Sailesh Kolanu: ‘HIT 2 will be an emotionally riveting, dark ride’

In the process of creating a ‘HIT universe’, writer-director Sailesh Kolanu says the foundation for the universe comes from ‘HIT: The Second Case’, starring Adivi Sesh, which will release in theatres on December 2

November 28, 2022 03:13 pm | Updated December 02, 2022 04:03 pm IST

Adivi Sesh with director Sailesh Kolanu on the sets of ‘HIT: The Second Case’

Adivi Sesh with director Sailesh Kolanu on the sets of ‘HIT: The Second Case’ | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Imagine a cop franchise in which each protagonist investigates heinous crimes and, eventually, they all come together in a cop universe to take on something larger and sinister. If all goes well, director Sailesh Kolanu might be able to pull off such a feat, a first for Telugu cinema. His debut film as a writer and director, HIT: The First Case (2020), was the beginning. HIT: The Second Case, releasing in theatres on December 2, is set in Visakhapatnam and stars Adivi Sesh as a cop who wears his attitude on his sleeve. 

Sailesh, who found his calling as a filmmaker after completing a Ph.D in optometry and teaching in Sydney, Australia, says he had a road map of the HIT (Homicide Intervention Team) universe even before the first film went on floor. “The HIT universe derives its foundation from the second film; so it had to be bigger in content and scale,” he says, during this interview at producers Prashanti Tipirneni’s and Nani’s office in Hyderabad.

Eerie coincidences

During the post-production of HIT 1, starring Vishwak Sen as a cop battling post-traumatic stress, Sailesh remembers how he and his team watched in horror as the Disha murder case (a 26-year-old veterinary doctor was murdered after brutual sexual assault and her charred body was found) that shook Hyderabad had an eerie resemblance to some of the events in the film. 

Adivi Sesh in ‘HIT: The Second Case’, directed by Sailesh Kolanu

Adivi Sesh in ‘HIT: The Second Case’, directed by Sailesh Kolanu

The crime in HIT 2 involves incidents of murder and dismembering of women, resembling the recent Shraddha Walker case in New Delhi (where a young woman was killed and her body dismembered). “I had written both the stories based on news reports in other countries, and it is eerie to see such real-life similarities prior to the release of these films,” says Sailesh. 

He asserts that his films do not glamourise crime. “The idea is to establish that when the crime is so gruesome, it calls for the best in the police department to investigate it.”

Sailesh says his writing process, backed by research, has been a solitary one. Once he completed the scripts, he discussed them with his wife, Swati, and producer Prashanti to ensure that he had not written a story about crime against women with a male gaze. There were also discussions on how crime is depicted on screen. “There is often a discussion as to whether someone will get inspired by a film to commit a crime. Those who have that psyche can draw inspiration from anywhere, not just books or movies.”

HIT 2 dispels the notion that only metropolises are hotbeds of crime. The literary space has several crime novels set in sleepy towns, making the investigation all the more dramatic, he acknowledges.

Sailesh was keen to begin HIT 2 soon after the first film, but he was approached by producer Dil Raju to remake HIT 1 in Hindi. “For any director, it is a dream to cater to a larger audience and the prospect of working with Rajkummar Rao was exciting. So I took it up.” 

Director Sailesh Kolanu

Director Sailesh Kolanu | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Meanwhile, the pandemic gave Sailesh time to mull over the franchise. He observed that sequels and franchises often starred the same actors. “I had to do something different, and that’s when the idea of a new protagonist for the second film came up.”

Adivi Sesh’s role in HIT 2 is poles apart from the character essayed by Vishwak Sen. “He appears laidback but his intention is to keep the city free of crime. He has never been challenged. Once the crime kicks in, the film becomes an emotionally riveting, dark ride.”

To understand Vizag better, Sailesh spent a couple of months in the city. “I hung out with people in the 25 to 30 age group. I usually do two recces, one for location and one for dialogues, and I travel solo so that I can penetrate lesser-known spaces easily. I also got help from Anil Pulipati (DSP of Vizianagaram) and spoke to several cops to understand the functioning of the police force in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. I also observed my editor Garry BH who hails from Vizag. He has this easy manner of speaking and it was useful to shape the protagonist.” Sailesh’s process involves journaling anything interesting that he comes across — news reports, conversations and even jokes. 

Sailesh hesitated to approach Adivi Sesh for HIT 2, since the actor is also an established writer. “But we all (Sailesh and the producers) agreed that his tall personality suited this role, and having written and acted in thrillers, he would understand this crime space well. My reservations disappeared in my first meeting with Sesh. He said that for a change, he would be glad to be an actor on my sets and not worry about other creative departments. We had several discussions and I answered all his questions about the script, after which he agreed.”

In this cop drama, Sailesh was keen that the female lead should be more than a glamorous addition. He recalls his first meeting with Meenakshi Chaudhary, “Before I narrated the story, she wanted to know if the female protagonist had anything to do with the actual plot or if it was one of those characters designed to provide relief to the audience in an otherwise intense story. After my narration, she realised that her character Aarya is integral to the script. She is a natural and emotes effortlessly.” 

Meenakshi Chaudhary and Adivi Sesh in ‘HIT 2’

Meenakshi Chaudhary and Adivi Sesh in ‘HIT 2’

While some of the crew, like cinematographer Manikandan, remain common for both the films, Sailesh roped in music composer John Stewart Eduri for the background score of HIT 2: “I would listen to his Mirzapur soundtrack while writing, and I like his choice of instrumentation and sound. Since the story is in a seaside town, we wanted a largeness in the soundscape.”

Since Sailesh is in the process of building a HIT universe, it becomes imperative to ask if it is essential to revisit the first film before watching the new one, to spot the Easter eggs in the story. “ HIT 2 will work as a standalone film, but there will be a few subtle connections. Those who have watched the first film will enjoy some aspects more.” 

Optometry to cinema
“I started writing as a stressbuster,” he reminisces, when he talks about his journey from optometry to cinema. While in Australia, he would drive several miles to watch a Telugu film in theatres and would be disappointed if it did not measure up. “Rather than complain, I thought why not try writing.” His friends hated what he wrote initially. He then read books on screenplay writing. 
One of the first scripts he was convinced about was written with actor Nani in mind. “With the help of Lakshmi Manchu, whom I knew as an optometrist, I got an appointment with Nani and flew down from Sydney. He listened to my narration and asked me to stay in touch. I thought that was that. But he would respond from time to time when I shared ideas. I wrote HIT much later and Nani was keen to produce it, and asked me to direct it.” 
Sailesh shifted base to Hyderabad and travelled across India to make a short film titled Uniki, about a travel blogger. With limited resources, he roughed it out. He wanted to see if he was cut out for filmmaking without all its glitz and glamour: “I was the happiest when I made that film. Then I was ready to direct a feature film.”

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