With an air of jest, Siddhu Jonnalagadda looks back at his bold ambition stated two years back – to headline a 100-crore film within three years. This assertion, preceding the release of the Telugu crime comedy DJ Tillu, stemmed from a well of confidence fueled by the resounding success of the movie. The film not only entertained audiences but also left an indelible mark with its unforgettable dialogues. Now, as we approach the conversation surrounding the upcoming release of Tillu Square, set for March 29, Siddhu greets the reminder of his earlier declaration with an infectious chuckle.

Crafting the sequel to DJ Tillu has been a journey rife with complexity and emotional extremes. Siddhu candidly shares, “DJ Tillu felt like a fresh escapade, with its phenomenal success being an unexpected delight. However, embarking on Tillu Square carried the weight of greater expectations and it was my duty to push the envelope.”

The process wasn’t without its tribulations. There were instances brimming with stress that had Siddhu questioning his commitment to the sequel. Conversely, there were triumphant moments that validated the effort. “What truly matters,” he adds, “is the integrity in our work and the desire to entertain, not merely to chase stardom.”

DJ Tillu’s genesis was a concoction of Siddhu’s personal experiences mingled with the street culture and philosophy of Secunderabad’s Warasiguda, Chilkalguda, and Malkajgiri areas, albeit with a twist of cinematic flair. He describes Tillu as a philosophic entity beneath the exterior of whimsy and humour, opting for a sarcastic veneer to broadcast his ideologies, as opposed to a poetic or artistic one.

Siddhu reveals there was no preliminary plan for a sequel; the idea took shape only after DJ Tillu resonated profoundly with its viewers. Despite having other projects in line with Sithara Entertainment, it was the draw of the sequel’s promising business prospects that made it the priority. “Not until the work began did we grasp the magnitude of what we ventured into,” he reflects.

Siddhu, teaming up with director Mallik Ram, initiated a collective writing journey with Ravi Anthony and others. The writing phase stretched out, undergoing numerous iterations; Siddhu himself spent half a year on a primary draft before dismissing it entirely to start anew after receiving unsatisfactory feedback on its potential as a subsequent chapter to DJ Tillu.

Pressed about the amount of effort poured into the final screenplay, Siddhu shares a wry anecdote, “A friend joked that with the material sufficient for four films, we managed to distill it into one. We wrote hundreds of pages. These past two years felt more taxing than the preceding decade. It was a demanding endeavour.”

Public scrutiny only intensified the pressure, a stark contrast to the relative obscurity they enjoyed when developing DJ Tillu. Siddhu chose to dismiss the rampant speculation, viewing the attention as a natural consequence of a successful original.

To maintain focus during the creative process, Siddhu had to isolate himself from external noise and concentrate on the essence of storytelling. The aim was to achieve a balance between preserving the soul of DJ Tillu and introducing fresher, wilder elements.

Siddhu not only engaged in the writing and rewriting process but also contributed to editing, a task that often plunged him into chaos. There were days when his performance would suffer, hindered by the knowledge that particular scenes might not make the final cut, leading to on-set improvisations.

The sequel sees Tillu embarking on novel adventures while interacting with new characters, including Lilly, portrayed by Anupama Parameswaran, who was the team’s top pick for the female lead. Although alternative casting options surfaced before official announcements, leaks and speculations were beyond their control.

Siddhu is acutely conscious of the inherent comparisons and critiques that accompany sequels. He remains firm in their instinct-driven approach to craft a film that he hopes will resonate with the audience. Regardless of its reception, the move to the next project is inevitable.

Looking ahead, Siddhu has an assorted slate of projects with different filmmakers, including Nandini Reddy, Neeraja Kona, and Bommarillu Bhaskar. These roles promise diversity and stray from the mold of the Tillu franchise, showcasing characters imbued with vulnerabilities and relatable flaws that render them unmistakably human.

By IPL Agent

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