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Interview with Rasool Ellore by Jeevi
Date: 10th October 2005

Rasool Ellore made a huge name himself as a cinematographer for technically sound blockbusters like Gayam, Gulabi, Chitram etc. He made his debut as director with a class flick like Okariki Okaru and his second film Bhageeratha with Ravi Teja is due for release on 12th October 2005. met Rasool at Prasad Labs for an exclusive and personal interview. Here are the excerpts -

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Journey in films
I am born and raised in Rajahmundry. My mother is English and my father is a Telugu Hindu. My mother wanted to name me Rasool as she liked the sound of it. I dropped out of studies in my intermediate second year.

My father was an electrical engineer and he worked at Lakshmi Talkies in Rajahmundry once every week, on technical issues. I used to accompany my father. They used to play an English movie every week in and I made sure that I missed none.

My family has an artistic inclination. My father is a great painter. He would have become a big man if he chose painting instead of electrical engineering. Because of my mother, I used to have lots of western influence. My mother subscribed to books like Time, Life, National Geography, Readers Digest etc. My father bought many books on painters like Rembrandt, Whistler, Suret etc. I used to read books a lot because they are entertaining and informative as well.

Since Rajahmundry is a small place, we did not have facilities to learn English. I could not learn English at home as mother left me at a young age. I picked up English on my own. I was brought up in a creatively charged atmosphere. I always had an urge to express myself. I feel that National Geography is like a window to the world. I was brought up in a small town, but my horizons were broadened because of the books I read.

I developed a strong visual sense to my imagination. As I kid I learned everything the hard way. Kids these days are pampered by parents so much that their creative thinking is suppressed. I had the luxury of doing what I wanted when I was a kid. I always have a very pleasant nostalgic memory about my childhood.

I used to get so much influenced by westerners like Mackenna's Gold, Ben Hur etc. These films fueled my imagination incredibly. I was presented with a Rolleiflex camera when I was 16. I used to take pictures and make the prints done.

My sister was married to cinematographer S Gopal Reddy. I approached S Gopal Reddy and asked him to take me as an apprentice. He initially refused and later took me in. I entered film industry in 1985 as an assistant to S Gopal Reddy. People think that it was an advantage for me to have brother-in-law like S Gopal Reddy. Actually it worked as disadvantage to me, because he consciously avoided doing any favors to me. My colleagues used to get promotions in quick time. I worked as 1st apprentice for three years. Then I worked as 3rd assistant for 3 more years. During that time, I was preferred to handle the cinematography when S Gopal Reddy was stuck with some other important work.

Then I was offered the film Raithu Bharatam with Krishna as hero in the direction of Chitti Babu. But it was stalled in the mid-way. I knew Ram Gopal Varma even before he became director. We used to spend time together and share ideas. Ramu offered me to assist him in direction department which I rejected. Then he took Teja in as an assistant.

Rajiv Menon was supposed to operate the steady cam for Shiva film and he left Shiva film after working for 2-3 days. Then I learnt about steady cam operation through a crash course. And did steady cam work for Shiva. It needs us to strap the camera around our chest and run to shoot chase sequences. Those chases of Shiva film got tremendous appreciation.

Ramu was shooting for Antham film and he had differences with cinematographer Teja during the end of the shoot. Ramu asked me to chip in and finish off the work. He was satisfied with my work and offered me the film Gayam.

Gayam was my first complete film as cinematographer. During the same time, Raithu Bharatam was revived and Gayam dates clashed with that of Raithu Bharatam. Hence, they took somebody else to complete Raithu Bharatam. Gayam's cinematography has got mood and feel. I think no other film exploited Vizag in such a beautiful way. For a song in that film, I used lighting of street lights as base and it got tremendous appreciation. I won Nandi award for my work in Gayam.

Then I was offered the film Allari Alludu. I am the kind of idealistic guy who has certain set of rules about how my films are going to be. Allari Alludu was a total mass masala entertainer and it needs regular commercial lighting patterns. I was bit hesitant first, but later on decided to try my hand at it. It was Nagarjuna's first hardcore mass film and he opened up a lot as mass hero in that film. That film was released. I was paid incredible amount as remuneration. I got appreciation for my work as well. But I went into depression, because I made that film. I was very conscious about how my work should be.

I always did films that gave me incredible name as cinematographer. But I never exploited the recognition in commercial way as I always wanted to make films that give me personal satisfaction.

I was in very much demand and used to reject most of the films. I was with Ramu most of the times. Then I did Gulabi, Ramudocchadu, Money Money, Little Soldires, Daud etc. I shot the songs of Rangeela on the request of Ram Gopal Varma. Cinematographer for that film was WV Rao. I rejected an offer from Ramu to do cinematography to Satya film. That resulted in breaking up of our relationship.

