Director Abhilash Reddy wanted strugglers, not stars for his web series ‘Loser’

Priyadarshi | Photo Credit: By arrangement
Sangeetha Devi Dundoo HYDERABAD 19 May 2020 12:33 IST
Updated: 19 May 2020 14:37 IST

The sports drama with an anthology of three stories has opened to good response, and director Abhilash Reddy weighs in on what worked for the Telugu web series

Barely days after the Telugu sports drama web series Loser, headlined by Priyadarshi, opened on Zee5, its director Abhilash Reddy is weighing options. He’s in talks for a new feature film and an OTT platform wants him to direct another web series. “I would like to try a new genre. Whether I direct a romance or a crime thriller, drama will be its core strength,” he says. Loser opened on May 15 and the feedback has been warm, both from the Telugu film fraternity and viewers.

Abhilash and some of the crew members are alumni of Annapurna College of Film and Media, Hyderabad.

Talking about the origin of Loser, which is an anthology of three sports stories, Abhilash says the idea stemmed from a friend who is passionate about air rifle shooting. “He is now in his 40s and was recalling an incident where he had ordered a German-made rifle. He had to shell out four lakh rupees to clear customs. Air rifle shooting is considered a rich man’s sport and that was the trigger for Priyadarshi’s story. I play both badminton and cricket and the stories of Annie and Shashank stem from that,” he explains.


The struggles within

Abhilash Reddy and Shashank on the sets | Photo Credit: By arrangement

Abhilash wanted a non-linear narrative where the emotional journeys of the sportspersons gets more focus than just their sport. “I wanted to tell stories of strugglers. Incidentally, most of us in the cast and crew are strugglers who believe in our [respective] dreams,” he says, recalling the enthusiasm and energy on the sets.

The story of Loser was pitched to Annapurna Studios in May 2019 and the team shot from July to December 2019. Initially slated to open in April 2020, the post production took some more time as everyone had to switch to working from home due to COVID-19 lockdown.

At the time of shooting, were Abhilash and the team aware of the comparisons Loser would draw to the 2019 Telugu films Jersey and Dear Comrade? “Jersey had released when we began work and barring similarities in one or two scenes, the cricket story and the drama here are different. Annapurna Studios also felt the same and gave us a go ahead. We had already shot Annie’s badminton portions by the time Dear Comrade released. Initially I was concerned,” Abhilash says, referring to the sexual harassment angle in the story. However, the rest of the story had no correlation to Dear Comrade.

Annie in a still from the web series | Photo Credit: By arrangement

The performances, all coming from non-starry actors, are a highlight of Loser. While Annie and Komalee Prasad (as the cricketer’s wife Asha) were chosen after auditions, Abhilash had no second thoughts about the others. Shashank had acted in Abhilash’s crowdfunded independent film Yathartham (2016) and has been a strong support to the emerging filmmaker ever since. Kalpika Ganesh had a small part in Abhilash’s earlier web series Ekkadiki ee Parugu (2019) and was the obvious choice for the grown-up badminton player.

No star please

There were divided opinions about signing Priyadarshi for the lead role of the air rifle shooter Suri Yadav. But Abhilash was insistent: “I didn’t want anyone who looked and acted like a star. “Priyadarshi struggled to make his name in Telugu cinema and now, though he is so popular, can still effortlessly come across as a struggler. He was appreciative of the story and was so involved. And now everyone is appreciating his work,” says Abhilash.

Kalpika Ganesh and Priyadarshi | Photo Credit: By arrangement

The teens who play the younger versions of Suri and other supporting characters have also come in for appreciation. Abhilash says, “There are so many underrated actors in the industry.”

Abhilash and cinematographer Naresh Ramadurai wanted the three stories unfolding in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s to have different colour tones. The cricket story in the 1980s was shot using anamorphic lenses to heighten the drama in black and white, during the monsoons. Badminton portions of the 1990s, against the backdrop of Hyderabad winter, had earthy tones of reds, browns and greens. Priyadarshi’s portion in the 2000s is blue-tinged.

Looking back, Abhilash is glad he pursued his dream of becoming a filmmaker and took up a two-year course in film direction and editing. He had studied in Bengaluru till Class X, then moved to Hyderabad and discovered his love for cinema. After school, he took up B.Sc Electronics so that he could use all his spare time to make short films: “I made my first short film in my first year of college. I didn’t know the technicalities, but it gave me the confidence to tell a story. I used to narrate stories to my friends in college; that’s where it all started,” he says, as a parting shot.