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Postmortem - Godavari by Sekhar Kammula
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What is this post mortem? is starting this exclusive, explosive and exciting section called Postmortem, where we conduct a postmortem of the latest releases. We shall be discussing and analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of the movies with their respective directors as to why those films have become hits/flops. We request the directors to give us their honest and frank opinions.
Godavari by Sekhar Kammula

Selecting same genre as Anand:
After making Anand, I could have changed the genre to something different. However, I thought that I could attract the family crowds who loved Anand and are nostalgic about it. I did not want to deviate too much to maintain the same emotional levels. That is how I decided to do a soft romantic comedy.

Godavari backdrop:
I wanted an overwhelming backdrop for this film. I watched Andala Ramudu on TV when I was in the 10th class. It left an everlasting impact on me. It made me want to go to Rajahmundry to feel the Godavari river. Even now, I do not remember the scenes or details of Andala Ramudu. Nevertheless, I can still recall the feel of the movie very well. I wanted to bring the same feel of Bapu’s Andala Ramudu.That’ s why I decided on the Godavari backdrop. After completing the script, we went to Bapu.

Conceiving Sreeram’s character:
The formation of story started with conceiving Sreeram’s character. This character is very close to my heart. It has all qualities I strongly believe in. I feel that all concerned and motivated youngsters should join governance and change the course of nation. Right now politics has a bad name. If politics is treated as an honourable profession, I think more youngsters will join politics.

To research this character, I sent my team members to offices of various political outfits. Only the Communist party pays salary to its members. For all other political parties, we need to pay money for membership. The concept of payroll does not exist in a majority of political parties.

Conceiving Raji’s character:
Sreeram is an idealistic simple guy who wants to serve people. Raji's character came about when I visulaised how a normal girl would react when a character Sreeram wants to marry her.

Conceiving Seeta’s character:
It would be nice if an independent thinking girl backed Sreeram. Sreeram would succeed if there were a girl like Seeta as his life partner. Sreeram is a good man and he should be victorious in the end. Getting Seeta as life partner is his dream. The heroism in my opinion is that an underdog like Sreeram should be in a position to reject Raji who once rejected him.

Godavari is the dream of an idealistic guy who starts with nothing and grows to be everyone’s favourite.

I created other characters to take the narration forward and these characters strengthen the plots and subplots.

Parrot thread:
The Parrot thread is inspired by a short story written by my brother-in-law. That story deals with the astrologer and the parrot. One day the astrologer asks the parrot to predict his future. It says that he is going to lose everything. The next day he finds that the parrot is dead. I did not want to kill the parrot in my film. In my version, it flies away.

Dog thread:
The dog thread is inspired by a short story written by a journalist. Generally, we have the habit of naming dogs with English names. My cousin sister named her dog as ‘Koteswara Rao’. I used that name and named the dog in this film as ‘Kotigadu’. I added some attitude to this street dog!  I used the dog as the director’s mind to give my perspective in terms of commentary. It is a serious character and I do not want it to be ridiculed. That is the reason why I dubbed the voice of the dog instead of letting some dubbing artiste do the job.

Kid thread:
I want to show Raji’s fiancé in a slight negative light. I created the kid character to show Raji’s fiancé in that way. The kid’s character has an Arabian Knights feel to it. The ‘Erra Chokka’ thread is interwoven in the entire movie so that there is always a suspense factor about how the kid would find out that Raji’s fiancé was wearing a red shirt.

Faction leader thread:
I defined the concept of the heroine through Seeta’s character that says Sreeram is the last man to desert everyone if the boat sinks. I had a choice of either sinking the boat or having a factionist thread. The idealist in me took over while scripting the faction leader character. I do not want to make factionists my heroes. I liked the idea of the faction leader opting for suicide with remorse instead of killing another guy. Big guys like Ram Gopal Varma and Mani Ratnam narrated the stories on Don in an effective way. What I liked in the faction leader character of Godavari is that he decided to end his life. I wrote that scene with the noble intention of equating nature’s process of balancing the death of the faction leader with the birth of his grandson. Unfortunately, we had to edit those scenes in AP theaters because many people seem to have disliked that episode.

Reason for selecting Kamalini:
I took the help of inner voices to present the heroine’s character. I took Kamalinee because she has an expressive face and I can proudly say that she has blended it with the inner voice perfectly. Since that character does not have a friend, she uses her inner voice to share feelings.

I always make sure that ideas are originals. However, the ‘chips’ episode is inspired by a management session about how looks can be deceptive. Chips episode also helped me in establishing the characters and to bring them closer to each other.

The following four scenes advanced the romance between lead pair:

1. Chips scene
2. Hero carrying a pregnant woman who needs help
3. Getting scolded by pullattu lady
4. When the hero is asked about the reason for joining politics, the hero says that he wants to serve people.

