now, there is no figure. Right now we are trying to see how we can tell this epic in all its glory. But when I started the project, I had thought we can make the film for Rs 300 crore, but today, I don’t think that much will be enough to tell this story. It is a continuous process but with Allu (Aravind), Namit (Malhotra) and me collaborating, we will hopefully be successful in presenting a story like this.

Different takes on the Ramayan are being planned with films like ‘Adipurush’, and ‘Ram Setu’. Do you feel the competition?
Not at all, in fact, I am really happy that stories are being made. But ours is a very different journey. We have spent four years researching and developing these worlds and visuals. We are telling our traditional, popular Ramayan and the beliefs that have been formed around it. So there is no competition. In the past it has been told in several forms and formats and we will tell our own Ramayan.

Whenever a mythological or historic movie is made, it usually comes with controversies about mis-representation of facts, change of title. Your take on it and how prepared are you for the same?
It is very easy to tell Ramayan because we all know it, so, we are not doing any interpretations or inspirations. We are sticking to our traditional Ramayan. Why would we offend anyone if we are telling it as it is? There is no fear.

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