I love romantic comedies. My first preference is a rom-com DVD, whenever I go to any DVD store. Rom-coms are stress-free, fun and have repeat value. The combination of romance and humor is always enjoyable. We don’t have many romantic comedies made in Telugu. And my sensibilities regarding rom-coms match that of Bollywood. My writing style also suits Hindi. I wanted to write a romantic comedy. Repeat value was one thing that was in my mind right from the day 1 of scripting.
Prema Thokka Tholu was the first title
It started with the idea of two people (belonging to opposite sex) meeting in a crisis situation. It will be more interesting than a boy meeting a girl in a regular way. I was in Chennai at that time and discussing with Anjana Ali Khan (director of Tamil film Veppam). The basic seed of the story came out of that conversation. I gave a 10-minute narration to Nani and he said that its awesome. We wanted to title the movie as ‘Prema Thokka Tholu’. I am basically a lazy writer. Hence, Anjana threatened me by putting a deadline of 10 days to complete the script. I wanted the scenes, characters and characterizations come out of the experiences from my life and the from the people I have observed. To stay in that zone/space, I repeatedly watched Friends, When Harry Met Sally and A Lot Like Love during that period. I wrote a 60-scenes order on a pair of yellow papers. I write very little on paper for a scene (a couple of lines for a scene as most of the content is there in my head). I don’t want to slow down my mind while writing as our mind works faster than our hand.
We initially planned for a subtle climax where the lead pair meet again in another wedding and the movie ending with a nice conversation. But I felt that it is predictable. I wanted to have a priyadardhan kind of climax with confusion/chaos.
John Abraham - Asish Vidyardhi
I wanted to take the film to next level and I felt that I needed one more layer. I watched a film titled ‘In July’ in my initial days. In that film a guy is carrying a dead body to cross the border. Another guy takes a lift, but notices the dead body. The entire film is about misrepresentation. I took that movie as reference and created a character called ‘John Abraham’ who is a professional kidnapper. I wanted to derive humor by showing the human angle in him. I have also used John Abraham character to ask the questions to Nani on the behalf of audiences.
I liked the layer of Johan Abraham character, but the entire team is not convinced about it. That idea was put in cold-storage. After the 3rd schedule of the film, a friend and a co-director Srinivas came to the sets. I narrated him the John Abraham thread. Srinivas loved it and convinced the producer by talking to him. Since it involves casting a notable actor, it is a big decision to the producer. Asish Vidyardhi was my original preference. But tried Prakash Raj as I personally know him. Prakash Raj loved the character but said that he is playing a similar character in Orange movie. Then I spoke to Asish Vidyardhi and narrated the script. He loved it and quoted his price. It was unaffordable to the producer. After a few days, Asish Vidyardhi called us again and lowered him remuneration.
Scrat - Ramesh
I used to love the scrat character in Ice Age movie. Scrat character has nothing to do with the story of Ice Age, but creates chaos. I wanted to create such a character for my movie. Producer Damu suggested that we should have a guy hit with recession. Writer Bhupal said that we should have a drunken character. It was Bhupal who suggested Ramesh for that character. Ramesh worked for Mahatma and Bheemili in the past, but didn’t get any recognition. He is a simple and hardworking boy. His work in Ala Modalaindi is being appreciated well.
Shooting of the climax was very difficult as we have many character, links and threads. Writer Anil Ravipudi provided great help in climax.
Nani penned the climax dialogue
This movie is about contributions from all the cast and crew members. The climax dialogue in which Nani expresses his love to Nitya is written by Nani himself. I told him the situation and he came up with nice dialogues. It’s from a boy’s point of view.
Introduction of Sneha Ullal’s character
Anjana pointed out that Nani’s character is always rejected by all the girls. He should reject a girl by choice (not by destiny). That’s how we created the character of Sneha Ullal.
