Director Venkatesh Maha on C/O Kancharapalem: 'Want to make Telugu films for global audiences'

Haricharan Pudipeddi

September 08, 2018 15:07:11 IST

Filmmaker Venkatesh Maha couldn’t have entered Telugu filmdom at a better time. When the indie wave is truly being embraced with open arms by audiences and the trade alike, Maha makes a fabulous directorial debut with the heartwarming C/O Kancharapalem – which features four stories of love and longing, set in a small town. The film is produced by Indian-American independent producer Praveena Paruchuri, who has also essayed a key role in the film. Maha, in a chat with Firstpost, opens up about his filmmaking journey, the struggle and inspiration behind making the film with 86 debutant actors and making Telugu films for global audiences.

Director Venkatesh Maha (L); C/O Kancharapalem poster. Image via Twitter

Director Venkatesh Maha (L); C/O Kancharapalem poster. Image via Twitter

Maha, who hails from Vijayawada, tried his hand at various departments before finding his calling as a filmmaker. From a spot boy on the sets of Pawan Kalyan’s Teen Maar where he worked for Rs 150 per day to playing the role of hero’s friend in Aakasame Haddu, he didn’t mind the job as long as his work was connected to cinema. “This was the only way to learn about cinema. If today I could make a film with over 80 debut actors, it’s because of my experience across crafts. In cinema, irrespective of the department you work, your experience never goes waste,” he said, adding, “I tried my luck as an actor and that experience came in handy when I was working with so many first-time actors in this film.”

The story of C/O Kancharapalem was out of frustration, recalls Maha. “Every producer I met with a story asked me who had referred me to him. It’s then I realized that you need to know people and that it takes recommendation for projects to materialise. Some people just couldn’t believe I could be a director. I wanted to take a break from everything and decided to visit my friend in Kancharapalem. Before I came to Hyderabad looking for opportunities in the industry, I stayed with him for close to a year. When I told him I wanted to come back, he was happy to have me over. I told my friend I was looking for inspiration for a story and when I landed in Kancharapalem, I realised that every person in that village is a story. I started interacting with people, observing their lives and behaviour. All of that inspired me to write a fictional story.”

As Maha started putting everything in place for C/O Kancharapalem, he came across Raam Reddy’s award-winning Kannada film, Thithi. “When I saw the film, I was even more motivated to make my film. After watching Thithi, I decided I’ll cast the people of Kancharapalem and chose to ignore the idea of my friends to cast a few popular faces. I was inspired by the lives of Kancharapalem to make the film, so I felt they should be part of the film.”

C/O Kancharapalem promotional banner. Image via Twitter

C/O Kancharapalem promotional banner. Image via Twitter

All the actors of the film had regular jobs. “They would do their daily jobs till 7 PM. We’d do our rehearsals from 8 PM to 11 PM. During the rehearsals, they were full of enthusiasm, but the moment we put them in front of a camera, most of them froze. They became conscious and it took us some effort and time to get them used to the process. We had other challenges when we started shooting. We shot in sync sound and it wasn’t easy. Over hundred trains passed through the town in a day. We were shooting near the railway crossing, so we had to plan each shot in between the passing through of two trains.”

Despite the challenges, Maha was glad his dream project was getting made. “Right from the beginning, I wanted to be an international filmmaker. I look up to filmmakers such as Wong Kar-Wai and Ang Lee who, irrespective of their descent, made films for global audiences and celebrated across the world. I want to take Telugu cinema to global audiences. By this, I mean to non-Telugu audiences as well.”

C/O Kancharapalem is truly a global film. It was the sole Telugu film to be premiered at New York Indian Film Festival earlier this year and won the appreciation of international audiences. “There are audiences who want to watch original stories and they don’t care about the language. C/O Kancharapalem is a step in that direction.”

Updated Date: Sep 08, 2018 15:07 PM