I was not happy with Bollywood films. After doing Kohram film, I decided to come back to Hyderabad and work for Telugu films. I worked for Teja's Chitram, Family Circus and Nuvvu Nenu. I got Nandi award for Nuvvu Nenu and that was my last film as cinematographer.

I am not for sale. And I always want to do work that I like. That is my mind set. When I go to sleep every night, I should be having good work satisfaction. I wanted to become a director. It was not a smooth sail. I met ARS Prasad and convinced him with Okariki Okaru story. That is how Okariki Okaru happened. And now I completed Bhageeratha which is due for release on 12th of this month.

What is the feedback you got for Okariki Okaru?
Lot of people loved that film. They stamped me as a class director with that film. But I think only 50% of my talent was exploited in Okariki Okaru.

How did you extract such a different music from Keeravani for that film?
Generally directors narrate situations to the music directors to get music. Some other times, the lyrics would form as base for music composing. But for Okariki Okaru, I used to explain visuals of that song to Keeravani, he came up with the appropriate sound. That is how Okariki Okaru music formed.

Now you are doing a commercial film called Bhageeratha. Which one is easy? Doing commercial film or different film?
Doing different film is very difficult as you need to really think. To make a commercial film, you need to dumb down a bit.

Did you reduce your level of filmmaking to do commercial film like Bhageeratha?
Bhageeratha is not a regular commercial film. It is my kind of commercial film. You should watch the film to know about it yourself.

Tell us about Bhageeratha?
It is about a common guy from a village who comes to city and faces challenges. The main concept of the film is how Bhageeratha achieves it all and yet remains unchanged at heart. It has a very idealistic characterization.

Bhageeratha is an entertaining film. I do not like to preach through films. However, there would be pretty nice moments and inspiring aspects undercurrent.

I developed the script first and then decided to cast Ravi Teja as it suits him the best.

I am very happy with the final product. Lots of people are in for surprise big time with Bhageeratha.

Why is Bhageeratha project delayed?
Initially Bhageeratha and Bhadra films were supposed to be shot simultaneously. But later on they decided to complete the shoot of Bhadra first. It also helped Bhageeratha as Bhadra become a big hit. The number of shooting days for Bhageeratah is 75.

Why did you not keep ample time between release of the audio and the film?
It is producer's strategy. I do not know details about it.

Who are you favorite directors?

  • James Cameroon: I like the way he inserts all emotions in his films.
  • Oliver Stone: All his films are experiments. At the same time, they are entertaining too.
  • Farhan Akthar: I loved Dil Chahta Hain film a lot. But pretty much disaapointed with Lakshya.
  • Quentin Tarantino: I like his non-leaner style of story narration. Watching his films are like reading good books. You need to watch them again and again to get finer nuances.

What are your favorite films?
Matrix and T2. There are many more, but am able unable to recollect them.

What are your future projects?
I have a vague script in mind. I would be working over it.

Why do you stay away from press?
I am basically a private man. I cannot handle too much of attention. I open up only few days before release of my films.

Technique and emotions! Which one do you prefer?
I do prefer emotional content. When I watch a film what I carry back is the emotional content it offers. I don't remember the technique used. I think a filmmaker should give more value to emotions than the technique.

You are such a private man. How do you get projects, if you don't go around narrating scripts?
I don't like to narrate script to 100 people. For Bhageeratha I narrated the script to just one person and the film was made. Most of the people are under misconception that great story tellers are great directors. My grandmother is very good at narrating stories. But she can't be a director.

What are your hobbies?
I am a games freak. I am kid at heart. I play Play Station most of the times. My brain needs to be stimulated all the time and hence I play games. I feel that my thoughts are my best friends. If I am not working, I would be sleeping.

Do you have any message to the visitors of
I was born in Rajahmundry and I achieved something in my life. I used to play cricket a lot when I was a kid. When I went to Rajahmundry recently, that playground was dug up. I want to donate some money and do something to it. All the people who are reading this interview might have similar affection towards their roots. It might be pocket money to you, but it means a lot to the people back where you belong. Please try to help the villages you came from. These small things will make a big difference to somebody.

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SS Rajamouli (Director)
Sameer Reddy (Cinematographer)
Marthand K Venkatesh (Editor)
Sayaji Shinde (Villain)
Shashank (Hero)
Gangaraju Gunnam (Producer)
Meghana Naidu (Heroine)
Venkatesh (Hero)
Gowri Mumjal (Heroine)
Deepak (Hero)
Siddardh (Hero)
MS Raju (Producer)
Chiranjeevi (Hero)


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