Interview Movies

‘Gods of Dharmapuri is a cool gangster drama’

Anish Kuruvilla (right) in a scene from G.O.D

Anish Kuruvilla (right) in a scene from G.O.D   | Photo Credit: By arrangement

Director Anish Kuruvilla opens up on his forthcoming web series starring Raj Deepak Shetty, Satyadev and Karthik Ratnam

Gods of Dharmapuri or G.O.D is set in a fictitious town located somewhere between Rayalaseema and Karnataka, and not to be confused with Dharmapuri of Karimnagar or Tamil Nadu. The web series directed by Anish Kuruvilla will stream on Zee5 in Telugu and Hindi from October 23, and has an eclectic cast — Satyadev Kancharana, Karthik Ratnam, Raj Deepak Shetty, Sruthi Jayan, Chandini Chowdary and John Kottoly — who’ve earned a credible name for themselves in Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam cinema.

Anish describes G.O.D as “an origin story of a gangster and his family, spanning a 16-year period in the 1960s and 70s.” It’s a work of fiction that will attempt to raise the bar for Telugu web series, presenting a gritty, raw tale of family ties, politics and power in the backdrop of land mining. “The storytelling is textured and we’ve worked towards presenting a cool gangster drama,” says Anish, taking some time off from post production for this interview.

It’s been a few years since Anish, the director, came to the fore. After Avakai Biryani (2008) and Ko Ante Koti (2012), he had been intermittently trying to put together directorial projects in the feature film and web series space but things didn’t fall in place.

God complex
  • Commenting on the web series title G.O.D that could be inevitably compared to GoT (Game of Thrones) and GoW (Gangs of Wasseypur), Anish says, “The title was already in place when I took up the project and it’s apt for the story. In the first couple of episodes, viewers will see how a few characters have a ‘god complex’ in them.”

Nevertheless, Anish has been a part of creative discussions on cinema with emerging filmmakers, and inevitably found himself being asked to act. Early in his career, Aneesh acted in Sekhar Kammula’s Dollar Dreams (2000) and Anand (2004) and the second innings began with Tharun Bhascker’s Pelli Choopulu. A string of films followed, including Hindi projects such as M S Dhoni - The Untold Story and The Accidental Prime Minister.

Anish adds, “Direction gives you a ringside view of things on set; you are constantly thinking of how to present a situation and talking to actors and heads of the different departments. As an actor, you only have to concentrate on your part. That’s equally challenging too.”

Karthik Ratnam and Satyadev flanked by co-stars in a scene from the trailer

Karthik Ratnam and Satyadev flanked by co-stars in a scene from the trailer   | Photo Credit: By arrangement

When he pitched ideas to production houses for web series, he was often told that he was over-thinking, and that the Telugu audience is not ready for complex, high-on-aesthetics content. “I consider Sacred Games, The Family Man and Made in Heaven as the benchmarks among Indian web series. The notion is that the Telugu audience wouldn’t want something of that scale or depth,” says Anish.

He waited for the right opportunity, which presented itself through Zee. “I liked their story outline; a writing team had already worked on the script but I wanted changes. They were gracious enough to let me do that,” says Anish. He worked with a writing team for two months.

Wanting to narrate the story in a less-explored backdrop, the team zeroed in on Anegundi and its precincts near Hampi, apart from pockets in Hyderabad like the gullies in Abids, Basheerbagh and Fateh Maidan Club. Shooting in the vicinity of the UNESCO heritage sites near Hampi had its own challenges, which Anish’s team learnt to work around.

Anish Kuruvilla

Anish Kuruvilla  

Content pertaining to 10 episodes, totalling 6.5 hours duration, were shot in 68 days. Anish heaps praises on his team, some of them who have worked with him in Ko Ante Koti — like music composer Shakthi Kanth and cinematographer Naveen Yadav. Production designer Srikanth, costume designer Rekha, and the talented cast were all on cue.

“I have conversations with my actors, rather than telling them what to do. They understand how I perceive a situation. Watching them execute a scene, I give my inputs to enhance it further,” says Anish.

Having acted in both indie-spirited smaller films and bigger productions like Bharat Ane Nenu and Maharshi helped Anish observe how different directors, actors and units work. He’s used to the chaos that exists on a few sets as well as the discipline and orderliness in others. He believes that all this has made him a better storyteller and director. “Filmmaking is what I enjoy the most. G.O.D was complex on paper and I think we pulled it off with limited resources, without compromising on the cinematic aesthetics. The digital space gives you scope to develop the atmosphere, plots and characters. Each episode is an entity with a beginning, middle and an end that should make viewers want to watch the next episode,” he says, signing off.

(Gods of Dharmapuri will stream on Zee5 from October 23, in Telugu and Hindi)

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Printable version | Mar 27, 2020 7:09:04 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/director-anish-kuruvilla-discusses-his-web-series-gods-of-dharmapuri-starring-raj-deepak-shetty-satyadev-and-karthik-ratnam/article29680558.ece

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