How did the subject for 'Gundammagari Manavadu' was generated?
Basically I used to spend most of my time in a small village called 'Siddhantam'. The people, the environment there had a glaring effect on me. Even the characters in my films would reflect the village atmosphere. I thought of doing a film based on such characters with complete rural environment. Me and my direction department together prepared a subject and narrated it to many people including our office boy. We noted down all their opinions and made changes to the script wherever necessary. After preparing a perfect script, we had gone to sets. Basically, I love village atmosphere. That is why I made 'Gundammagari Manavadu'.
Are you inspired with 'Gundamma Katha' while preparing subject for 'Gundammagari Manavadu'?
No, nothing like that. We have not taken any film as an inspiration to this subject. In my film there is an all powerful grandmother character. That character was such that she would do anything for her grandson. When it comes to the name of the character, 'Gundamma' is a powerful name right from ages. That is why we gave that name to that character. So far, every reminds Suryakantam when someone talks about 'Gundamma'. That is why we selected Vadivukkarasi for that character as I strongly believed that she alone could do justice to the character and bring glory to that name in this generation.
Your film had impressed and inspired these many senior artistes. What is the main point behind this?
Vadivukkarasi had acted in over 360 films, Kota Srinivasa Rao performed in 450 films, Tanikella Bharani did 400 films and this is the 786th film for Ali. 'Gundammagari Manavadu' was made with the combination of all these artistes. When I narrated the story, everyone complimented me for preparing such a good subject. Each character would begin slowly, and takes a good take off and continues to go up. Each character starts modestly and also ends modestly. That is the reason, why these many senior artistes gave life to their characters. Vadivukkarasi as Bamma (grandmother), Kota Srinivasa Rao as uncle, Tanikella Bharani as father played roles in this film. I am very happy to mention here that she was so impressed with the film after her two earlier films — one with Rajanikanth in 'Arunachalam' and the other with Sivaji Ganeshan in 'Atmabandhuvu'.
Tell us about other technicians of the film…
First I have to mention cameraman Purna. He worked as assistant for 'Premikulu'. He is a technician with good commitment towards his job. He did a wonderful job. We were able to complete the project in the scheduled time just because of the cooperation from Purna. Art director designed super sets for each song and both our dance masters choreographed the songs extraordinarily. I am sure that Vinod Lawrence would become a wonderful choreographer in future.
What about music in this movie?
Vandemataram Srinivas worked with me earlier for 'Chantigadu'. He could any kind film and could give any type of tune. He did never say, 'I don't know' or 'I can't do'. The audio had come out excellently and we had released the audio through Aditya Music.
How was the response to the audio?
These days big music companies are afraid of marketing the audio of small budget films. But Aditya Music had come forward to market our audio due to the commitments both of us had earlier. They were shell-shocked at the response to the audio and were claiming that they were getting repeat orders for the audio. They told us that they were getting very good response to the audio than a big budget film which was released recently. People of all ages were humming the song 'Brahme Yeduru Vaste… Oka Varame Korukunta…'. It has become very famous among the audiences.
How did you get the idea of getting one such song scripted and tuned?
It is really my good luck. Earlier, the late NT Rama Rao thought of getting one such song scripted and got it rendered for Harikrishna some time ago. This was disclosed by one of our senior most journalist friend. After that, there were no songs on grandmother in the Telugu film industry. However, I had one such opportunity and the song has become very popular than what we expected.
Will you narrate the situation to the music director and ask him to tune a bit? Or will you just use the tune given by the music director?
Basically I have a good taste in music. When I narrate the subject, I personally try to give a tune by humming it or by playing the tune on the table. I have some excellent writers with me, and of course they are novice too. One among them is Paidisetti Rambabu, who was introduced as lyricist through 'Chantigadu'. He and we together script songs. We had asked Tanikella Bharani to script a song for us and he himself rendered it for the film. In fact, we gave 'Pallavi' for that song. We have introduced Baladitya through 'Premikulu' as a writer. Baladitya had also worked for this film. Like this, we got the lyrics scripted to suit our choice.
What was the response from Ali for the songs
When I narrated this story to Ali, he agreed that the subject is good. However, he feared that he had already been settled in the film industry as a comedian and how can I turn a hero again. When I insisted to do the film, he okayed and immediately asked me about the audio. He came to the recording studio and listened to the songs after we completed the recording of songs. He was shocked at the fantastic tunes in the film. Ali says, 'I thought you would do the audio well. But I did never expect that you would give such a good music like a big hero.' He passed a sarcastic comment that he had to struggle a lot for shaking legs for those songs.
How were the dances by Ali?
Ali is basically a good dancer. He showed excellent ease in all the songs and especially in 'Mahalakshmi…' and 'Okka Saari…'. We have succeeded as far as audio. I am sure that we would be a definite hit visually too.
Tell us about producer Venkat?
I know producer Venkat from long ago. He asked me to do a film on his banner, when I was doing 'Chantigadu'. I had a firm commitment not to direct films on other banners right from the beginning. But we just can't stand by our word every time. But, Venkat gave me complete freedom right from the start of the film. After watching the first copy, he complimented that I did a very good job and also asked me to release the film immediately without any delay. I told him that we would wait for some time as the films of some other big stars were also releasing during those days. However, Venkat was so confident on the success of the film and asked us to release it despite big films.
Tell us about your shooting experience during 'Gundammagari Manavadu'?
We launched the shooting of the film on 'Sankranti' day and finished it by 'Ugadi' well before the scheduled date. We enjoyed the film shooting with the cooperation from all the artistes and technicians. I thank the senior artistes and technicians who gave their dates and cooperated with me all these days.
Several films have come with grandmother in the title role. What is the difference between them and your film?
There won't be much difference. But we showed that character in a powerful way. I am confident that no director on the Telugu screen had showed a grandmother in such a powerful way. We portrayed the character as a woman who could sacrifice anything for the sake of her grandson. You can find the difference on the screen.
Tell us about heroines?
I have a strong ambition to introduce and encourage new artistes and technicians. In my first film, Suhasini was the heroine. I selected Kamna Jethmalani for 'Premikulu'. Both of them are in a good range now. In this film I am introducing Nikhole and Sindhuri. One is from Pune while another is from Chennai. Both of them performed well. I am sure that these two would also reach a good position in future.
What kind of film this would be during the summer releases?
Whenever there were vacations during our childhood, we thought of going to our grandmother's place. But this time, the audiences would get the feel of going to their grandmother's place by watching a family entertainer like 'Gundammagari Manavadu'. I am sure that the entire family could sit together and enjoy the film.