Gunasekhar’s dynamic duo

Gunasekhar usually takes the family on a vacation after he completes a film

When director Gunasekhar set out to make Rudhramadevi with his own money, the first people he looked to for immediate support were his family — especially his two daughters — Neelima and Yuktha.

“When I was a child he used to tell me about queen Rudhramadevi. Three years ago, he said he wanted to make a film on her and wished to produce it on our own because he wanted creative freedom,” reveals Neelima Guna, the director’s eldest daughter.

Neelima, who has just finished her graduation in Mass Communications from St Mary’s College, says, “My mother and I took over the financial dealings during the shoot and also co-ordinated with the artistes.”

It was a massive project indeed. For three years, leading up to the film, Neelima spent time organising costumes, sets, finances, promotional events including audio releases (across towns) and co-ordinated a social media campaign for the publicity.

Her age, she says, was never a problem. “This was his dream project and I was just helping him turn those childhood stories into a movie.” Though the project had started three years ago, Neelima became fully involved in the last one and a half years.

But the time she spent mulitasking, she did not let studies take a hit and remained a Grade “A” student throughout. “My college’s management helped me too. I did miss a few classes but they provided me the material. And when I gave the CD of the film’s soundtrack to my vice-principal, he told me, ‘Your name is printed small, and I want to see it big next time’. But I have been a bright student... dad always says, ‘I’m expecting more’ but he never shouts,” adds Neelima.

Mum Ragini, too, was involved in the project extensively. “She handles all our finances at home. She also handles our properties. So it was really not a big deal for her to handle the daily accounting while shooting,” says Neelima.

“Each day, we needed nearly Rs 10 lakh. Sometimes, mum had only Rs 2 lakh, but at the end of the day, she would always manage. That’s how she took the pressure off my father so that he could concentrate on the shoot,” says Neelima.

Asked whether the rumours that Gunasekhar had invested everything he had in the film was true, Neelima says, “It’s not true. We did put in money, but there was help too.”

She maintains that finances were not the reason for the film's delay. “It was a technical problem actually. My father introduced 3D in Tollywood with this movie and for that, we needed specialists from abroad. That’s why the film was delayed,” she says.

She reveals that the week before Rudhramadevi released, her father spent sleepless nights. “We wanted to stick to the release date. Besides the technical problem, we couldn’t handle last-minute financial transactions as we were very inexperienced. It was producer Dil Raju who actually helped us to release the film on time. A benefit show was at 2 am and the tickets were sold out. We were worried whether we would be able to screen it as the film’s fate completely depended on that particular show. That was a scary night for us.”

Neelima, however, adds that Rudhramadevi was never made keeping money in mind. “My father made this film not for the money, but to get respect. I know people talk about money, but we feel it is secondary. Money will come anyway, but after the film released, he got these texts saying ‘Thank you’ from many people. Usually, it’s just ‘congratulations’ or a small review,” she says.

The youngster adds the support from the industry was overwhelming. “When I was coordinating with people like Anushka and Allu Arjun, they never focussed on my age as they were all proud to be part of the film. Even Prakash Raj… he was the first actor to come on board and stood by us till the film released,” she says.

Gunasekhar usually takes the family on a vacation after he completes a film. “But he has been busy for the last three years. He loves travelling and so do we. We have covered almost every country, except Spain,” she says.

The director, of course, has been a huge inspiration for Neelima. “Before the film’s shooting started, he went to Germany and took up a course in 3D tech. I wondered, he was a big director, why was he joining a course? But once the shooting started, I realised how important the learning was. He always tells us to learn new things and keep up with changing technology.”

Her father hails from Narsipatnam and her mother is from Tirupati. “We used to go to our grandparents’ place, but for the film, our entire family, from both my parents’ sides, came here to support us,” she says.

Ask her about one memorable incident while making the film and she says, “When we met Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao garu, my father wanted to screen the film for him and we were all stunned to hear the CM speaking expertly about Kakatiya history. He spoke about all the prominent persons from that time and even asked my father whether those characters were there in the film.” Her father got a little emotional too at the CM’s office. “It was because if the way the Chief Minister had responded... giving out that tax exemption even before we had asked for it. He told us about the exemption and called officials in front of us to pass the order immediately.”

( Source : deccan chronicle )
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