Ram Gopal Varma’s trendsetter Shiva ticked his senses towards procuring a deeper insight into filmmaking. Uppalapati Narayana Rao’s Jaithra Yatra prompted him to turn into a director. He is Yogesh alias Yogi. Very few knew that he made his debut as director with Oka Raju Oka Rani (2003). After a hiatus of five years, he makes a comeback with Venky’s Chintakayala Ravi, making a thorough introspection about the way he perceived the professional insights and its freehand execution. One striking phenomenon about Yogesh is that you don’t find an iota of regret or dissatisfaction for passing through somewhat parched career for over a decade. At the same time you don’t find any overwhelming gesture for having grabbed an opportunity to direct a film, which its hero Venkatesh predicts to be the best romantic entertainer in his career. His passion for films flows like a powerful undercurrent. In an exclusive interview to Idlebrain.com, Yogesh goes nostalgic about his obsession with filmmaking, RGV’s influence on him; and interesting facet of Chintakayala Ravi’s making. Excerpts:
I come from a family of farmers. I had been fascinated by cinema since I was a kid. I used to watch Hindi and English films too when I go to Vijayawada during holidays. I had the luxury of watching the re-runs of Hollywood classics like Mackenna's Gold, Where Eagles Dare, The Guns of Navarone in Vijayawada film theaters (Navarang, Leela Mahal, Urvasi etc) though at that time I was not aware that those were the classics.
I went to Chennai to do my +1 and +2. That was where I developed fascination towards technicians like Ilayaraja, PC Sreeram, Srikar Prasad, Thota Tharani etc. I used to wonder the way directors like Priyadarshan and Fazil work. I used to watch lots of English films in Safire theater. I watched 'Stake Out' movie in Satyam and it was remade in Malayalam in eight months gap by Priyadarshan. And the adaptation is so good that both of the films are equal in entertainment value. I also saw another film called 'Witness' which was later remade into Malayalam by Fazil.
I was in Chennai when Shiva was released in 1989. I could not watch it in the initial week as Shiva was not released in Chennai. I came to AP during holidays and watched Shiva. And it pleasantly shocked me. Shiva film changed my orientation towards films altogether. I started watching films from director's point of view. I happened to read a series of interviews of Ram Gopal Varma in Sivaranjani film magazine for seven weeks. Ram Gopal Varma gave a very good insight into direction in those interviews and I got influenced a lot.
Jaitra Yatra inspired me to become a director
I saw Jaitra Yatra film in 1993 and liked it a lot. I liked that film so much that I decided to become a director. My heart was not in studies and I discontinued my studies. I got hold of the address of Uppalapati Narayana Rao (Jaitra Yatra) which is published in Sitara film magazine. I came to Hyderabad and met Uppalapati Narayana Rao. It took me eight months to join the direction department. My first film as assistant director was 'Teerpu' directed by Uppalapati. Later I joined Ram Gopal Varma for the film 'Anaganaga Oka Roju' and with him till 'Jungle'. Then I worked with Nivas for Shool and Love Keliye Kuch Bhi Karega.
Oka Raju Oka Rani happened
I was planning to direct a pure love story in Hindi. That is when films like Nuvve Kavali and Nuvvu Nenu were released. Trivikram was in Mumbai for the Hindi version of Nuvve Kavali and he suggested me to AV Rao (executive producer of Usha Kiron Movies). I narrated the story of Oka Raju Oka Rani to Ramoji Rao. He like the positive aspect of the story and gave me the offer.
What went wrong with the film?
I feel that the first half should have been more interesting. The interesting aspect in the film was not carried till the climax in the second half.
Then I got introduced to D Suresh Babu through Tammareddy Bharadwaja. I was supposed to do a project with Venkatesh as hero. But we could not get the climax correct.
How did Chintakayala Ravi happen?
Venkatesh wanted to do a romantic comedy. Kona Venkat did story and dialogues for this film. Venkatesh liked it very much and sent Kona Venkat to Bujji for a narration. He liked it too. I already heard that subject by Kona Venkat before as it was supposed to be directed by somebody else. That's how the project got materialized.
