Tammareddy Bharadwaja, producer and director shares bittersweet truths about the film industry

One would have thought that with his father and brother, both established in the Telugu film industry, film-making would have drawn Tammareddy Bharadwaja to the industry, like moth to flame. But Bharadwaja calls it ‘an accident’. Bharadwaja worked as a civil engineer in the State’s irrigation department and the city’s municipal corporation, before finally finding his feet in the film industry. “I had no experience and I was narrating a Malayalam film and T. Kranti Kumar told me to remake the film myself. He said he would help with the production and that’s how Chiranjeevi-starrer Kothala Raidu started. The rest is history.”

Known for striving for the cause of the film industry, Tammareddy Bharadwaja has earned popularity as a director and producer of credit. He bagged the Nandi award (State Award for excellence in cinema) for his film, Pothe Poni in 2006. Bhadradwaja has constantly tried to make films with a difference but he shies away from taking credit, “I won’t say that I have novel ideas, I had commercial interests too and in fact I made commercial cinema but I just wanted my films to stand out,” he says. He explains his approach and says that the hero was almost like a villain in Kothala Raidu and Mogudu Kavali was loosely based on The Taming of the Shrew. Tammareddy even made films based on communism. A theme was explored where the communist parties of India would unite into a single entity, bringing positive social change. He laughs and says that not all his films were successful. “Unfortunately for me, neither the public saw that film, nor the communists,” he grins. Bharadwaja’s films have borne impressions on the social or collective conscience of society. With a film like Kuthuru, he tried making a comment on ‘ownership’ under the Family Act, where parents are seen as the property of the children. With Pothe Poni, he has tried to explore the killings of innocent people, either by the State or the so-called Naxalites. If it has been about lending a voice to the unknown through the medium of film on one hand, Bharadwaja has been associated with the cause of workers in the film industry. Often credited with unionising the Telugu film industry, Bharadwaja just smiles and says, “I just reorganised things.” Bharadwaja mentions that he was dragged into these issues. Perhaps, it was just Bharadwaja’s natural interest in protecting the subaltern members of a fraternity. “There was about 20 or 22 unions at the time, we reorganised them into relevant groups. I have now become a bridge between the producers and workers,” he says. Bharadwaja laments over the fact that not many producers understand the importance of unions, “It’s a symbiotic relationship. Organisation helps everyone,” he asserts. Bharadwaja has worked as President and Secretary of Andhra Pradesh Film Employees Federation, President of All India Confederation, President of AP Film Director’s Association and more. Bharadwaja along with the actor Jayasudha had set-up a federation (Asara) to help and aid working women in the Telugu film industry, but the cell has faded into oblivion today. “We used to receive a lot of complaints then, which was also one of the reasons we formed the cell. But in the two years that Asara was active, there were no complaints. Women shied away, because the wrong is deeply rooted in the industry and it’s a Herculean task to weed it out. It’s a sad state of affairs, these girls and women come from villages hoping to make it big and get exploited and they can’t go back. So they just begin to compromise and eke a living somehow,” says Bharadwaja.

There is ample reason behind Bharadwaja’s aliases, ‘Big Brother’ and ‘Annaya’. Bharadwaja has always been frank and never shies away from calling a spade a spade. He might be wary at first, but given the right opportunity, he hits the nail on top. “When you don’t have an expectation of others, there is very little to hide the truth. I always believed in myself and I am self-sufficient, I have never seen the merit in being ‘politically correct’,” says Bharadwaja. “People didn’t want to associate with me first, but once they realise and understand the truth, they come around,” he adds. He gets candid about the cinema industry and the rabbit ears of journalism go up. Talking about the undercurrents in the Telugu film industry, he agrees that the screen space is disproportionately being used by the star kids, but he believes that they aren’t to blame. He staunchly blames the acute lack of creativity in the industry. “Why will people watch the same six songs, four fights formula with a new face, when they can get their ‘paisa vasool’ with a big star,” he says. He believes that there is a dearth of good stories and films are not catering to the needs of the public, instead film-makers are projecting their own interest as the publics’. “Make a good film with anyone and it will work. How did Ee Rojullo work? Or for that matter, Ala Modalaindi, Happy Days, Ashta Chamma or Kotha Bangarulokam. ‘Hatke’ will work, not vulgarity,” he says. He boils up when you argue that film-makers project that people want to see ‘mass’ and hero-oriented stuff, “Ask those producers and directors for proof. Did anyone come to their house and ask them to make those films?” he laughs. He says that as film-makers we often forget our social responsibility and get caught up in the formulaic form of film-making: four fights, six songs and skin-show. “How did Arundhati become a hit? It was a grand spectacle, that’s why. The script must stand out as the real hero of the film. Take for example Kahaani, if we were to remake it in Telugu, the heroes would want a heroine, a few duets and a few fights. You tell me where is the ‘Kahaani’ in that?” he questions. “We don’t have a parallel cinema movement in Telugu. Bollywood still has Wanted, Dabangg and Rowdy Rathore but it also has Shanghai and Kahaani,” he says.

Even with all that rebellion inside him, he sadly admits that the film industry, even today is a man’s world. He believes that there is hope for the industry because of some films that are churned out every year, but the larger picture is tainted.

Fresh but elusive

Tammareddy Bharadwaja over the years has introduced many new faces to the Telugu Film Industry. Chiranjeevi being one of them. Music directors like Mickey J Meyer (Pothe poni), Vidya Saagar (Alajadi), Saketh Sairam (Entha Bagundho), Joy (Iddaru Killadilu) were also roped in by him. He continues to look for fresh faces. With non-Telugu actresses flooding the scene of late, Tammareddy says that Telugu girls want fast fame but rarely get back in touch. “They catch hold of my number somehow and say, ‘Vesham vestam’ but they don’t bother to show up,” he says. A tech-savvy director, Tammareddy says he scouts for talent on Facebook too. Telugu kids however remain elusive, he feels.