The filmmaker behind Kavacham is back with a gripping action thriller featuring newcomers
Last Updated: 05.35 PM, May 04, 2023
After understanding the inner workings of the industry for many years as a co-director for several biggies like Drushyam, Gopala Gopala, Dictator, Srinivaas Praban wielded the megaphone for the first time with Bellamkonda Sai Sreenivas’ slick action thriller Kavacham. The filmmaker is returning with another film in his pet genre - a thriller again - Arangetram, shot under a shoestring budget.
The film, that releases in theatres tomorrow stars Roshan Z, Mustafa Askari, Srinivaas Praban, Pooja , Anirudh T, Laya, Indhu, Srivalli, Vijaya, Sai Sree and Jabardasth Sathi Pandu. In a chat with OTTplay.com, the director takes us through the making of Arangetram and the many challenges he faced in terms of budget, casting and how it was still satisfying.
On Arangetram, roping in newcomers for it:
This is an action thriller with a psycho twist; however this is still a commercial film with family emotions, a cute love story. All the ingredients are in the perfect mix. I intentionally picked newcomers for the pivotal roles and the film is driven by the suspense element surrounding the identity of the culprit. When I put a popular actor in that space, audiences will naturally feel that he may not be the bad guy.
The story revolves around six women and three men; there’s confusion among them about the psycho - if it’s a guy/girl and every one is suspicious about the other. The answer is only revealed in the climax. When I pick newcomers, it’s easy to make it with a shoestring budget. As a director, I enjoy action thrillers, even my first film Kavacham is set in that space.
The backstory behind the title:
Arangetram is an apt title for the story; there’s a character of a boy who wants to do his arangetram in Bharatanatyam in the film. What hinders his progress in dance, who’s responsible for it and how does this bitter experience transform him? This forms the crux of the story.
Finding his way into the industry:
As a child, I was crazy about films and wanted to enter the industry by hook or crook regardless of the role; acting/direction wasn’t on my mind. I thought direction was a more practical ambition. I could work under an establish director and create a path for myself. I didn’t know any other route and acting was too competitive a craft for me to stand a chance.
Content, the strength of Arangetram:
While Arangetram may be a low-budget film, it’s still a commercial entertainer. There may not be any star in it but it has solid content. The film keep you invested in the proceedings till the last minute. The scenarios in the narrative changes every ten minutes and there are a lot of surprises in store. The film will relate with the (lower) middle-class audiences even more. The aspects discussed in the story are very relevant to today’s audiences and the conflicts of the nine characters are equally absorbing.
Turning an actor with the film:
I didn’t intentionally turn an actor. The character I play is of a common man, who has average looks, with no six-pack abs and someone who wouldn’t stand out in a crowd. He’s an ordinary painter but he becomes a victim of a psycho killer at a phase in his life. He goes in search of the killer and meets the other characters at a place - the film elaborates on their plight when they get to meet the psychopath.
On writing a psycho-killer character who has a few principles:
The psycho in the film has a basis behind his killings and won’t kill without a reason. He doesn’t randomly kill people but he also doesn’t spare anyone who get to know his true colours. He’s placed in a conflicting situation where the people around him don’t know he’s a killer. Will he break his own rules? Who has the last laugh? The second half is a rollercoaster ride.
Getting the newcomers to perform as per expectations:
A week before the shoot, I handed over the script to all the actors. Given the cast is full of newcomers, they used to come to my office with enthusiasm, come up with their own modulation and discuss the character with me. One of the characters wanted to deliver his dialogue in Telangana slang and I was more than open to the idea. Everyone tried to bring a bit of themselves into the character. We wrapped up the shoot in 27 days - there are songs, fights and you’ll forget the fact that it was shot at a low budget.
The challenge of drawing crowds for Arangetram:
Tomorrow when Ramabanam and Ugram releases in theatres, even if the viewer who didn’t get tickets for either of the films and watches Arangetram, my film will be a success. You may not come to the theatres with the intent of watching my film, but if you can’t get the tickets for the other releases and don’t want to go back home disappointed, Arangetram will surprise you. The content will do the talking.
More pressure for a small-budget film than a lavish commercial fare:
There’s more pressure making a low-budget film than a commercial fare on a lavish scale. I always had to be sure that I shoot it within budget and I adopted novel strategies to ensure that the output doesn’t suffer either. Arangetram is a film that has to be shot within a particular budget and I can’t go overboard. I want its quality to be a reference point for films made on a small scale.
I’ve written a book based on my experiences with the film and we organised a show for directors too recently. Many young filmmakers want to try something out of the box within a small budget but struggle with the technicalities and practical aspects while executing it. I want Arangetram to inspire many directors.
Why a small-budget film after a big scale debut with Kavacham?
I am in talks for several projects with major stars and I happened to find time to make a small-budget film and took up Arangetram. A film can only be good or bad, regardless of the scale and I wanted to prove it with my content. Every leading actor is committed to 3 or 4 projects, we can’t keep waiting for them, you’re not sure if they would say yes to it and it’s not an option to sit idle.
Finding producers is easy for small-budget films and it’ll take off without much delay. However, one must do it with responsibility; otherwise it’ll backfire. I started Arangetram with a lot of planning and didn’t hurry it up at any stage.
The origins of Kavacham and making peace with its result:
I knew an executive producer called Santhaiah - I was introduced to him for a project that was to star Venkatesh under Tirumala Kishore’s direction but the film didn’t materialise. Santhaiah liked the story of Kavacham and directed me to a producer and it fell in the hands of Bellamkonda Sai Sreenivas. They were convinced that I could execute it because of my experience as a co-director.
I worked for big films like Bhimavaram Bullodu, Drushyam, Gopala Gopala, Dictator, Touch Chesi Chudu. I thought I knew what didn’t work for Kavacham and tried to convince myself with a reason but it stopped me from progressing further. Blame-games are irrelevant beyond a point; I took it upon myself to move beyond the bitterness and not repeat the same mistakes again.