Tell us about your family background…
Ours is a Zamindars' family of Thotapalli between Rajahmundry and Vizianagaram. My father is a doctor by profession and I was born on February 27, 1963. However, all my schooling was done at Vijayawada.
How did you enter theatre and which was your first stage appearance?
When I am 7-8 years old, all our schoolchildren had got a chance to perform a drama 'Lava Kusa'. Of the 14 characters, mine was a character of 'Muni Kumarudu' (son of a sage) called Nimi. Satya Sai Baba came to us, took me into his lap and presented me a golden ring by creating it from thin air. My theatre life began like that.
What about your entry into the industry?
I completed my degree in July 1982. By that time, I scripted over 20 stage plays and 20 small plays. During those days, my writings used to be broadcast in All India Radio. Then Balachander happened to visit Vijayawada and took me with him to the industry. He introduced me to artiste Narayana. Then, a group of doctors performed a stage play called 'Avataram Gari Ammayi' at Detroit.
Which film brought name and fame to you?
I penned the story and dialogues for the first time for the film 'Devanthakudu' with Chiranjeevi and Vijayashanti in the lead. Later, I gave story and dialogues for a devotional flick 'Shirdi Sai Baba Mahatmiyam' explaining the greatness of Shirdi Sai Baba. Atreya scripted songs for the film. Vijayakumar played the title role. The film earned good name in the entire South India. Till now, I have never had such a great film in my life.
Do you have any plans to direct a film on your own?
No, I have no such plans. I earned name as a good writer and then as an artiste. But I wanted to earn better name as an artiste. But I always encourage the directors who approach me for help.
Tell us about the films you worked for…
I worked for a total of 187 films including Telugu, Tamil, Kannada and Hindi. My first film was Devanthakudu. I worked for many films directed by Mutyala Subbaiah. I gave Ankusham and some other films for Kodi Ramakrishna. With Kodandarami Reddy I did President Gari Pellam and Allari Alludu. I also worked for great films like Chitram Bhalare Vichitram and Kalikalam. All put together, I have worked for 187 films
Did your stage experience have any impact on the stories given to films?
Yes, definitely. My stage plays like Pelli Sandadi and Premapuranam together turned Chitram Bhalare Vichitram on the screen. Several films including Kalikalam and President Gari Pellam came from the stage plays only.
In which films did you act as an artiste?
Basically I am an artiste right from my childhood. I turned a writer later on. I had an urge to become an artiste. There was a negative role in Allari Police. It was a different character and when we were searching for a good artiste, Dr Mohan Babu suggested that I play the role, and I utilized the opportunity. That role earned me good name as an artiste and I started getting small time characters in several films. Very recently, I played good roles in Shankardada MBBS, Political Rowdy and Allari Pidugu. I recently did a good role in Maharathi, to which I provided story and dialogues as well.
How did the 'Maharathi' idea come up?
Shooting was in progress for 'Allari Pidugu' at Ooty. I and Balakrishna were acting together in a scene. Balakrishna told me to bring a different subject, which had never come before and different from routine. He promised to work in the film if he really liked the subject. By that time, I had three storylines in mind and revealed all the three to him. Immediately, Babu selected one story out of those three and that is 'Maharathi.’
What is the storyline of Maharathi?
We took the storyline itself in a novel style. No one could predict any scene earlier. You could feel the novelty. Balakrishna’s filmography hasn’t had such a story so far. The screenplay of the film in itself would create a new trend. You just can't understand the story by simply listening to it. You will definitely miss the feel in it. You have to watch it only on the screen to find out how good the film is.
Can you please reveal about the character of Balakrishna?
We reveal it from the beginning of the film itself. The character has gentleness, humour, romantic streak and manliness. The hero of this film is a combination of all these qualities and he is 'Maharathi', the role played by Balakrishna.
What does 'Maharathi' mean and what induced you to decide on this title?
In Mahabharata, there are very few Maharathis like Bheeshma and Karna. Most of the kings were 'Ardha Radhis'. A Maharathi is a person who can control crores of people and he is someone who is able to understand their problems and happiness and provide them with all that they need, keeping everyone in good humour. Balakrishna's character in this film will be on these lines. That is the reason we decided on this title.
When we watch the get-ups of Balakrishna, it looks as if he is playing three different characters? Is it true?
No, there is nothing like that. In fact, these get-ups are the highlight of the film. Each get-up has its own speciality. All your doubts would be cleared once the film hits the screen.
