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George Reddy: Story of a rebel

Sandeep Madhav in a still from the film   | Photo Credit: By arrangement

Jeevan Reddy grew up in Siddipet, a hotbed for Telangana politics. While growing up, he had heard many stories of George Reddy, the founder of Progressive Democratic Students Union (PDSU), who was murdered in 1972 in Osmania University (OU). “Elders who had studied at OU shared many accounts, but I didn’t connect with all of it back then. The urge to narrate George’s story came only after I became a filmmaker,” says Jeevan, who directed the 2013 bilingual Dalam (Koottam in Tamil; 2014).

Settling down for this interview in between the post production work for George Reddy that’s expected to release in November, Jeevan says the film involved one and a half years of research. He listened to anecdotes shared by George’s contemporaries and academicians. George studied in Hyderabad’s OU campus in the late 60s and early 70s. A trained boxer, he was a gold medallist in M.Sc Physics and was a research student when he was killed on April 14, 1972. He was just 25.

Who was George Reddy?
  • George Reddy was born in Palakkad, Kerala, in 1947. He studied in Kollam, Chennai and Warangal before moving to Hyderabad.
  • George is said to have been influenced by Soweto student revolt against apartheid in South Africa, the student upsurge in France in May 1968, the Black Panther movement in the US, Vietnamese struggle against the US, and the peasant uprisings in Naxalbari and Srikakulam in India.
  • The life of George and his student movement is said to have inspired the 1989 Telugu film Alajadi starring Bhanu Chander, and the character essayed by Suriya (Ajay Devgn in Hindi) in Mani Ratnam’s Yuva.
  • George Reddy trailer incorporates some of his famous quotes. For instance: “Jeena hai tho marna seekho, kadam kadam par ladna seekho” (If you are to live, learn to die, learn to fight at every step). The trailer also shows footage of his speech from the 1971 documentary Crisis on the Campus by Rabindra Dharmaraj and Fali Bilimoria Production house.

Jeevan recounts how people he spoke to would assess him before parting with information, “They would tell me two or three lines about George, gauge my response, and would proceed only when I gained their confidence.”

George is often referred to as ‘Che Guevera of [undivided] Andhra Pradesh. Jeevan underlines the influence that Bhagat Singh and Che Guevera had on George, “He was heavily inspired by the lives of these two men.”

Mahanati (2018) sparked the biopic trend in Telugu cinema. Political biopics like NTR, Yatra and Lakshmi’s NTR, and history-based ones like Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy followed. George Reddy is a shift from that scenario. The film also touches upon the fact that George was denied admission into Osmania Medical College.

Once he decided to make the film, Jeevan had support from his friends. “More than 90 of my friends have worked on this film,” he says with a laugh. Jeevan noticed that his roommate Sandeep Madhav resembled George and asked him to enact the part. Other friends like actor Satya Dev, art director Gandhi Nadikudikar, cinematographer Sudhakar Reddy Yakkanti (who was the cinematographer for the Marathi film Sairat), among others, came forward to do their bit. “Some of them haven’t even asked for payment,” says Jeevan.

OU of the 70s

Gandhi designed sets that resembled the OU campus of the 70s, near the aluminium factory at Gachibowli. “I took him to the OU campus and said we need to recreate the same grandeur within a limited budget. Gandhi laughed and then got down to sketching. Whenever I walked through the sets, I would get the campus vibe. And Sudhakar has been my guide,” says Jeevan. For some portions, 500 to 700 junior artists were called in to play the students.

Associate producers Damu Reddy and Sudhakar Yakkanti, director Jeevan Reddy

Associate producers Damu Reddy and Sudhakar Yakkanti, director Jeevan Reddy   | Photo Credit: By arrangement

Jeevan also read biographies of George. He admits to have taken a few cinematic liberties for dramatisation. He has watched many student leader films, and is a huge fan of Ram Gopal Varma’s Siva. Jeevan also assisted RGV for KSD Appalaraju (2011).

One of the tricky aspects of George Reddy, says Jeevan, was to film the 1970s style of realistic action sequences, “The scenes that happen on the football ground, the fireball fight and the use of small blades… were all tough to pull off. We didn’t use body doubles.”

Jeevan is keen to see how the younger generation reacts to the story. “The older people know about George. Through this film, I want to present my impressions of why George’s ideals are relevant today,” he sums up.

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Printable version | Jun 10, 2021 6:09:10 PM |

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