conversation The pulp crime-comedy fiction ‘Ko Antey Koti’ is his way of paying homage to his favourite filmmakers, says director Anish Kuruvilla

“We nearly killed ourselves working 24/7 to make this film,” says Anish Kuruvilla, days after his pulpy crime comedy Ko Antey Koti released. The cast and crew worked within the constraints of a limited budget and went against the grain in making, marketing and releasing the film. Ko Antey Koti opened to mixed reviews but Anish is glad youngsters have been appreciative. “The shows ran to packed houses during the year end and New Year,” he points out.

Anish is a huge fan of Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino and tried to pay homage to some of the filmmakers, genres and characters he grew up watching. At a personal level, it was an attempt to do a commercial but unconventional film. “I made my debut film Confessions of a Filmmaker (which did not get a commercial release) and Avakai Biryani the way I wanted to and thought the audience would accept them. I was wrong in thinking so. It came as a huge blow when Avakai Biryani didn’t get appreciated. Then I set about to do something commercial,” says Anish.

The filmmaker spent more than two years working on the script of Ko Antey Koti . “I enjoy reading pulp fiction novels and comics, with their over-the-top characters and crazy, twisted plots. Characters like inspector Ranjit Kumar (essayed by Vinay Verma) are straight out of such comics,” explains Anish. He chalked out Sharvanand’s character that seeks redemption, planned the character’s trajectory and built forces around him for the heist drama. Along came the idea of Mayaluri Madan (played by Srihari) and the supporting roles of PC and Chitti. “Sharvanand suggested Srihari’s name for Mayaluri Madan. Having seen him in roles of brother and father in mainstream commercial cinema, I wasn’t sure if he could pull it off. Srihari liked the script, thought over it and said yes a day later. He was willing to look the rugged part and we worked on his wrinkles, dressed him up in shabby clothes and he even coloured his beard a shade of red,” says Anish.

He feels a film like Ko Antey Koti merits a second viewing to grasp the different threads of the story. “I made an interactive film, one that will get people guessing,” says Anish, citing an example of the romance track between Sharvanand and Priya Anand. “The love story develops through street theatre. He sees her for the first time, descending down the stage like a Goddess, he proposes to her on stage and eventually they enact a marriage scene on stage.”

Getting a crew that understood his take on pulp fiction was the next task. “Erukulla Rakesh and Naveen Yadav are a decade younger than me and have grown up on digital cameras. They haven’t been through the transition from film to digital. They completely understood how I wanted the film to look,” says Anish. Composer Shanktikanth Karthik had earlier worked on the background score for some portions of Avakai Biryani. “He was on the keyboards. For Ko Antey Koti , I was talking to a other composers and nothing worked out. Shakti was my sounding board and I used to talk to him about what kind of music I wanted for this film. Suddenly it struck me that he was the right guy for the job. Though he wasn’t keen, I coaxed him into composing. We were on the same page as far as music was concerned,” says Anish.

Like the story, even the background score had something new to offer. “The fight sequence in the climax wasn’t shot in a regular manner with punches and inter cuts. So the music had to be different. Shakti understood where I wanted music to remind me of Scorsese films and where I wanted a Manmohan Desai approach. The score in the climax had more of rock music,” says Anish.

As he talks about the film and his attempt to push the envelope, Anish asks, “For how long are we going to sit back and complain that nothing there’s nothing new coming out of Telugu cinema? It would have been easier for me to show that these guys plan a heist, have a change of heart and donate it to children. All films needn’t have a social message. These are bad guys and I told the story the way I felt these characters would behave.”

sangeetha devi dundoo

For how long are we going to sit back and complain that nothing new comes out of Telugu cinema?