“I am not a big fan of the supernatural thriller genre,” confesses Sumanth, when we begin talking about his film Subrahmanyapuram , scheduled to release on December 7. Debut director Santossh Jagarlapudi’s film is set in a town called Subrahmanyapuram where the village folks witness mysterious happenings and attribute it to divine reasons. Sumanth, playing a rational researcher called Karthik, will have none of it and gets to the bottom of the mystery.
Sumanth feels Karthik is a lot like him. “Karthik is an atheist while I am agnostic. I won’t call myself religious, but I like to visit ancient temples, churches or mosques to know more about their history and culture. I find those aspects fascinating,” he says. Sumanth listened in to Santossh’s narration with scepticism. He thought that midway, if he wasn’t keen, he would refrain from talking further about the project.
Santossh had a 120-page script ready and had storyboarded the proceedings. “He gave me a two and a half hour narration that kept me hooked. I was at the edge of my seat,” Sumanth recalls. This was in February 2018. The team soon began preparation work for the film. Santossh has directed a few well-appreciated short films and Sumanth felt he had what it takes to make a gripping feature film. “He had the technical prowess and a good production house backed him. It’s not one of those small, compact films. It requires CG and we needed the production muscle to back that,” explains Sumanth.
Subrahmanyapuram was shot in Sriramapuram, about 100 km from Kurnool, where the unit found a secluded temple. It befit the story where one has to make an effort to reach the temple. The art direction team got down to work. “A special set was constructed inside the temple premises. The main deity, as shown in the trailer, is the work of the art team. We wanted a raw, unpolished look,” reveals Sumanth.
Sumanth is pitched against Eesha Rebba, who is a staunch devotee. The conflicts in personalities lead to an engaging drama, he promises. Despite the element of supernatural force in the story, Sumanth asserts that logic doesn’t take a backseat. Among the several aspects that step up the curiosity of the film is the reference to a now-extinct language. Sumanth won’t reveal more at this stage.
The 2014 film Karthikeya directed by Chandoo Mondeti has Nikhil Siddhartha visiting a Kumaraswamy temple in a fictitious town called Subramanyapuram to find answers to the temple’s closure. Sumanth declares that he hasn’t watched this film: “People have told me about Karthikeya , but ours is a different story. These similarities are at a broad level — just like Tholiprema (2018), Malli Raava and 96 (Tamil) have the lead pair meeting again, after years. Each one is a different story.”
After Malli Raava , Sumanth has been working on three films in different genres. Idam Jagath directed by Anil Srikantam has also been wrapped up, and and has him playing a character with shades of grey. “We are looking for a window to release Idam Jagath at the right time,” says Sumanth. He’s keen to take up an author-backed antagonist role in the near future.
There’s also the NTR biopic in which he portrays Akkineni Nageswara Rao. The difference between the ANR part as depicted in Mahanati and the NTR biopic, is the latter showcases the legendary actor at different stages of his life, says Sumanth. He shot for 16 days and says the film will serve as a textbook of that era, throwing light on the off-screen friendship between NTR and ANR. “Our families have had strong associations over the decades. Some of the things haven’t been discussed in public domain and will surprise the viewers,” he sums up.