In Telugu, Pitta Kathalu refers to short stories and could also mean stories of women. Netflix’s first Telugu anthology film, Pitta Kathalu - season 1 , has four short stories exploring power dynamics in relationships in which women are the primary movers. Shruti headlines the story xLife , directed by Nag Ashwin, Amala Paul stars in Meera directed by Nandini Reddy, Eesha Rebba essays the title role in director Sankalp Reddy’s story Pinky, and Saanve Megghana plays the title role in Tharun Bhascker’s Ramula , which also stars Lakshmi Manchu. Ahead of the trailer launch on February 5, excerpts from an interview with the women of Pitta Kathalu . The film premières on Netflix on February 19.
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“Sometimes, it’s heartbreaking when we work on the content that doesn’t get watched by too many people. On a digital platform that has a wide reach, we know that viewers will watch [the film],” says Shruti, talking about being a part of Pitta Kathalu .
Shruti starred in the Tamil anthology film Putham Pudhu Kaalai (2020) and when xLife was offered to her, she had no hesitation: “It was exciting to play an unusual character that is a catalyst to the story, and to work with a director like Nagi (Nag Ashwin),” she says.
xLife is set in a dystopian, technology-driven world led by a young geek, enacted by music composer and singer Sanjith Hegde.
Working alongside Sanjith who had no acting experience, Shruti says, “The fact that he had never acted before made it all the more fun for me, I felt protective and was also re-calibrating and learning. The perception of a movie set is so different for someone who hasn’t acted before.”
She plays a girl in distress in a technocratic world, and explains, “I liked the graph of my character and the dystopian setting where a maya or illusion takes over people. The girl I portray is so opposite to Sanjith in a world that’s very modern and I enjoyed exploring the grey areas.”
Amala seconds Shruti’s view of unusual stories reaching the audience: “I used to get disappointed and hurt if my work didn’t reach people. Often you get judged for doing something that people are not ready for.”
A case in point is her Tamil film Aadai . “It was a flop in theatres,” Amala concedes, adding, “But it was received well on OTT. I got so many calls and feedback. I’ve become wiser; it’s not only important to choose a good script but it has to reach people. Digital is the space to experiment now.”
When she read the story of Meera , she was surprised that it was a darker relationship story as compared to Nandini’s feature films that were family dramas in happier zones. “I called Nandini ma’am and we had a long conversation. I even asked her why she never got married. I hope she doesn’t kill me for revealing this — she told me what she had observed about marriage and families; it’s not all happiness. In this film, she wanted to portray some of her observations.”
Amala reckons she liked how the story dealt with issues such as physical abuse and marital rape. After filming Meera in October 2019, Amala stated on Instagram that viewers can expect Nandini Reddy 2.0. “She showed the film to some of her friends who said Meera is unlike a Nandini film. Once the film is out, I guess people will attribute it to my effect on Nandini. We had so much fun; maybe the BTS (behind the scenes) footage will show how much we enjoyed making the film,” Amala says with a hearty laugh.
Acting in Pinky , in which Sankalp trusts the viewers to connect the dots and draw their own interpretations, Eesha says: “You don’t get many stories exploring the woman’s point of view in mainstream cinema. During the lockdown, more people got exposed to a variety of content and are welcomingunusual stories. I am happy to have been part of an anthology featuring strong women characters.”
In the relationship drama where the subtexts get revealed slowly, Eesha portrays a character with shades of jealousy and possessiveness: “I could understand Pinky’s struggles and her sadness. I was surprised that Sankalp could see so much in Pinky and translating those emotions on screen was challenging and emotionally draining. But it all paid off in the end. We hear of such real-life stories but we don’t know what the women go through.”
The new kid on the block is Saanve who had auditioned for a smaller part in Ramula but landed the titular role. She speaks a rural Telangana dialect and plays a feisty and yet vulnerable character.
Saanve reflects, “I am lucky to get such an opportunity as a newcomer and work with a phenomenal director (Tharun Bhascker).” The director, in turn, had commended her stating that she plunged headlong into a tough scene on day one, and the energy on set was no less than when he had directed Vijay Deverakonda or Vishwak Sen in their initial projects with him.
She had a few scenes with Lakshmi Manchu, who plays a politician. Saanve says she was in awe of Lakshmi. She hadn’t interacted with her earlier and watching Lakshmi perform, Saanve pushed herself to do better: “The conversation between our characters was so important to the story,” she says, referring to how it changes the course of things for Ramula.