Bahubali filmmaker S.S. Rajamouli who has been roped in to finalise the architectural designs of Amaravati, the new capital city of Andhra Pradesh, has decided not to take any formal role in the process nor accept any fee for his services which are likely to run for a few months from now. The filmmaker has decided this to avoid criticism from any quarters, including the Opposition parties.

“Rajamouli has indicated that he would not be accepting any fee or remuneration for his services in finalising the designs for the capital city. That way, he made it clear that he won’t take up any formal position in the whole process,” Andhra Pradesh Municipal Administration Minister P. Narayana told The Sunday Guardian.

Rajamouli, too, tweeted on Thursday saying that there was no truth in the reports that he was appointed as the consultant to the Amaravati city designing.“I am neither a consultant nor an adviser to the government in this regard,” he tweeted. He, however, confirmed that he would be definitely helping the government to the best of his abilities.

The Andhra Pradesh government’s dependence on Rajamouli, whose blockbuster movie set new box office records, has raised eyebrows in many quarters. The two-part multi-language movie based on fictional story shows the imaginary city of Mahishmati. Six months  after the second part of the movie was released, the set properties at Ramoji Film City in Hyderabad still draw tourists.

Many in the Opposition parties as well as in civil society think that Rajamouli was not suitable to decide the final designs of Amaravati as he was not a qualified architect or city planner. But, Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu is keen on involving the 47-year-old filmmaker.

Based on the CM’s directive, a panel of ministers led by Narayana first approached Rajamouli in April this year, but the filmmaker refused to accept any role in the process and told them that he was not capable of designing a futuristic city like Amaravati. Then, the ministers called on other Tollywood directors Krish and Boyapati Srinu. The two made some suggestions, but Naidu didn’t like them.

Rajamouli has again been approached by the panel for the past six months after the draft designs submitted by the UK architectural firm Foster+Partners in March  this year. The public feedback to the designs was not so encouraging and it was felt that there was no Indian touch to them. CM Naidu then gave Norman Fosters, the founder chairman of the firm, six more months to present fresh designs. But, when they were submitted two weeks ago, the Chief Minister still was not satisfied with them and directed Narayana to meet Rajamouli again and seek suggestions from him. The third time, Rajamouli couldn’t turn down the request and met CM Naidu on Monday. Sources told this newspaper that Rajamouli in his meeting with Naidu made it clear that he would help the government finalise the designs, but he won’t take any money from the government as that would lead to criticism from the Opposition parties. Naidu agreed to this and asked him to be with the government till the designs were finalised. Now, Rajamouli and his team of six persons who include art directors and graphic designers would hold a video conference with representatives of Fosters in London on 6 or 7 October and prepare preliminary notes. Rajamouli would accompany the ministers’ delegation to London in the third week of October to finalise the changes in the draft designs. Hopefully, they would be finalised by November end.

The architectural designs of Amaravati city are mired in controversy ever since the foundation stone for it was laid by Prime Minister Narendra Modi two years ago. Initially, the designs were to be prepared by a Singapore firm, which is associated with the development of the capital city layout. Then, a Malaysian firm, too, showed interest, but later backed off due to technical issues.

Then the task was entrusted to a Japanese firm, Fumihiko Maki, and they presented their draft designs in June-July 2016. But they were not liked by CM Naidu, on the ground that they resembled blind imitations of Chandigarh city. The Maki designs were also ridiculed for some Pakistani agencies mistaking them to be atomic reactors at Amaravati.

When Naidu cancelled the deal with Maki and appointed Foster+Partners to prepare the designs, the Japanese firm  filed a formal complaint with Indian Council of Architecture in December 2016, and sought compensation for breach of agreement. The complaint is still pending with the council. 

Opposition YSR Congress questioned bringing filmmaker Rajamouli into Amaravati capital designing and wondered whether this was meant to delay construction of the city. “The CM has no funds to build a new capital, and he is devising excuses to delay the construction on flimsy grounds. Rajamouli is just a film director who can plan sets for a film,” said YSR Congress MLC Ummareddy Venkateswarlu.

However, Narayana defended that Rajamouli’s help  can add cultural identity to the capital city. “We are approaching world-class foreign firms to decide the designs of Amaravati, so what’s wrong, if we take some time to select a good design?” Narayana asked.


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