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'HanuMan' is just tip of the iceberg: Prasanth Varma on launching Telugu superhero franchise

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New Delhi, Jan 23 (PTI) "HanuMan", the latest Telugu movie that has captivated the audiences across the country, is just the starting point of a new superhero franchise, says director Prasanth Varma, who has always been fascinated by Indian culture.

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Headlined by Teja Sajja, "HanuMan" has become a runaway hit, amassing over Rs 200 crore at the global box office. The film has been praised by the critics for its depiction of the classic good versus evil superhero story with a touch of mythology.

Its success feels nothing short of a dream, said Varma, who earlier directed "Awe" and "Zombie Reddy".

"I didn't realise that it was all happening. It took me two-three days for all this to sink in because never in my life have I experienced so much success in terms of love from the audience," the 34-year-old filmmaker told PTI in an interview.

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"All my previous films were loved by the audience, but we never made a lot of money. I was that filmmaker who makes good cinema but doesn't make a lot of money for the producers. But I think for the first time in my career, it has happened in such a way... I think it is easily 10 times more than any of my previous films," he added.

"HanuMan" is set in a fictional place called Anjanadri, where Hanumanthu (Sajja), a petty thief who gets the powers of Lord Hanuman. To save the people of Anjanadri, he faces off against Michael, who yearns to possess a power that would make him a formidable superhero.

The film marks the beginning of a cinematic universe and Varma has already planned two follow-ups -- "Jai HanuMan" and "Adhira".

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"I have always been fascinated by the stories from our mythology and culture. When I was researching 'HanuMan', I found more characters in our mythology that we have not really explored. The audiences are also not aware of them. So I thought, it'd be interesting if I could create new characters and narrate their greatness at the same time," he said.

It is quite a tightrope walk for a filmmaker to explore mythological stories without hurting the sentiments of the people. Varma, who is passionate about mythological stories and characters, said it all comes down to a storyteller's intention behind making the movie.

"My intention was true. I didn't want to make this film to make a lot of money. If I would have done that, I'm sure people would find many problems in the film. Since the intention was true, everything fell in place. Even if we made small mistakes, I think people were okay with that because the intention was pure," he said.

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Varma said it's not easy to make a superhero film in India, especially due to budgetary constraints.

"To write a new superhero with unique powers and weaknesses is difficult because there are so many superheroes that are already there with (Hollywood studios) Marvel and DC," he added.

In a country where everyday heroes are presented as larger-than-life figures, making a superhero film is a challenge, he said.

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"Most of the stunts done by superheroes are already being done by our heroes. We show our heroes as if they're already superheroes and gods. They can kick 100 people in one go or do gravity-defying stunts. So, the audience has already seen our heroes doing all this stuff. So even if we say a superhero, it doesn't look much of a difference. So that is also the test for us," the director added.

"HanuMan" marks Varma's third collaboration with Sajja after they worked together on two 2021 films "Zombie Reddy" and "Adbhutham". The filmmaker hailed Sajja as an actor who is "passionate about cinema".

"When I was casting for this film, I wanted to cast an actor who could give his 100 per cent and be fully committed to this film. He had to maintain a particular look and also suit the part. So, I think Teja fits the bill. He is the most lovable underdog and an amazing actor who can give me enough time to make this film," he added.

Produced by Primeshow Entertainment, "HanuMan" also stars Amritha Aiyer, Varalaxmi Sarathkumar and Vinay Rai. PTI RB RB BK BK

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