Maha Venkatesh on 'Care Of Kancharapalem', struggles & more
Maha Venkatesh-directed 'Care Of Kancharapalem' hits the screens on Sept 7. In this interview, he talks about his struggles, who he made the critically-acclaimed debut film, his future plans and more.
How I started my career:
I have done television shows as a co-director since 2010. I worked on the film 'Padesave' with Chuniya. I have made short-films for practice. 'Ooha Lokam' is one of my short-films. I got in touch with a group of aspiring filmmakers because of this tryst with TV and all. TV experience helps because exposure to a wide variety of departments comes there.
Struggles & aspiration:
I have always wanted to make Telugu films that go international. When I wanted to turn a director, I started approaching production houses. The problem with me is that I can't market myself. Although many people know me, they never trusted me that I can direct a feature film efficiently. It took 2 years for me to undergo transformation as a director. But I always had conviction in myself. I visited many production houses tirelessly. I happened to work on a friend's film. But the project was shelved at the pre-production stage. When we protested, we were literally thrown out by bouncers.
I and my assistants sat down in a library and started observing people across the street. We took their photos without their knowledge. We would later meet others in the village and learn about them. The stammering character is inspired by a real-life character. The role of the prostitute was challenging for many. If some were not ready to portray it, others were not up to the mark. This is when Praveena (original producer of the movie) happened to audition for the role just like that. Her Telugu accent was affected by English slang. I trained her over Skype for 15 days when she was in the US. She pulled it off fast. There are as many as 86 characters in the movie and I enacted their parts for every scene. But Praveena was an exception.
Fictional but realistic:
The stories are fictional but the behaviours of the characters are realistic. Many advised me to cast established actors like senior Naresh garu in the movie. But I wanted to make an authentic movie. The producer came on board only because she liked the faces of the villagers.
I silenced the villagers:
Many felt that 'COK' will be an art film. But only I knew that I had other plans. I asked the villagers if they expect me to make a big-budget mainstream commercial film with them. They were stunned into silence by my question! Kancharapalem is a creative village where its residents have one talent or another. I disturbed their daily routine for 6 months during the making of the movie.
Subba Rao is the pillar:
For the past 35 years, he has been a contract agent for bill collectors related to government departments. He has played Raju in the movie. I spotted him when he was shouting at someone over the phone. He is a widower in real life. I learned that there are so many crazy things about him. I made him a bachelor in the movie.
Acting vs Direction:
I got an opportunity to act in 'Manam' and 'Cameraman Ganga Tho Rambabu'. But I realized that if I have to become big, I can do it only as a director.
I want to do a crash course in filmmaking in the US to better my skills. I want to experiment with different genres. My next film too will be about layers of human life. There was a time when people used to look at me as if I am an alien because of the stories that I used to tell. I have made 'COK' with one such story. I will sign up a movie only after writing a full story. Because of 'COK', I have evolved as a person, too. My perspective towards work, society, etc has changed.