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Interview with Chakri Toleti
Date: August 29, 2009, Hyderabad
chakri toleti

Chakri Toleti who acted as a photographer kid in K Viswanath’s Sagara Sangamam has come a long way. He completed his graduation in filmmaking and mastered the art of VFX, worked for reputed USA companies, started his own companies and sold them for bigger profits. He has come back in to the Telugu film industry with Eenadu movie. Know more about Chakri who directed the multi-starrer which is due for the release on 18 September -

My father Mr. Thambu happened to be a good friend of directors like K Viswanath, K Balachandar, Bhagyaraj, Bharati Raja and Jandhyala. He used to help the directors in scripts and dialogues. I acted in the role of a photographer boy in Sagara Sangamam movie when I was about 8 years old because K Viswanath insisted that I should play that role. I acted in around 15 movies and my last movie as a child artist was Paila Pachis.

I left for the USA to do bachelors in film course in University of Central Florida. I focussed on technology and vfx while doing film course. After the completion of my degree, I joined Disney and worked in VFX department. I worked in Disney for three years. My brother was working at Microsoft. He resigned that job and we together stated a new venture called Cytura, which specializes in content management systems for websites and portals. We sold it off after a couple of years. Then we started another company called Galvanon which caters to self service software in healthcare and media entertainment. I sold it off after a few years and joined NCR (National Cash Registrer), which is a 6 billion dollar company. My contract with that company is getting over now.

Why didn’t you immediately pursue film direction after graduation?
I was looking for the right opportunity in movies and meanwhile I was running my own entrepreneurial organization.

How did Eenadu happen?
Kamal Hassan came to USA to shoot for Dasavatharam movie. I helped the unit setting up shoot in Florida. I arranged the team for action/stunt sequences out there. I also acted as a friend of Kamal Hassan in that movie where his BMW is stolen. I was also involved with script discussions with Kamal Hassan. I happened to see ‘A Wednesday’ movie and immensely liked it. As we were discussing about that script, Kamal Hassan asked me to direct that Telugu/Tamil remake of the movie. That is how Eenadu happened.

How did you manage to do a bilingual in Telugu/Tamil with your debut film?
I do feel that language is never an issue to direct a movie. The nuanaces and sensibilities change from language to language. The line between the sensibilities used to be thick earlier and it is becoming a thin line now. Some of the films crossed cultures. We shot both versions separately. The actors were different and we reshot each and every scene in Telugu and Tamil separately. Tamil version has Kamal Hassan and Mohan Lal. Telugu version has Kamal Hassan and Venkatesh. The Tamil version is titled as Unnaipol Oruvan which means ‘someone like you’. We tried to make a sensible film by retaining the soul of the original.

How easy/difficult is it to do a remake?
It is easy because pre-production of the film is already done. It is difficult because, you have to retain the soul of the original with different set of parameters.

Hindi version is done by character actors and you have stars in Telugu/Tamil version?
Kamal Hassan is one of the best actors in India. Venkatesh is a very good actor. I don’t think expectations due to their star value and image will be a hindrance to this film because we are projecting these two fine actors as two important characters in the movie. I would like to thank Venkatesh for going out of his star status and comfortable zone to act in this movie.

Tell us about the RED camera employed in this movie?
I own three RED cameras. Kamal Hassan owns one RED camera. RED is a digital camera with 4k resolution. It was my RED camera that was employed in India for the first time when we did a trail shoot of one of Kamal Hassan’s future projects around 2 years back. Though it was employed in a few Indian films later, nobody in India made a comprehensive use of RED camera earlier in mainstream cinema. I always feel that we should pick the technology as per the demand of the story. The story of Eenadu will be better narrated if we employ RED camera because it helps you in being more creative. It is more flexible than any traditional camera.

Tell us about the music?
There are no songs in the movie. However, in the audio album of Eenadu there will be six songs composed by Sruthi Hassan. These six songs represent the tone/spirit of the movie. Sruthi Hassan did a nice job in composing songs and background music.

Are you employing any of your Hollywood technician friends in Eenadu?
DI workflow supervisor of Eenadu worked recently of Peter Jackson’s District 9. Three of DI colorists of Eenadu worked for 300 movie. VFX supervisor of Eenadu worked in Disney for 15 years. Andy Dixon who did stunt coordination worked for several movies in Hollywood. Look of the entire Eenadu movie will be different and it will be appropriate to the theme/story.

Can you sum up Eenadu in a few words?
Eenadu is a good film. It is a relevant movie made in unique format.

You worked for vfx of Hollywood films. Can you tell us the difference between work culture over there and over here?
There are defined workflow and processes in production, pre-production and post-production of movie over there. In North India, film production has become systematic where production managers are recruited from business schools. In south, that culture is yet to come. I am sure that it will change in no time in South India too.

What kind of movies do you like personally?
I like all kinds of movies. There is no genre bias in it.

Who are your favourite directors?
Alfred Hitchcock and Clint Eastwood. I love the way Clint Eastwood makes movies that connect with audiences in the past 30 years.

Are you married?
Yes. I am happily married with two kids.

What are your future projects?
I have lots of interesting story ideas. I want to direct more films.

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