In a prestigious development, Telugu film C/o Kancharapalem directed by Venkatesh Maha has been selected for the New York Indian Film Festival this May, even prior to its release in India. Interestingly, the director has used real people to ‘act’ in his film.
“Kancharapalem is a popular place in Visakhapatnam and while the story is fictional, I got the idea after observing the people there,” says Venkatesh.
Born in Vijayawada and brought up in Miryalaguda and Vijayawada, Venkatesh is a self-professed lover of films from his childhood.
“I started watching Telugu films at the age of five. My mother is also crazy about films and I am the youngest of four brothers. Whenever I felt bored, she would give me Rs10 for a cinema ticket and snack. In those times, it felt great to get a ticket for the first show of a film! That’s how I got attracted towards cinema,” explains Venkatesh, adding, “But I wanted to be an actor, not a director.”
While studying his degree course, Venkatesh decided that he didn’t want to be a burden on his brothers. “My father passed away when I was in the class VI, and there is a big age gap between me and my brothers. They wanted to settle down in life, so I left home,” reveals Venkatesh, who admits trying out odd jobs like being a security guard at an ATM, a helper in a screen printing company and even wanting to work in a call centre.
“After trying different jobs, I finally landed in Visakhapatnam in 2009 and stayed at a friend’s house in Kancharapalem. They treated me like a family member and my friend’s father, Kasi Viswanatham became very close to me,” he says, adding, “After he passed away, I left Vizag and came to Hyderabad to try my luck in films.”
Venkatesh recalls that he would wander around the city with story ideas. “I used to discuss ideas with a group of budding writers and storytellers. I even auditioned for films to get roles and met a group of young filmmakers,” he explains.
But a visit to Kancharapalem in 2016 turned things around. While there, he thought of a story based on the people’s life. “People in Kancharapalem know each other very well. They are all lower and middle class families and are happy with their lives. They are also crazy about films and my idea got stronger. I took a few video bytes of some of the people and created a video. While trying to crowd fund my film, Aparna Malladi, who has directed a few web series, saw my video and took me to Praveen Paruchuri, who saw it and immediately decided to produce it,” recalls Venkatesh.
After Paruchuri agreed to produce the film, the director shares, “I went to Kancharapalem and hired all the local people as artistes. Out of 80, only four artistes are from Hyderabad and the rest are from Kancharapalem. We shot the entire film at Kancharapalem and nearby Rammoorthy Panthulu Peta. I shot a few scenes at Bheemili too.”
The director adds, “Since the people didn’t know acting, I took a 49-day workshop and then started the shooting. The entire film took 63 days.”
While doing post-production work at Ramanaidu Studios, Venkatesh met a person who liked the film and asked Suresh Babu to watch it. “Suresh Babu immediately said that he wants to acquire the film,” recalls Venkatesh.
Once the film was complete, Suresh Babu, Venkatesh and Rana Daggubati watched the film at their preview theatre in the studio.“All three of them appreciated my film. Later, we screened it for a few select people, all of whom liked it,” says Venkatesh, on how the film landed in a big production house.
Venkatesh also visited the Goa Film Festival where he invited Aseem Chhabra to watch his film. “He liked it and asked me to send the film for the New York Indian Film Festival (NYIFF),” he says. The director is now preparing to leave for New York in the second week of May. “My visa is under process and once I get it, I want to attend the festival,” he says, adding that Suresh Babu is planning to release the film here once the festival is over.