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Interview with Deva Katta
Date: May 12, 2009, Hyderabad
deva katta

Deva Katta made a splash in the Telugu film industry with his peppy film ‘Vennela’. It got recognition for nice music and good comedy besides introducing good actors like Vennela Kishore and Ravi Varma. Deva is back after three years with an interesting script to make a full-fledged career in Tollywood. catches up with this new generation filmmaker brimming with extreme passion for cinema. Here are the excerpts -

My parents belong to Kadapa and Tirupati areas. I was born in Eluru and my parents shifted to Chennai in 1985. Hence there is lot of Tamil movie influence on me. I passed out of engineering in 1996. I come from a middle class family and with average financial status. I am the only son with three sisters. Though I was interested in movies, I had no option but to lookout for a career that earns me good money. I went to USA and joined my MS in mechanical engineering in Wayne State University, Detroit. I joined in a job in USA in 1997 after completing my post graduation.

The bug of movies was still probing me. I joined Detroit Film Makers Coalition and did the screen writers course. I bought a mini DV and started experimenting. I shot an 18-episode serial called Valasa. I shot it in the weekends with limited resources. I used adobe premiere to do editing. I realized that I made a few technical mistakes in that serial though it has good content. Later I cut that into a two hour movie.

Vennela happened
Meanwhile, my friends spread the word that I am interested in filmmaking. Ravi Vallabhaneni and Sachi have evinced interest. I pulled in around 25 investors from USA to finance the project Vennela. I used the material of Valasa as the backdrop for Vennela and inserted a beautiful love story. The character played by Sharwanand in Vennela is inspired by a real guy who is the son of an ISRO scientist from Chennai. He was highly brilliant and extremely handsome. He had everything going for him. After five years in graduation/post graduation, he got completely transformed. He used to eat more pan parag than rice. He used to drink more alcohol than water. He also did post graduation from Wayne State University. And he died of a strange disease in US. He entered into college as a fresh vegetable and ended up like a rotten veggie.

Raja and Ravi Varma characters are created by me. You can categorize the entire male student community into three groups of characters played by Sharwanand, Raja and Ravi Varma.

Vennela film was reasonably well received and it generated good talk on the day one. It celebrated 50 days and 100 days in 7 and 3 centers respectively. The movie collections dropped heavily after 50 days because of Sankranthi season as big films released. Financially, the film didn’t do as well as it should have, since we could not promote it aggressively. I had to return to USA on the day of the release. The main reason for the success of Vennela was the patronage it received from youth.

If you look back now, can you find any mistakes in Vennela movie?
I feel that the movie’s graph went down in the flashback episode shot in India. The flashback episode was shot after the 1st draft and the USA scenes were shot after several drafts. Hence you see a huge different between Indian scenes and USA scenes in Vennela. I wanted that flashback episode to be as powerful as that of Mani Ratnam’s Gharshana (Agni Nakshatram in Tamil). But it didn’t work out.

Why is there some gap between Vennela and your second film?
At the time of Vennela release my wife was appearing for Dental school entrance exams in USA. I was waiting for my citizenship status in USA. Now that my wife is settled in job and I got citizenship, I decided to plunge in moviemaking fulltime. In the mean time, I narrated various scripts to heroes like Mahesh Babu and Ravi Teja. But there seem to be some gap between their perception of heroism and my perception of heroism.

Tell us about your next project?
I prepared a story with intense character drama and travel in a political backdrop, to be shot in Vijayawada. Initially considered Jagapati Babu and Sumanth and finally I zeroed on Sharwanand. Sai Kumar also plays a key role. Ruby – a Delhi based model is doing female lead. We will start the shoot of the movie on 10 June and release it for Deepavali. Mahesh Shankar (Vennela fame) will compose music. Cinematography will be handled by Savita Singh who did excellent work in Ram Gopal Varma’s Phoonk. Ravi Vallabhaneni (one of the investors of Vennela) will produce this movie on VRC media entertainment banner.

What kind of movies and directors influenced you?
My biggest influence in initial days was Devar Magan and Shiva. The filmmakers who influenced me are K Bala Chandar, Mani Ratnam and Ram Gopal Varma. Though I am influenced by these masters, I always make sure that my work will not resemble theirs so that I can create my own style and signature. When it comes to world cinema, Akira Kurosawa was the first person who got me interested. I am a kind of guy, if I like a movie I end up watching all movies by that director. I have lots of respect for the Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky. I love all his movies. I also like another Russian film - ‘Ivan – the terrible’ which is based on the life of a Russian Czar.

What kind of movies you prefer making?
I don’t want to stick to a particular genre. Vennela is a youth film which is mostly influenced by my college days. My second film is going to be a more matured film with native dramatic set-up. It will be completely different from Vennela. I keep making films of different genre.

Any influences of literature?
I got immensely interested by Telugu literature from my 8th standard onwards. I read most of the books by Chalam, Srisri and Dr C Narayana Reddy. I loved Drukpatham book written by Dr C Narayana Reddy. Bhagavat Geeta gave me philosophical insight. I loved ‘Universe in a Single Atom’ by Dalai Lama. It is narrated with nice humor. I used to put down my thoughts on paper since my 10th standard. I wrote story, screenplay, lyrics and dialogues for Vennela. I am penning three songs for my next movie apart from story, dialogues and screenplay.

Can we expect that you stay in Hyderabad and continue making Telugu movies?
Yes. I resigned to my job on 15 February 2009. My wife is settled in the job. My success in movies should be credited to her because she understands my passion for cinema and let me do what I dreamt of doing.

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