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Interview with Vara Mullapudi
Date: February 4, 2008, Hyderabad
Vara Mullapudi

Vara Mullapudi - son of legendary writer Mullapudi Venkata Ramana - wanted to become a commercial pilot and ended up being a commercial director. His thriller Visakha Express is releasing on 8 of this month. Know about his journey in an exclusive interview with -

Tell us about your background?

I studied till +2 after which I went to California, USA to join the course of a commercial pilot. I came back to India later. It used to be very tough to get the job of pilot in India as there used to be 2000 applicants for 24 positions. There used to be North India prejudice in selection. My father refused to do any recommendation for my job. I left my trail for commercial pilot after seven years.

How did you get into films?
My father used to enjoy my poetry and I wanted to become an assistant director to Bapu. my first film was NTR’s Srinadha Kavi Sarvabhowma. Later on we worked for primary school education lessons initiated by NTR government. I also worked for Mr. Pellam, Pelli Koduku and Rambantu under Bapu. I worked for Bapu’s Bhagavatam tele serial for two years.

K Raghavendra Rao used to the electronic adviser to TDP government in late 1990’s. I worked for TV ads and commercials for Janmabhoomi program. We did around 100 ads at that time. I also worked on electronic campaigns for TDP government during the elections in 1999.

Then I worked for K Raghavendra Rao’s serial titled ‘Raghavendra Swamy’. At that time Rajamouli joined K Raghavendra Rao and started directing ‘Santhi Nivasam’ TV serial. Since it was a daily serial, they needed another director and I joined them.

That is when Ramoji Rao offered me to direct the Kannada version of Telugu blockbuster ‘Anandam’. I directed Ananda in Kannada and it was a hit film which ran for 50 days.

Later on I worked in TV serials and ads for another year. Then I got the offer to direct Naa Alludu out of blue.

What went wrong with Naa Alludu?
It was supposed to be hilarious entertainer. Things went haywire during production and second half of the film was affected badly. It became an old fashioned film. There were lots of expectations as it was an NTR film releasing for Sankranthi season. The distributors lost on it to the tune of 30%.

What happened after Naa Alludu?
I got pretty good offers during the shooting of Naa Alludu. All those producers vanished after the movie release. I waited for two years to get another film. Rajamouli and Rama gave tremendous moral support during this bad phase.

My sister lives in USA and works as a copyright. She outsources ads to me. I shoot them over here and send them back. The response has been tremendous.

Ad making seem to be your favorite work?
Yes. I am very passionate about ad films. It is a challenging job to stuff so much of information in a 30-second capsule. I will continue making ad films regularly even if I succeed as film director in a big way.

How did Visakha Express happen?
I prepared around 15 stories during this gap and I narrated all the stories to Rajamouli. He used to grade my stories. Story of Visakha express was immensely liked by him. He wanted to produce it. But he was busy with Yamadonga and he did not want his schedules to affect my ambitions. He asked me to lookout for another producer.

I wanted to make this film with Jagapati Babu and Srikanth in the main leads. But somehow, things did not fall in place. When we finalized Rajiv Kanakala and Naresh in the lead roles, everything worked out. It was Rajiv Kanakala who got the producers using his contacts. When I went to Allari Naresh I gave him an option to select the role of his choice. EVV also listened to the story and commended Naresh’s choice.

Where did the idea of Visakha Express come from?
The idea was formed during my Chennai days. It was me and my friend Mahesh who worked on the basic idea. Manik (from Mumbai) too contributed to it. After finalizing the project, Vakkantam Vamsi and Harsha joined in the writers team. We worked on the script for six months.

Why did you title the film as Visakha Express?
We considered over 200 films titles. NTR has been closely following the progress of the film. He called me one day and suggested the title Visakha Express. We could not have asked for a more apt title. An incident happens in Visakha express during the start of the film which forms the base to the main conflict of the film.

Which genre Visakha Express fall in?
Visakha Express falls into the genre of thriller. But the film also posses a bit of all commercial ingredients. Performances and casting are apt. Dasu, who worked for my debut film Ananda contributed a lot to this film.

Tell us about the production values of Visakha Express?
We planned it for 50 working days and we finished it in 47 working days. We planned to expose 70000 feet negative and we ended up consuming only 67000. All this was possible only due to the efficiency of our cameraman Dasu. We shot the 80% of the film in Vizag.

Is your father’s reputation an advantage or a disadvantage?
A bit of the both. They expect artistic values because of Bapu - Ramana films. Lots of people scolded me for directing Naa Alludu as it was an out and out mass films. In that way, it was a disadvantage. I learnt a lot from them and their name helps me in industry which is an advantage.

Your film Visakha Express is colliding with your father Ramana and Bapu film ‘Sundarakanda’. Are you nervous?
Yes. We had no other option left. Bapu is impressed with the trailers of Visakha Express and I want Sundarakanda to become a hit. Both these films have Naresh in the main lead. Rajamouli and Chandra Sekhar Yeleti’s association with Visakha Express is a good help. Valli (Vel Records) helped me in audio/publicity of Visakha Express.

What are your future projects?
My prospective producers are waiting for Visakha Express release. My immediate future will depend on the commercial outcome of the film. I narrated a story to NTR and I am going to narrate another story to Venkatesh. I started my own TV production company called Varuna visions (named of my name Vara and my wife name Aruna). This company will produce a serial called ‘Sri Venkateswara Vaibhavam’ to SV Channel.

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