S.S. Rajamouli Pulled A 'Coup' To Cast The Stars Of RRR

"RRR" took the world by storm this year, most recently scoring a Golden Globe for best original song ("Naatu Naatu," naturally). America may not have seen it coming, but the film was highly anticipated in its native India. "RRR" is directed by the renowned director S.S. Rajamouli, whose films have been popular domestically since the early days of his career. It is also led by two of the biggest stars in Indian cinema: NTR Jr. and Ram Charan. Snagging two huge stars wasn't totally easy for Rajamouli — in fact, it took years of build-up.

Rajamouli worked with both NTR Jr. and Charan prior to making "RRR." Charan starred in Rajamouli's 2009 film "Magadheera," while NTR Jr. has done four films with the director, including "Thief of Yama" and "Simhadri." Their first collaboration, "Student No. 1," was actually Rajamouli's directorial debut, and NTR Jr. was only eighteen at the time. The two have a very close bond as well as a strong working relationship that spans decades. "I think I was prepped all these years to be Bheem in 'RRR,'" the actor mused to Film Companion.

NTR Jr. and Charan have become massive names in Indian cinema since their first times working with Rajamouli. "They're big stars," Rajamouli said in an interview on Late Night with Seth Meyers. "I worked with them before, and I had — we had successes, big successes. And apart from the professional relationship, we have a personal friendship. And they, too, are friends outside their professional area."

The lead actors' friendship was great for the film, since their characters develop a powerful bond as well, but it did make casting "RRR" a little bit complicated. 

'It was a nice coup, and it worked'

Rajamouli explained his conundrum to Seth Meyers: "I knew if I called one of [them], he will call the other person before I can call him.". Luckily, the director thought of an ingenious solution.

"So what I did was I just called each of them and I said, 'Why don't you come out to my place?' They didn't have an idea of why I was calling them. So they just came over, and they were surprised to see the other in my place [...] I took them to my balcony and said, 'Okay, guys, I have this idea, and I'm putting this to you both at the same time. I want to do a multi-star with you. Are you up for it?' I didn't tell them the story. I didn't tell them what I'm going to make, because I also didn't have a clear-cut idea of what I was doing at that point. Yeah, it was a nice coup, and it worked."

Now, Charan and NTR Jr. don't typically agree to roles before they read a script. "It's not common practice," NTR admitted to Film Companion. "It's just with him." Given their long working relationship, the two actors were willing to trust what Rajamouli would do, even without a script. "I think it's the duty of an actor to sit down here and believe in the captain of the ship," NTR told TheMovieReport.com. "He wants me to jump, I will jump. He wants me to crawl, I will. He wants me to take a beating, I will." (The actor does all three in "RRR.")

Rajamouli didn't take them for granted

Rajamouli didn't even know what "RRR" would be about when he approached NTR Jr. and Charan to star in it. The only thing he knew was that the two main characters were going to be huge forces of nature — and that they'd require these two incredible talents to play them. "From the very beginning, I had this long-standing desire of combining two powerhouses," the director explained. "I'm not just talking about the stars — in the story [...] that kind of thing always excites me. And obviously, the natural progression is you need an actor and a star who can be this powerhouse."

He was pretty confident that Charan and NTR Jr. would be on board before he asked them. "See, by our long association, I know that they would do whatever I want to," Rajamouli said. "I know they will because we have a longstanding friendship."

Friendship might be enough to get them on board, but Rajamouli had to keep them interested. "The moment I think of this idea, I know it's gonna [take] two, two and a half years," the director explained. "That excitement has to be there throughout the film, not just at the onset of the film. So for that, I have to keep them excited, so I have to write characters that are going to hook them."

The two main characters in "RRR" are both (loosely) based on real revolutionary leaders who fought again Britism imperialism in India. Both characters are charismatic and compelling in their own right, but combining their stories only made them all the more interesting. With Charan and NTR Jr. leading it side by side, this film locks the audience in their seats for its entire three-hour runtime.