What is Chintakayala Ravi all about?
This film is about trying to pursue one's dream. It is about keeping the immediate family happy. Chintakayala Ravi shows the niceties of human nature among all of us.
What is the total screen time of the film and what is the share of the USA part?
The total screen time of the film is 2 hours and 20 minutes. The runtime of USA story in this film is 1 hour and 45 minutes.
Did you do any home work about USA shoot as you have to shoot it extensively?
With Suresh Babu's contacts we could rope in the USA logistics crew of Yashraj Film. D Suresh Babu is a good planner and he used his contacts to get all the permissions. We had gone for scouting locations much before the start of the shoot. We went to the details of weather forecast. We shot most of the film in New York and it was very expensive compared to other cities of USA. We ran a casting call on idlebrain.com for USA based character roles and selected 7 actors from the applications we got. We shot the film in USA for 34 days.
Tell us about the music of Vishal Sekhar?
We wanted to have young music in terms of sound, compositions and orchestration. We also wanted to break rules about pallavi and charanam in lyrical format. For example, the first song has only one charanam. The second song has two charanams, but both of them are different. O Sunita song too has experimentation in lyrical format. Along with the six songs we have in audio, Vishal – Sekhar composed a background song for the climax. Mani Sharma is doing rerecording for this film.
Tell us about the characterizations of the heroines?
1. Anushka: Anushka is doing the role of a typical New York girl who runs a flower shop. She is independent and brazen. Anushka gets complete makeover in this film compared to her earlier films.
2. Mamata Mohandas: She does the role of a village girl with a childlike innocence. Anushka and Mamata Mohandas are friends in this film.
3. Nikitha: Nikhita is doing a cameo in this film. I wanted her to play this role as her real body language suits the character very much. She also dubbed her own voice in this film.
Tell us about the character of Chintakayala Ravi?
Just like when we get a respectable feeling when we hear the name Abdul Kalam, we get a funny feeling when we hear a name like Chintakayala Ravi. Chintakayala Ravi is street-smart and has a solution for every problem. The solutions given by him project him into the conflict point of the story.
What is the entertainment quotient of the film?
1:45 hours of the runtime is dedicated to entertainment. There is also a Venky's trademark sentiment at times.
Tell us about Venkatesh's performance?
Venkatesh has done lot of comedy in the roles of Kshanakshanam, Bobbili Raja, Kondapalli Raja, Intlo Illalu Vantintlo Priyuralu, Nuvvu Naku Nachav, Malliswari and AMAV. He has shown complete variation in the comedy of Chintakayal Ravi. There are a couple of scenes in the film where Venkatesh conveyed the meaning of the scene with eyes (without any dialogues).
Venkatesh also participated in the reading sessions. In those reading sessions we could improvise a lot. It is such a nice gesture from a stature of Venkatesh to participate in those reading sessions.
Which genre Chintakayala Ravi belongs to?
It is a romantic comedy. The output of Chintakayala Ravi is like a Hindi film done by Yash Raj Films/Karan Johar with Teluguness in it.
Tell us about the producer Nallamalupu Bujji?
If a director wants to do something really big, then Bujji is the right producer. We know that a producer looks at commerce aspect while producing a film. But Bujji let us shoot in NY for 34 days though its very expensive compared to other areas. Most of the producers don't spend money on lighting equipment while shooting abroad. But we used all professional equipment, special lights while shooting the USA part. He is also a tremendous planner. He made sure that the creative aspect and the artists are not bothered even when there are impending issues of shooting in the busiest locales on NY. Working with Bujji is a boon to any director.
Why did you change your name from Yogi to Yogesh? Is it because you are working with Venkatesh?
My real name is Yogesh. After coming to film industry, people started calling me Yogi. Now I realized that Yogi is more sober and Yogesh is little hip. Hence I changed my name to Yogesh again.
What is your next project?
There are a couple of projects in the pipeline. I will let you know once they are finalized.
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