One of the biggest blockbusters in Telugu cinema, Kushi, starring Pawan Kalyan, Bhumika Chawla, originally released in theatres in 2001, is gearing up for a grand re-release across the globe on December 31. Produced by AM Rathnam under Sri Surya Movies, the film, which had music by Mani Sharma and cinematography by PC Sreeram, rewrote all records at the time of its release. Two decades later, Kushi is as refreshing as ever and is one of Pawan Kalyan’s most loved films across age groups.
A special trailer cut of Kushi, unveiled for the re-release, has the taken Pawan Kalyan’s fans back in time, remembering the impact it created on them. In a media interaction, legendary producer AM Rathnam, known for his trendsetting films like Boys, Premikula Roju, Jeans and Nayak, spoke of his memories associated with Kushi and what went into its making.
Kushi, the film and the brilliance of SJ Suryah
Kushi may look like a regular romance on the exterior, though it’s a delicate, sensitive story revolving around the egos of two people. Everyone has an ego and it comes in the way of our lives and stops us from expressing our thoughts honestly. Pawan Kalyan was a huge star even before the release of Kushi with hits like Thammudu, Tholi Prema and Badri but the director SJ Suryah perfectly utilised his talent in the film.
Every filmmaker has his/her own set of special skills; SJ Suryah is an excellent performer and it’s precisely the reason why he’s so popular as an actor today. Right when SJ Suryah told me the story, I loved his narration and Pawan Kalyan clapped in joy after he had listened to the script. Kushi was a film where everything fell into place perfectly and we worked very well as a team. I can’t forget the passion with which Pawan Kalyan worked on it.
Ye Mera Jahaan – one of Pawan Kalyan’s brilliant ideas
Some of his ideas were brilliant, like the decision to compose a full-fledged Hindi song in a Telugu film, to match the character’s Kolkata backdrop. I liked the idea immediately and we brought Abbas Tyrewala on board and got him to write Ye Mere Jahaan. Ye Mere Jahaan isn’t any regular introduction song. It has patriotic undertones and is about a youngster who loves his country, stands up for his people whenever he sees anything wrong around him and also questions the manipulative nature of politicians. Abbas Tyrewala finished writing the song in an hour. It was a very novel idea that was equally appreciated by music lovers all over. Pawan Kalyan deserves full credit for the popularity of the song.
Pawan Kalyan’s effort with the action sequences and the filmmaker in him
A major highlight of Kushi is its action sequences choreographed by Pawan Kalyan himself. None of the fights looks forced and they’re designed with such ease, integrating into the film seamlessly. As someone with a lot of experience in the industry, I enjoyed the scene where Pawan Kalyan utters lines like ‘Lallu uncle maalum tereku’. However, the tremendous response to it in theatres was something I didn’t expect and it clearly showed Pawan Kalyan’s understanding of the mass pulse. Though he directed only one film in his career, I always believed there was a good filmmaker in him.
Other highlights of the film – music, comedy and the seamless adaptation in Telugu
The comedy in Kushi is one of the film’s major highlights. Be it the scene where Pawan Kalyan talks about Bhumika’s waistline and breaks into a folk song with Ali just before the climax, they added a new energy to an already well-written story without compromising on the storytelling flow. All of Mani Sharma’s songs were major hits and brought so much hype to the film. Many who watched the film’s Tamil version felt the Telugu film looked like a fresh project altogether and were surprised.
The uniqueness of Kushi as a romance
I always refer to Kushi as a ‘top angle’ story because it was a rare film where the voiceover already introduces the story to audiences beforehand and keeps them waiting for the sequence of events. We were told that the destinies of the characters were intertwined despite their different backgrounds and ambitions. While Siddhu wants to study abroad and Madhu was to marry a man chosen by her dad, destiny had other plans for them and there are interesting twists in their journey. Kushi is a memorable love story that audiences remember today in the same league as Laila-Majnu or Romeo-Juliet.
Kushi – the story behind the title
Kushi was initially titled Mutham (kiss) in the Tamil version and SJ Suryah saw it as an expression of love. I felt that the title would alienate a section of audiences in theatres and we agreed upon Kushi unexpectedly. The very word Kushi brings a lot of joy to us, is understood by the entire country regardless of language or region or class, and not many know that it’s a Persian word. Right in the 60s, we had a song like ‘Khushi ga Khushi ga navvuthu..’.
Happiness is something every human desires and Kushi, as a title, conveys that this love story finally ends on a happy note. The title was so apt that it didn’t change for the Hindi version either. Surprisingly for this film, our original title was Cheppalani Vundhi, on the lines of Chiranjeevi’s Choodalani Vundhi. The story is about two people who love each other but their ego stops them from expressing it directly, so we thought it was apt. However, one day, Pawan Kalyan came and told us to revert the title to Kushi again. The distributors weren’t happy about the title change but Kushi was so celebrated that the change didn’t matter.
On the different climax for Telugu and Tamil versions of Kushi
We had an idea for the Tamil version’s climax to show the couple giving birth to a set of twins. However, we had shot another version already and couldn’t alter it owing to a few practical reasons and instead implemented it for the Telugu version. I was very happy with how the climax in Telugu shaped up; there was a lot of fun element in how the two were parents to so many children within 10 years.
Other trivia surrounding the film
While there was a brief delay in releasing Telugu films in Tamil Nadu back then, Kushi was released in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu on the same day. Several leading technicians in Tamil Nadu, including Mani Ratnam, watched the film in theatres. Kushi was also the first ever Telugu film to release in London. My son happened to be studying in London at the same time and took the help of a friend to release Kushi there.
The decision to re-release Kushi in theatres
We ideally wanted to release Kushi for Pawan Kalyan’s birthday in 2022 but didn’t want it to clash with Jalsa. So many current-generation directors, from Bobby to Krish, whistled in theatres as fans at the time of its release. In most of the films I produced, from Jeans to Premikula Roju to Boys and Kushi, I chose stories that were ahead of the times and that’s why they’re so fresh even today.
Re-releasing hit films is very helpful for theatre owners, distributors and it gives fans another opportunity to celebrate iconic films again and relive all those golden memories. I met so many people who remember Kushi for my lyrics in Cheliya Cheliya and Premante Suluvu Kadhura alone; all my films have been musical hits.
The story behind Aaduvaari Maatalaku song
The decision to remix a popular song like Aaduvaari Maatalaku.. also came from Pawan Kalyan. While Muralidhar was only supposed to sing the track version initially, Pawan Kalyan liked his version and directly finalised it for the album. Murali may not be around us anymore but he was always thankful to our team for taking his career to great heights with the song. The little dance movements of Pawan Kalyan in the song were such a rage. Experiments like these introduce a classic song to a new generation and also elevate their taste.
A final note on team Kushi and its magic
Bhumika Chawla, despite being a newcomer, was very cute for her part and performed it to perfection. Cinematographer PC Sreeram mounted the film with such class and style that the poster for Kushi’s re-release looks fresh even today. He showcased the artistes in the film beautifully. While working for Kushi, it didn’t feel like work and the film happened when we were all having a blast on sets. Memorable films are often made effortlessly and Kushi is the best example of that.
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