"Unlike any other film I’ve done so far": Naga Chaitanya on his latest Tamil-Telugu release 'Custody'

'Custody' is Venkat Prabhu's Telugu directorial debut and is set to release on May 12 across theatres in India

'Custody' Promotional Poster (Photo Courtesy: IMDb)
'Custody' Promotional Poster (Photo Courtesy: IMDb)

Subhash K Jha

Indian actor Naga Chaitanya speaks with Subhash K Jha ahead of the release of his new film Custody, a Tamil-Telugu bilingual action thriller written and directed by Venkat Prabhu in his Telugu directorial debut, and produced by Srinivasa Chitturi under Srinivasaa Silver Screen and Anji Industries.

Custody is a curious title for a Telugu film. Tell us more about it...

We’ve shot it in two separate languages, Tamil and Telugu—not dubbed the Telugu into Tamil, but actually shot it in two languages. I play a police constable, an underdog. It follows the story of my journey as to how I evolve as a human being and a responsible cop when pushed into a corner. The whole plot unfolds within two days. My character has to protect a criminal.

Protect a criminal, how?

My character protects a crime-accused, played by Arvind Swamy. Can’t allow him to die. It is a very interesting twist in the hero–villain equation. Usually we see the hero trying to kill the villain. But here the hero must somehow keep the villain alive. He is in my custody.

Hence the title?

[laughs] Yes, hence the title Custody. It is unlike any other film I’ve done so far.

I was watching a Marathi film Ved the other day. Is it a remake of your film?

Yes, Majili. I believe the Marathi version has also done very well. I heard Ritiesh Deshmukh has also directed the film. I am happy for him. I haven’t seen the remake. I will, one of these days. Majili is a film very close to my heart.

Coming back to Custody, do you have lots of action to perform?

Yes, it is an all-out action thriller. The script goes through various action episodes. There is an elaborate underwater action episode, there is an action sequence in a train. The stunts have been choreographed with great precision and clarity. I would say the action scenes are the highlight of the film besides Arvind Swamy-sir.

How was it working with him?

Oh, it’s always a pleasure working with experienced actors, whether it is Arvind Swamy Sir or my dad [the iconic Nagarjuna]. Arvind Swamy and I are together in the film almost throughout. So I got to spend a lot of time with him. Our characters go through many stages together, as enemies, friends, almost brothers… So there is a lot of layering happening as we are on the run together.

Did you undergo a full physical transformation for Custody like your brother Akhil did for Agent? You don’t seem to me like the shirt-dropping type...

If the script demands it, why not? I won’t do it just for the heck of it. But I am playing a police constable in Custody, so I don’t need to rip off my shirt. The audiences are seeing through gimmicks these days. You can’t fool the audience. Mine is a very real film. It is treated in a very authentic way.

You come at a time when films are not doing well...

What gives me hope is that we’ve remained honest to the script. Even I have experienced failures when we haven’t been honest. We’ve done gimmicky things to attract audiences. But that didn’t work. This time we are very honest to the script. That’s what gives me the confidence this time!

I truly enjoyed your on-screen chemistry with Sai Pallavi. Who’s your leading lady in Custody?

Yes, it is also with one of my favourites. My co-star in Custody is Kreethi Shetty. We worked together in a film called Bangarraju, where my Dad was also there.

I know, I am sorry to say I didn’t like that film at all.

[Laughs] Please don’t be sorry. It was done in a totally massy texture.

I loved your cameo in Laal Singh Chaddha...

Oh, really? For me, working with Aamir Khan-sir was my biggest takeaway.

Is Custody getting a pan-India release?

Our target audience is the Tamil and Telugu moviegoers. The director Venkat Prabhu is very popular in Tamil Nadu. He has done a lot of hit films in Tamil. This is why we decided to make the film in Tamil as well as Telugu. Beyond this, whatever we get is a bonus. No dubbing in Hindi.

Your brother Akhil recently went through a setback when his ambitious film Agent tanked?

Yes, he went through a complete physical transformation for the role. He is very hardworking, determined and sincere.

How is your Hindi now?

Still very average. There, I have not evolved at all. [laughs]

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