The film, The Ghazi Attack was not on Sankalp Reddy’s mind when he decided to choose film direction as his career. He had written a few romance stories, and then one dramatic incident changed everything.
“In October, 2012, my wife had planned a trip to Annavaram (near Vizag) with her family. But since they were not available, I joined her. On our way back to Hyderabad we decided to go to Vizag,” Sankalp says.
It was there that Sankalp saw a ship that was set on the shore for tourists. “We visited it and I got the idea of doing a film on a submarine — not Ghazi, just a submarine,” he says.
After coming back to Hyderabad, he started working on a computer graphic design on a submarine, to check if it was possible for him to make a film on it.
“I then went through the Indian Navy’s successful accomplishments online, and I selected the PNS Ghazi,” reveals Sankalp. He also met the curator of the ship Phani Raj in Vizag, and many retired Navy officers to get more information about the incident, and then made a video documentary with his research.
Sankalp watched around 40-50 films made on submarine wars in many languages, such as Japanese, Chinese and Russian.
“I watched Das Boot, Crimson Tide, U-571 and The Hunt for Red October, too, for reference. I knew people would draw comparisons of my film to other submarine films, so I had to take care that not one scene would resemble any of those films,” says Sankalp.
“The PNS Ghazi is a classified file and also a mysterious one. There are a couple of versions about how it was destroyed. The only known fact about it, is that the Pakistani submarine Ghazi came to Vizag and sank here. So the entire film is fictional, and we took some creative liberty with the story,” he says.
Sankalp then wrote the script and uploaded it online, as a precaution against any copyright issue. “I didn’t know that I had to register my script with the writer’s association. So I wrote a book Blue Fish and uploaded it on Amazon books as a digital book,” he says.
He then narrated the subject to a few producers, but no one was interested because it was about a submarine. “I decided to start on my own to make a film with whatever funds I had, to upload it on YouTube,” reveals Sankalp.
He set an estimate for a budget of `15 to 20 lakh for the film, and erected a submarine set at Kavadiguda. “I pooled in resources from my father, wife, future savings for my kids and from friends. I spent nearly `25 lakh on the film,” Sankalp says.
“My friend Vasudev Reddy helped me with his office where we did graphics,” says Sankalp who recalls narrating the script to Kay Kay Menon. He liked it, but asked Sankalp to wait for the right producer. In the meanwhile, he made money by working on short films, ads and storyboards.
Money and time were running out, and then he decided to shoot the film with theatre artistes. That’s when his uncle, an advocate, asked him to meet Niranjan Reddy of Matinee Entertatainment, who eventually liked it.
Rana heard about the script from producer Ram Mohan Rao and expressed interest. “From there, everything went ahead smoothly as they took care of everything else from sets to the rest of the cast,” he says. Later, script changes were made too. “My book and the final script were different. Taapsee’s character, for instance, wasn’t in the original,” he says.
“Women weren’t allowed on submarines back then. Even USA allowed them only after 2000. We took creative liberty there because we wanted a female character in the story,” he explains.
Om Puri was roped in to add weight to the film. Rana’s look fit in too, as the Navy allowed officers to grow beards. The film’s Telugu and Hindi versions were shot in 60 days. But before that, Sankalp worked on the script for four years!
The appreciation was a relief. “I chose this story because I always wanted to do something new; that was the only way to get noticed!” he says. Before he took up Ghazi, Sankalp worked as an assistant director for Ko Ante Koti and also provided VFX for Minugurulu.
However, filmmaking wasn’t Sankalp’s first career choice. After a B.Tech from CVR College of Engineering he wanted to go to US for further studies. He ended up going to Australia for an MBA.
After a year, I joined a filmmaking course in the same university without telling my parents. They thought I was studying MBA and kept sending money,” he says, adding that he had to compromise on his lifestyle in Australia because the course was expensive.
“When I told my parents about it on my return to India, they were shocked. They were worried because I didn’t have any film background,” recalls Sankalp, who is married to city-based fashion designer Keerthy, with whom he has two kids.
Now that Ghazi is a success, Sankalp is being flooded with offers but he is taking his time. “I want to do something different, like Ghazi, even if it’s a romance, drama or an action film,” he reveals. Meanwhile, he plans to release a documentary based on his research for Ghazi....