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11 am Date: 28th December 2003 Venue: Andhrawala office

A 15 year old lad left to Chennai from Nellore to make a living with just 10 rupees in his pocket in 1980's. He worked as a boy in wine shop and then he worked with the likes of Jandhyala, Mani Ratnam, PC Sriram, Govind Nihlani in various capacities. He grasped knowledge in 24 crafts of filmmaking. He worked as mediator and then settled as distributor. He ventured into production with films like Amrutha and Dil. Now he is producing the hottest property in town - Andhrawala. He is also simultaneously producing 'Sye' in the direction of Raja Mouli. He is none other than Giri. has met Giri - a down to earth and friendly guy - at his office and spoke at length. Here are the excerpts of the interview with Giri

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Please tell us about your background in brief?
I belong to a wealthy family. But all our properties vanished by the time I entered 10th class. My father was a factionist at a place near by Venkatagiri (a border place between Nellore and Rayalaseema). I discontinued my studies after 10th class and went to Chennai with a note of 10 rupees given by my younger sister from Nellore.

After reaching Chennai I worked as a service boy in an arrack shop at Kannamma Peta. I used to sell Brandy and Arrack out there. Later on I worked as supervisor in wine shops maintained by Magunta Subbarami Reddy. I joined Jandhyala garu and worked for Ananda Bhairavi film in direction department. I worked with A Kodandarami Reddy for a film. I worked with these esteemed directors in for livelihood. I guess 90% of technicians in film industry work for livelihood. Only 10% of the people work for passion. I started working in the film industry as a boy and that helped me gain knowledge in all the departments.

Later on I joined Mani Ratnam in the middle of Agni Nakshatram (Gharshana in Telugu). I worked full time for Mani Ratnam's Geetanjali. Then I bought few flop films in other languages at a very low price. I used to edit scenes in those films and make them appear better and then dub them in Telugu. Then I used to exhibit it to prospective buyers to sell at reasonable rates. That's where I learnt a lot about editing.

I produced a film in Kannada in 1995 and lost 1 and half crores. I earned crores in industry and lost crores. I live for movies and I get immense satisfaction working for films.

Later I worked as distributor in various areas and distributed lots of films and finally I took up the production of Dil followed by Andhrawala.

Tell us about your association with Mani Rathnam?
I worked as an assistant for Mani Rathnam for films like Geetanjali and Gharshana and I address him as 'Thalaiva'(Leader). With his inspiration, I bought the remake rights of his latest film and released it as 'Amrutha'. Though the film failed at box office, it gave me immense feeling of owning a film made by my most favorite director Mani Rathnam. He has got terrific visual sense. Other directors can make equally visually rich shots. But nobody can make them look good with minimal resources and budget the way Mani Rathnam does. I still remember one shot in Geetanjali film. The camera hovering over misty hills of Ooty shot was actually taken on a miniature set erected on a table. When they shot that scene I asked PC Sreeram about it, and he replied me to have a look at it when projected on big screen. After sound mixing, the final effect is terrific and unbelievable.

I started as a distributor for Mani Rathnam's 'Bombay' and I did distribute all his films in Nizam since then. When we were in depression after loosing money in 'Amrutha', the films Aadi and Idiot changed our lives again.

How Andhrawala film happened?
After watching Idiot film, I told Puri Jagan that if he does a film with big star as hero, it would become a memorable film. He said that he would do it, if things go well. When I was making 'Dil', Kodali Nani used to visit my office. He is like a pillar of support to me. He said that dates of Tarak (NTR) are getting unused because a film which was supposed to take off then was postponed. Then I prepared a list of 10 directors to approach to. Then Nani suggested that he would opt for Puri. I told Nani that I would approach Puri Jagan and propose the project. I went to Puri Jagan's office at 1 pm and gave the proposal. Puri Jagan said that he is ok with it and if it goes well, this film would to go floors in April 2003. I took NTR to Puri Jagan by 5 pm. At 7 pm, we arranged a story sitting at Grand Kakatiya. By 9 pm, the project and storyline were okayed. Till then the name of the producer was not fixed. When I asked Puri about the producer, he said that we would produce it jointly. When I told Nani about it, he said that three of us would do together. Later on, they said that I should do the film independently as I had experience of both distribution and production. I never expected that I would be making a film with NTR as hero. That's how Andhrawala project happened.

