I don’t get carried away, says ‘Tholi Prema’ director Venky Atluri

Forget exultation and excitement, there is no energy in Venky Atluri’s voice even as youngsters and families are raving about the newbie’s Tholi Prema and the box office figures appear flattering on the eve of Valentine’s Day.

“I guess it is a level of immunity; more than the fact that I delivered a hit, the relaxed feeling is dominating. I was tense during the post-production. We had time to work on the film before the release but still I was under pressure. It is like the tension you have a day before the exam, no matter how prepared you are. We began the shoot on July 24, 2017, and shot for 70 days. There was a gap, because the visas (for the UK) came a little late. We might have wrapped it up by December. Right now I want a short break before I think about my next project. I am just sleepy, really sleepy,” says Venky.

Lessons from bad films

I don’t get carried away, says ‘Tholi Prema’ director Venky Atluri

The youngster has been seriously watching films since the time he was 17. Enjoying a film is one thing, observing and analysing it is different.“I would learn something both from good and bad films. I don’t know how much you learn from a hit film, but from a bad film you learn a lot. The filmmaker must have believed in something; if you find out what it is, you get a lot of inspiration. An ordinary movie goer who buys a ticket for ₹150, tries to like the film; only if the film lets them down terribly will he get upset. We see good things first, it is similar to the experience of dining out. You taste it hoping it will be good,” he points out.

Initial days

Venky was an actor and a writer before he tried his hand at direction. We ask him if he reads a lot of Telugu literature and how he finds the ease in writing simple yet intense dialogues, and he says, “When I told my dad that I wanted to be an assistant director, he said ‘they won’t treat you well’; he scared me. Then when I thought about acting, I got an offer easily. Gnapakam, my first film as a hero, did not work but I tried to satisfy my ego and acted in Snehageetam. I wrote for the film toothat is when writing for films began. I am not an avid reader and don’t know how I developed a flair for writing. In Tholi Prema there are small words but there is intensity; all this came from the experience of writing multiple versions of scripts. When I was working for other films, there were times when I had to write scenes on the sets with speed and improvise on the spot. The quality of writing during paucity of time helped me for Tholi Prema. On the spot improvisations is unavoidable, sometimes we write a scene but don’t fix a location. Sometimes we go to see a location and we are inspired to incorporate something. I wouldn’t recommend this method, it will work only if you have a grasp of the subject.”

In 2010, Venky directed a short film, and knew that as long as he narrated a story even in a single scene and keep the audience engaged and entertained, it isn’t very tough. All one needs is a good cinematographer with whom you share a rapport. Fortunately for him, George C Williams would help him out whenever he wanted more clarity.

Stay on cue

Ask him if he was tempted to make a new age film or something concep-driven and he recollects, “I began that in 2011, I have written three or four stories but this one capitalised first. Nothing has changed in the story except the datelines; the text remains the same. Whenever I go to watch a film, I see it as an audience. Inspiration is good but I don’t want to get carried away by ‘Friday Stories’. You like a film and appreciate it but don’t incorporate something from that film into your work. Once Varun locked the script, I was working on it single-mindedly. Someone told me that these days no one watches love stories. That’s not true; audience will watch any genre, all they want is to have a good time.”

Finally as a director, his acting stint came in handy to extract performances from his artistes. He agrees Tholi Prema does not a fresh theme; but how one treats the story makes it fresh feel. He avers, “It is the journey of two individuals. The distance between Hyderabad and Vijayawada is the same but what you experience during the journey matters, not everyone travels the same way. This is a love story and I just told the artistes I want emotions and not drama; since both of them are young they didn’t believe in excessive drama. Because I was an actor and I know the limitations actors work with, I used that space to get the best from them. From day one, Varun was in the skin of the character. Raashi took some time, but she is now walking away with all the compliments.”

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Printable version | Nov 26, 2021 6:40:52 PM |

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