Neelakanta and Srikanth get talking on capturing lives on the fringes. Sangeetha Devi Dundoo listens in

The Telugu film industry has, of late, seen an influx of feel-good romances and Magadheera clones. A few that chose to deviate from the norm came from the Tamil film industry — Vaadu Veedu and Rangam, for instance. So, when the first promos of director Neelakanta's film were out, it managed to create a buzz. A story that talks about Naxalism and a title like Virodhi was enough to make the film a talking point in film circles.

Neelakanta, known for films that are more cerebral than playing to the gallery, states, “I am not here to discuss ideology or take a stance on Naxalism. Virodhi is a thriller with a human interest story. I felt that the topic, being relevant today, will elicit audience interest. The story unravels in Andhra Pradesh but this is a story that can take place anywhere in India.”

Raw terrain

Given that the industry largely shies away from offbeat movies, Srikanth and Neelakanta insist that the film treads a path less frequented, but stays within the commercial format. Talking to us days before the release, actor Srikanth says, “We don't have songs and fight sequences force-fit into the film. We've kept the film as real and as raw as possible, but that doesn't mean it will appeal only to a niche segment.”

For the actor who has acted in more than 100 films, portraying a journalist is a first. “When I was hearing Neelakanta's narration, I was intrigued. I was eager to trace the path of this journalist, wondering whether he gets kidnapped or how he comes face to face with Naxalites,” says the actor.

Don't expect him to be a regular ‘hero' in this film: “It took me a couple of days to get used to Neelakanta's method of work. There was no room for over-the-top histrionics. He prefers his actors to underplay and express emotions subtly. From my observation, I've seen that journalists are intelligent and don't hesitate to speak their mind. I observed journalists to gauge their body language,” adds Srikanth.

Neelakanta hasn't watched Anant Mahadevan's Red Alert, a hard-hitting film on the Naxal issue, but relied on media reports and the Net for his research. He is all praise for Srikanth's brother Anil, who has produced Virodhi. “There was no pressure on me to tailor make the film for Srikanth,” says Neelakanta. Srikanth chips in, “My brother set up his production house with the intent of making good movies and not to promote me. I have already done 100 films and happy with where I stand. We had the bound script, chose the locales (areas around Bellary, Karnataka), and planned the budget. The film was shot in 45 days without interruptions.”

The movie also stars Kamalinee Mukherji, Ajay and Kamal Kamaraju. “I wanted a strong, intelligent woman and Kamalinee fit the bill. Ajay will surprise everyone with his performance. I chose Kamal Kamaraju after seeing him in Confessions of a Filmmaker and he has done justice to his role. Sriramya of 1940-lo oka gramam has also done a wonderful job,” says Neelakanta.

Neelakanta also auditioned a clutch of newcomers for the film, including Shivaji Raja's son Vijay, composer Kiran Varanasi, Rupali and Gopi. Neelakanta signs off on a note of optimism, “The audience accepted a film like Khadgam, which was raw and offbeat, and I hope they accept this one too. Virodhi doesn't refer to a person but a state of mind.”