The following scenes are special:

1. Raji being confused about which sweet to eat for dinner (I am really excited about this scene. It is the classic way of story telling by using a metaphor).
2. Boy eating the chit. (I think it is the quality of heroism)
3. The scene in which the parrot flies off.
4. Raji referring to Sreeram’s casualness during her 10th class exam time (People felt that this scene is a bit lengthy. But I had to take more time to establish the scene effectively)

Why is the narration of your films slow? Why do you take so much time to narrate your story?
When you sit at the editing table, we have to ensure that the editing is crisp. I think this has to do with the changed mindset of audiences. In the earlier days, movie watching was a big experience. They want to sit and enjoy each and every moment of the film. Today, people want instantness even in movie watching! Cinema has become such a casual affair for the audience now.  As a filmmaker, I am telling the story by establishing every character. I want the audience to be involved in the scene and sync with the narration. When people say that my films are slow, I start doubting my style of narration. At the same time, there are no unnecessary scenes in my films.

The greatest compliment I got for Godavari was that people felt that the feeling of watching Godavari haunted them in a positive way. That gives a sense of achievement.

Where do you think that you could improve Godavari?

1. I wish I had more scenes shot in Bhadrachalam. However, we need to create a rift between lead pair and I had to do a very small scene in Bhadrachalam for convenience.

2. I should have shot ‘Andamga Lena’ song differently. I prefer montages for my songs. For this song, I thought that I should not go for montages, but regular dances. I think I did not do complete justice for the lyrics of that song with my picturisation. Visually we succeeded in creating ‘Vennello Godavari’ for that song.

The actors in film did not speak in the Godavari dialect?
I am a Hyderabadi and Godavari is an outsider’s point of view. I do not have any authority over Godavari dialect. Lot of people felt that I should have used seasoned comedians to get the Godavari flavor. I do not agree with them.

What are the major compliments you got for this film?

1. Mullapudi Venkata Ramana: “Haayiga Vundi. Ending Tvaraga Telchinattundi.” (Godavari is a pleasant film. The climax seems to have been shot in a hurry). That is a great compliment for me as it came from the writer of Andala Ramudu, which had a similar setup.

2. SS Rajamouli: ‘Godavari meda prayanam chestu kaallu neetilo pettukunte chala bagunti. Godavari film atuvanti feel ichindi’ (It gives great pleasure when you wet your feet in the flowing Godavari. The Godavari film rendered that pleasure.)

3. Krishna Vamsi: ‘Adbhutamga Vundi. Sankara Bharanamki oka feet miss ayyavu. Akkada puttiperigina naaku ituvanti cinema teeyalani alochana rananduku asooyaga vundi. (Godavari is a wonderful film. I was born and brought up in Godavari district. I am feeling jealous that I did not get an idea to make a film like Godavari. Godavari would have become greatest ever classic, but for some small details). He also said ‘Ennisarlu edureedutav Sekhar’.

4. MS Raju: Excellent Movie. I am a hardcore critic. From outside banners, Godavari is the film I liked after Arya. People are saying that second half is weak. Nevertheless, I liked it better.

5. Dasari: You will get an award.

6. K Raghavendra Rao: You made a good film. However, do you need that faction episode in Godavari?

7. A 60-year-old man: I took my wife to Godavari on the occasion of our 40th marriage anniversary. I am happy that Teluguness is still in tact through films like Godavari.

Which are the scenes you enjoyed as dialogue writer?

1. The final scene in boat where Seeta sums up her experience of Godavari in the diary by writing ‘Idi Godavari lo aakhari page.’
2. The dog’s dialogue ‘manavatvam ante idenemo. Manushullo vuntundani amma cheppedi.’ I like the saying – Forgiveness is divine.
3. The dialogues between mother and daughter before climax. ‘Seeta Ramudini anumaniste Kshaminchindi. Veredanitho tirigithe kaadu’.

Do they really have such joined boats for travelling on Godavari? How many days would it take to travel from Rajahmundry to Bhadrachalam on boat?
We cheated in that aspect! We manipulated time and space for our convenience. Generally, the journey starts in the morning and ends in the evening.

What is the box office outcome of the film?
The film did very well in cities. We are happy. . From the first week onwards, people are commenting that this film is too classy. I personally feel that Anand is classier than Godavari.

What kind of films you will be doing in future?
Probably I will take the help of casting stars in my next film. I am putting lot of effort and time by going through lot of pain while making films. I feel that I am making classics. I would probably save my energies to do multiples rather than just one film.

Are you happy with your progress as director?
Yes. I am happy with the progress I made until Godavari. I was able to create a five crore market for my films with Godavari. I want to keep that in my mind and make films that balance the budget and collections.

Other Post Mortems:
Bommarillu by Bhaskar
Chatrapati by SS Rajamouli
Anukokunda Oka Roju by Chandra Sekhar Yeleti
Manmadhuru by Vijaya Bhaskar
Santosham by Dasarath
Jayam by Teja.

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