Tell us about Balakrishna…
Balakrishna entered the film industry as the heir of Nandamuri Taraka Ramarao. He was able to perform on par with his father NTR. He would look for a good character to act and he would never worry about his image and stature. In Bhairava Dweepam, he donned the role of an awkward person, without any inhibition. No artiste of that stature and image would dare to play such a role. He is also a gentleman. He will not tolerate if someone disturbs him while acting. He mingles with everyone. He need not strive hard as he does, as he has already reached a particular stage. But he works hard for each film as if it is his first film, with dedication and in a competitive spirit. He is a very good person in the industry.
So, how did Balakrishna fit into the 'Maharathi' character?
We can say that an artiste did well or extraordinarily well. But if he is a great artiste, what can we say? He did the character with three different shades as Bala, Krishna and Balaiah. It is for sure that he would enthrall all the audiences with his mesmerizing acting talents.
We learnt that Kovai Sarala played the mother of Balakrishna and it has also evoked lots of criticism?
Yes. I and the producer received several phone calls on Kovai Sarala's role as mother of Balakrishna. Some went a step ahead and chided us also. But you should remember one thing. Kovai Sarala is not just a good comedienne but also a great artiste. She is playing the mother of Balayya. The combination scenes involving both of them evoke good laughter in the theatre.
How did you convince Jayaprada to play a character in this film?
There is no special reason for that, but we wanted that character to be played by a senior artiste and at the same time, there should be a fresh look. When we were seriously giving a thought about the character, all of us were reminded of Jayaprada. We know how big a hit 'Yamagola' was, starring NTR. Then we decided to contact her for the role. She performed 10 times more than what we expected. Her performance and character would remain a highlight in the film.
Tell us about the heroines and their characters in the film?
Meera Jasmine is a fantastic artiste. Her character would be on par with Jyothika's role in Chandramukhi. You know very well about Sneha, who performed excellently as a family girl in Sriramadasu. Besides these two, Navaneeth Kaur is a special attraction in the film.
What about the remaining characters in the film?
There are about 42 artistes in the film and each character has its own identity. At the same time, each character will have a link with some other character. You will not find any miscasting. Everyone did justice to their respective roles. Director P Vasu extracted good performance from all the artistes.
Tell us about director Vasu…
Vasu is a very good friend of mine. His films like 'Allari Alludu' and 'Gharana Mogudu' were proved big hits. He has earned a very good name as a director in the entire south India with his film 'Chandramukhi'. Basically he is an artiste. So he can extract good output from the artistes. When we okayed the story, Balakrishna suggested Vasu for the director, who could do justice to the subject. At the same time, the production responsibility was handed over to Vakada Appa Rao.
Tell us about the producer.
You know very well about Vakada Appa Rao than us. He is a very firm personality and gives no scope for fickle-mindedness. He doesn't have any ego that he is a producer. Whatever he wanted to do, he will do, but will not comment on others. He gave us everything we wanted without making us ask for the second time. When we shot some scenes in Nainital and Dainital also, he made arrangements to erect wonderful sets to suit the shooting. Again in Vizag also he arranged some sets. Everywhere and anywhere, when we had been to outdoor shooting, he used to arrange the sets without any compromise. He is a great man.
When there are these many music directors here, why did you choose Gurukiran from Kannada?
Almost all the music directors had earlier worked for Balakrishna's films. When we are doing a different film, we thought of giving a different music. Gurukiran gave superb music for 'Jogi' in Kannada and we planned to contact him to introduce him as music director in Telugu. As Gurikiran also had a work experience with director Vasu for his film 'Aptamitra', he immediately agreed to our proposal. The tunes proved a big hit and the audio received a super hit talk. We are very sure that the film would also be a big hit like the audio.
Are you very confident that Maharathi would reach your expectations?
I personally looked after everything for films like 'Presidentgari Pellam, Allari Alludu and Chitram Bhalare Vichitram.' They were proved big hits in the Telugu film industry. I am very confident that the history would repeat and 'Maharathi' would also be a big hit.
Why did you want to project Balakrishna like this?
As I already told you, I gave three different storylines to him and he first chose this subject. The remaining two would also be done by Balakrishna. Earlier, when Nagarjuna did films with a classic touch, I changed his trend and made him act in a film with rural backdrop, wearing dhoti. Again in order to get him a mass touch, I made him do 'Allari Alludu'. Now, I thought of changing the image of Balakrishna and prove that he is not only best suited for action, but he could also do a clean family entertainer.
You seem to be very busy. How do you spend time with your family?
My wife's name is Durga Sailaja. My son is Durga Prasad and my daughter is Nikhita. I am basically an artiste right from my childhood and also a writer. My wife accepted me for what I am and knows what I generally do. My wife's native place is also Vijayawada. She always encourages me and she is really an asset for me and my family.