Relationships have shorter life span like commodities in today’s world
I remember those days when my grandfather bought a fiat car. He wanted to pass it on as a legacy down the generations. He wanted his son and his grandchildren to drive the car. I remember driving that car a well. Such were the strong sentiments and relationships during our father/grandfather generations. I recently visited TMC (Tirumala Music center) and realised that life span of the consumer durables today is just a few years. The relationships in our new generation have become like this. Values are changing very fast in the next generation. I wanted to represent that aspect in Ala Modalaindi.
Strength of Ala Modalaindi
The main strength of the movie is that I let my actors be what they are. I wanted the character to take traits from the personality of an actor/actress. Each and every actor has 3 to 4 shades that are identifiable to the character. As a director I have to tap on that. The characters played by Nani and Nitya are very similar to their real life characters. Hence they used to debate what they would have done if a similar situation comes up in their lives. They used to pull me back on to the track whenever I deviate. One will get the best output if one puts his/her ego aside and have faith in the team.
What could have been better?
1. The initial part of the movie till the drunken scene.
2. Nitya and her father conversation on the steps (lots of close-ups on Nitya)
3. The track of Nitya’s parents bickering.
4. Nitya birthday party scene
Whats wrong with the visuals of the movie?
I think the visuals in the final print are not effective because of the goof-up during conversion. The negative of the film is in great shape. I think the people in the printing laboratory did the wrong settings which resulted in ineffective visuals. I think that the DVD version is going to be pleasing to eyes in terms of visuals. I will have the directors cut in the DVD which includes a few cute moments that were edited in the theatrical version.
Kapileswaramma - the creation of Asish Vidyardhi
During the climax of the movie, John Abraham character gets a phone call from his wife. We were looking for a funny name and Asish Vidyardhi came up with the crazy name - Kapileswaramma. Somebody posted me in facebook that they named their dog as Kapileswaramma after watching the movie.
It helps to be open with our story
Lots of people tend to keep story close to their heart and never pitch it to anybody for suggestions. I feel that we should be open about our stories. VV Vinayak is one such director who narrates story of his film to many people so that he could implement if he gets any useful feedback.
Different working styles of Krishna Vamsi and D Suresh Babu
I had worked for major part of my career with Krishna Vamsi and D Suresh Babu. Working with Krishna Vamsi is like studying in an university where there are studies as well as fun. Working with D Suresh Babu is like attending a boot camp. He is very microscopic and makes us work again and again like in a boot camp. If you work with D Suresh Babu for 4 years, you can direct a great film in the future.
I gave a budget proposal for 3 crores to the producer. I exposed 70000 feet of negative which is less compared to Telugu film standards. There are no sets in the movie. We have not used jimmy jib crane in the entire movie. Whatever little we shot in abroad, we managed it using ARRI3 and steady camera. In spite of all these precautions, the budget shot up and the project got delayed due to financiers. Our financiers backed out from the project 10 days before the start of the shoot. This movie was stalled in between for 4 months due to lack of finances.
Advice for wannabe film directors
Understand your strengths and weaknesses. Every human being is different from another. For example, Krishna Vamsi doesn’t require a script written as he has everything in his mind. A few other directors go by bound script. One should make a short film to know one’s strengths/weaknesses. In our film industry, everything goes wrong on every day. One should stop complaining and start thinking about solutions.
I am doing my next film for the producer Bellamkonda Suresh. He has given me free hand. It will be an entertaining story. I will announce the cast and crew soon.
Vedam by Krish
Magadheera by SS Rajamouli
Arundhati by M Shyam Prasad Reddy
Ashta Chemma by Mohana Krishna Indraganti
Gamyam by Krish
Happy Days by Sekhar Kammula
Godavari by Sekhar Kammula
Bommarillu by Bhaskar
Chatrapati by SS Rajamouli
Anukokunda Oka Roju by Chandra
Manmadhuru by Vijaya Bhaskar
Santosham by Dasarath
Jayam by Teja.