Following his successful run in Telugu cinema, Liger director Puri on shifting base to Mumbai as he returns to Bollywood after a decade
Vijay Deverakonda and Ananya Panday in Liger
A quick look at Puri Jagannadh’s filmography tells you that he swears by masala films. For the director, mainstream cinema is the ticket to keep the industry functioning. “There is more money and employment generated, and it offers three hours of escapism. Everyone wins,” he reasons. Yet, his next, Liger, is releasing at a time when only a handful of films have performed well at the box office.
Salman Khan and Puri Jagannadh. Pic/Satej Shinde
The Vijay Deverakonda, Ramya and Ananya Panday-starrer bears Jagannadh’s signature stamp, complete with action and dialoguebaazi. Does he worry about his movie’s fate, given the current scenario? “After the pandemic, the audience has become picky. If they don’t like your trailer, they won’t come to see your film. It’s scary. People say, ‘You make masala films. Tell us what is going wrong.’ But frankly, I don’t know. This is a cost-intensive movie. We needed to [rope in] foreign stuntmen and fighters, be it fight master Kecha from Thailand, or Andy Long from Germany. The scale is magnanimous. I am confident of the film we have made. It is a rooted story about a mother and son; they are the classic underdogs. Liger is among the biggest movies of my career.”
While his Telugu offerings have inspired remakes in Hindi — from Wanted (2009) to Simmba (2018) — the filmmaker’s last Hindi project, Bbuddah Hoga Terra Baap (2011), didn’t charm the audience. Over a decade on, Jagannadh is ready to make the transition to pan-India cinema. “I have wanted to do Hindi films for the past 10 years. I’ve worked with all the big heroes in south. I wanted to broaden my horizons, work with new [set of] actors. But I had to honour my prior commitments down south. Now, I have signed a few more films [in Hindi]. I finally shifted to Mumbai and set up an office here three years ago. I am still adjusting to the new city.”
Many speculated that he would collaborate with Salman Khan, given the success of Wanted, which was a remake of Jagannadh’s Pokiri (2006). Did they meet recently? “I love Salman. After Wanted, we met. Salman bhai and I started chatting one morning and went on till the next morning. He told me to come to him with a good script. I have to give him a script that matches his level.”