The secret world of spies

A story that Adivi Sesh had written as a teen was the starting point of ‘Goodachari’, his forthcoming spy thriller

July 25, 2018 03:36 pm | Updated July 26, 2018 04:14 pm IST

 Adivi Sesh in a poster from Goodachari

Adivi Sesh in a poster from Goodachari

Two and a half years after he co-wrote and acted in Kshanam , Adivi Sesh is wrapping up Goodachari, the new project he has co-written and acted in. Kshanam, the taut suspense drama made with a modest budget of ₹1 crore, looked richer than that, thanks to smart minds giving it an added finesse.

For the action drama Goodachari , Adivi Sesh received a better bandwidth in terms of production costs, but it was never going to be sufficient. He felt the action drama would require ₹40 crore to make. “I got maybe one-fourth of it. But what we got was very good for the market an actor like me commands,” he tells us. Again, he fell back on a sound technical team and sharp minds in the production and direction departments to make things work.

When we meet him in between post production work, he sounds confident without being heady. “We hope to entertain. I can’t walk around thinking I’m at the top of the game,” he says over a mocha and butter croissant.

Dusted and rebooted

Goodachari is a story he had written as a teen in 2004. The idea stemmed from wanting to tell a story of a spy on the streets of India. He showed his old story to debut director Sashi Kiran Tikka, a New York Film Academy alumnus. The story didn’t work in its original form but Sashi saw potential in it. Sashi and Sesh re-wrote it over nine months. The final script included 17 scenes from the original story.

On his writing process, Sesh avers, “I’m not naturally gifted. Whether it’s acting or writing, it’s taken me a lot of work. Someone like Nani, on the other hand, makes acting look so natural and easy. He’s hardworking but also gifted.”

Goodachari , says Sesh, is a story of how someone becomes a spy. The first recall at the mention of a spy is a Bond film. “I cannot compete with Bond films that have a 40-year legacy and over $200 million budget. Neither can I compete with the home-grown Goodachari 116 starring actor Krishna. But I can pay homage to these,” says Sesh, who grew up in the US watching Hindi films and later discovered Telugu cinema.

He remembers watching the Bond films You Only Live Twice and Goldfinger before he was five years old. In Goodachari , a dialogue between him and Vennela Kishore refers to not having a ‘Bond-like budget’. “We used that line to semi-professionally broke the fourth wall,” explains Sesh.

Middle ground

Sesh describes Goodachari as a middle ground between the ultra realistically mounted Anurag Kashyap films and lavishly mounted big Bollywood flicks. He plays a youngster wanting to emulate his late father as a RAW agent, driven by love for his homeland.

One of the film’s posters show the guns used in the film. Some were sourced while others were designed by the production team. “We weren’t happy with regular snipers. We wanted them with, say, a computerised scope that can alter latitudes and longitudes. The production department (Shivam Rao), ADs Rajeev and Santosh worked based on blueprints and prototypes available internationally and we also took some CG help,” he says. I cannot compete with Bond films that have over $200 million budget. Neither can I compete with the home-grown ‘ Goodachari 116’ that featured actor Krishna. But I can pay homage to these.

The story spans across eight cities in India. Budget constraints forced them to shoot in fewer cities “but we cheated with a few locations and hope people won’t notice,” Sesh laughs. The team also shot in the US-Vancouver border zone and Mt Rainier in inhospitable weather conditions. There’s also a portion in Bangladesh.

The film marks the return of producer Supriya Yarlagadda to the screens, after her debut in Akkada Ammayi Ikkada Abbayi (1996), as cop Nadiya Qureshi. Sesh had been trying to convince Supriya to act for three years now and she was one of his archetypes while writing the ACP Jaya Bharadwaj character in Kshanam , later essayed by Anasuya Bharadwaj. “When I first asked Supriya to act, it felt like water splashing against a rock. By and by, the rock had to give in as the water’s force increased,” quips Sesh. Sobhita Dhulipala and Madhu Shalini star in pivotal parts. “Strong characters of both genders have their space in the story,” says Sesh. The urge to have fair representation of genders harks back to a short film he had made as a teen. “One of my friends who saw it said I’ve used the woman as a prop. It felt like a slap on my face. Watching films of the 90s and early 2000s, I was conditioned to female characters with no great power in most films. I realised the need for gravitas,” says Sesh.

Goodachari tells a story of how nothing seems to be what it is when a youngster gets framed. “A lot of spy work for RAW happens behind computer screens. That doesn’t translate to great cinematic experience. Here’s where the ‘decorated reality’ comes in where we show field agents.” The fictitious story focuses on a subsect of RAW termed Trinetra 116, with an allusion to Shiva’s third eye: “In this digital age, everyone can be monitored.”

Practical move

As Sesh talks about his approach to films, he reminisces about moving to Hyderabad to make movies after growing up in the US. Looking back, he says it was a practical decision. When he planned his first film, Karma , he learnt that it would take five crores to release it in Hindi and would take only ₹50000 in Telugu. “When people asked me then, I said I came here for the love of my mother tongue. The truth is, my love for mother tongue is at home. Cinema has no language,” he says.

The journey wasn’t easy and there were times he felt like a square peg in a round hole.

Lessons were learnt along the way. Sesh talks about his directorial Kiss (2013), “It was a terrible film. I was misguided into making what was thought to be a commercially viable film and I didn’t know better.”

Goodachari, slated to release on August 3, made him test his limits. “I am afraid of heights and can’t swim,” he says, when asked about the scene showing him jumping off a building. Another scene required him to walk on two narrow strips, “If I lose focus, I fall 200ft into water. I managed to pull it off.”

Next up is the romance Two States .

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