The big projects with big heroes go on for a long time in production. But Andhrawala is done in a reasonable time with reasonable budget. What's the reason?
Puri Jagan is known for his efficiency and budget control. There are some scenes in "Andhrawala" which took long time to shoot as they needed hordes of junior artists and it involved high expenses. Hero NTR is simply extraordinary. He extended his full co-operation to us.

Andhrawala is undoubtedly the hottest film on the circuit now because it has NTR (who gave blockbuster Simhadri) and Puri Jagan (who gave 4 consecutive hits). Don't you feel lucky?
Yes! Luckily, everything worked in favor of 'Andhrawala'. Simhadri has taken NTR to the peak and the expectations of movie lovers are pretty high on 'Andhrawala'. Though I am 100% confident that it would reach the expectations of crowds, still there is an iota of tension inside me. Check out audio function... We wanted to have it as a small function. But things added one by one and it went on to become the biggest conglomeration of crowds in AP. Checkout my desktop. I am having Andhrawala audio photo as my wallpaper. I did not generate any hype. It is built in the people's mind in terms of huge expectations.

How do you feel about the Press being not able to cover the function because of the crowds?
I am extremely sorry for the inconvenience caused to press. But I was also working very hard to make the function happen in a proper style. I do not mean to hurt anybody. I do not hurt anybody. I am a soft man by nature. I do have lots of respect for press people. I have a photo of Arun Shoury framed in my home.

I am a gentleman and a hard worker. Transaction worth 20 crores was done recently through my ABN Amro bank and not even a single cheque bounced in it. The ABN Amro bank has given gold medal for my clean record.

The gossip is that you made a table profit of 5 crores on Andhrawala. Is it true?
We deliberately sold Andhrawala at very reasonable prices. We just hiked 5-10% of what Simhadri was sold at and made Andhrawala business. After Andhrawala becomes a big hit, we would be getting more and more profits. I want everybody - from cycle stand boy to the distributor - to be happy about Andhrawala film. We - me, NTR and Puri Jagan - made a conscious decision to undersell the film with minimal profits. There were many incidents in film industry where the high profile films were sold at astronomical prices and later on everybody involved in the line suffered terribly for overselling the film.

At the end of the day, what decides the fate of any film is the revenue. If a theater with maximum capacity of 4 lakhs gets a share of 3 lakhs, it's a 10-week film. If it collects 4 lakhs, it's a hit. If it collects 2 lakhs its an average film. If it generates 1 lakh, its below average. If it generates even less, it's a flop.

Our strategy for the distributors is that we sell them film at reasonable prices, and they should recover their investment in 3-4 weeks. That's the reason why I am releasing this film on 1st January. We do not have opposition for the first two weeks and for Sankranthi people would come to theaters again to watch Andhrawala. Lots of people advised me to release Andhrawala on 14th of Jan. But I wanted to have a two weeks comfortable gap. I am inspired by the releasing style of Suresh Productions (Rama Naidu and Suresh). They do not release film along with other films. They make sure that they do not have opposition when their films are releasing.

How many prints are you going to release Andhrawala with?
Approximately 300 prints in 400+ theaters.

What is the expected share of first week, if this film gets houseful in all theaters?
In such case, it should be collecting a share of 10 crores. This 10 crores would be distributed among exhibitor, distributor and producer.

Why did you split up with you partner Raju and left 'Sri Venkateswara Films distributors'?
At one point of time, I realized that the decisions made by me are hurting the egos of my partner. That's when I decided that I should not lose friends because of the business association. Hence I call it quits to partnership and we decided to remain as good friends.

When Puri Jagan and Kodali Nani came to know about it, they offered Andhrawala project to me as a solo producer.

Tell us about your film 'Sye' with Nitin as hero in the direction of Raja Mouli?
I liked the student No.1 film a lot and was hugely impressed by few scenes in that film. I choose a Tamil subject and went to Raja Mouli and asked him if he could remake that subject in Telugu. When I met him in person, I realized my mistake. He is a genuine guy who comes up with his own theme than following stories from other languages. He is a complete movie freak who eats cinema and sleeps cinema. He said that he does not want to do remakes. Then I asked him to prepare a story by himself. He said yes, but insisted that he should complete the project he is working for Raghavendra Rao (he was planing to direct a folklore film titled Vijaya Simha with Surya Prakash - Raghavendra Rao's son - as hero). That film was dropped later and Raja Mouli took up Simhadri project. Vijayendra Prasad - father of Raja Mouli who is providing story for this film is an amazing personality who is addicted to films. Raja Mouli said that he would do a film for me after completing Simhadri and he said that he would complete the story part first so that we could fix on the hero depending upon the demands of the story. I watched Simhadri in parts while the shooting was going on and decided that it would become a sensational hit. I made my friend from East Godari buy that film.

After fixing the storyline, we decided to cast Nitin and Genelia in the main leads. This film requires quite a few graphic shots and we wanted to do them in Mumbai.

I always have complete faith in my director's capabilities and worthiness. 20 days of Sye shooting has been completed so far. I have not gone to the sets. Raja Mouli recently showed me the rushes and they are extremely good. And the most important thing is that he shot a few scenes more than what we have budgeted these 20 days for. The entire project is being handled by Raja Mouli, Rama Devi (Mrs. Raja Mouli) and Vijayendra Prasad. I am sending the cashier to the sets on my behalf. I trust my director and he has trusts me. I also firmly believe that success and failure of the film depends on director.

VV Vinayak (Dil), Puri Jagan (Andhrawala) and SS Raja Mouli (Sye) - all these three directors undoubtedly the top 3 contemporary directors. How are you able to set a project each with these 3 directors?
I liked 'Aadi' a lot after seeing few shots of the film while the film is being made. Then I decided that VV Vinayak has all the qualities to make it to the top league. I asked for the dates of Vinayak during the under production of Aadi. I was the first person to give Vinayak advance for a film. After the release of Aadi, the project of Chennakesava Reddy happened. After that Vinayak worked for 'Dil'.

After watching the preview of 'Itlu Sravani Subramanyam', I wanted to buy distribution rights for entire Andhra Pradesh at a reasonable price. The producers quoted a very high price and incidentally, they sold it for very low prices later. I got a chance to watch Appu (Puri Jagan's Kannada film which was remade into Telugu as 'Idiot) on its release day in Bangalore. After seeing the film, I asked Puri Jagan that I want to distribute 'Idiot' for entire AP. Since business was complete for some of the areas, I took the rights for rest of the areas and gave it to my friends.

Idiot did a terrific business. Idiot is an unforgettable blockbuster for all the buyers. It gave 10 fold profits on investment. I gave him 60 lakhs and the film collected more than 6 crores.

How important is the money to you as a producer?
I firmly believe in one thing. Money cannot guarantee you success. But success always produces money. That's why I prefer trying to make my projects successful than concentrating on how to make more money. Success not only gives wealth, but also health.

I got less profits in Dil. I am getting less profit in Andhrawala. I am interested in making big money by accumulating small amounts from various movies than cashing the craze once at the cost of others livelihood. I am looking for a slow and steady growth in long term than short-term gains.

I am more interested in buying technical equipments and investing back it into the industry than amassing personal wealth. I am buying a 435 camera now. I would be adding avid editing suit to my office.

What are your future projects?
I am currently producing Sye. Later on I would be having a film in the direction of VV Vinayak towards the end of 2004. I have a film each with Puri Jagan and Raja Mouli again.

Do you surf
Yes. I do it on daily basis. And sometimes my surfing habit makes me keep awake till late nights. I own a computer at home and office. I also own a laptop for mobility purpose. Checkout my desktop… I am keeping Andhrawala audio function photograph published by on my desktop. I have a high regard for Whoever calls me up from abroad, they speak only about the news that comes up on! Even my daughter - who is studying 6th standard - surfs!

Interviewed by Jeevi
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