In ‘Sarkar’ Selvar Mani says “Jiske paas power hai uska wrong bhi right ho jata hai”. I believe it’s not so much because of power alone but it can also be due to your own personal attitude towards life. Somewhere in this blog I mentioned that whenever life decides something for me, I immediately take a decision on top of that so that I always managed to make it work for me one way or the other.
Once I decided to start my video library “Movie House” at Ameerpet, with the Rs.20,000/- capital I got, I went about trying to buy quality types of video films and in the process I trusted a friend’s father who deals in it and he sold me faulty tapes worth Rs.10,000/- which either don’t play or get stuck in the video players, thereby reducing my capital to half even before I started. So by the time I started my shop I barely had a 100 workable tapes. Also every one concerned told me that it was a very bad idea to start a shop in the Ameerpet area as it’s predominantly a lower middle/middle class population who lives there who cannot afford a VCR. And also that it can’t compete with a library called “Fantasy” which used to be on the Punjagutta Road as the rich Banjara Hills crowd only patronize that library. Once it started my library became so successful within a month and Fantasy went out of business in a few months. Now the same theorists said that these days everybody owns a VCR. Also “Movie House” has a better parking space than ‘Fantasy’ etc.
So the point is we can have a theory for anything after the fact. If it didn’t work they would have said “we told you so” and if it works they give a new theory and also they will conveniently forget what they said earlier. Likewise even for my film decisions from the beginning till today I keep getting these expert opinions and advises of what I should do and not. They told me ‘Daud’ will be a blockbuster because it’s Sanjay Dutt after ‘Khalnayak’, Urmila and Rehman after ‘Rangeela’ and they advised me to shelve ‘Satya’ on the basis of who wants to see sweaty looking faces in dirty locations.
The same people advised me not to do ‘Aag’ and my other failures too and today they will all remember what they said about ‘Aag’ etc and conveniently forget about what they said about ‘Daud’ and ‘Satya’. It’s not that my beliefs went right either. Apart from my trust in my friend’s father I trusted on about 20 people I knew who had VCRs who I was sure will give me business. The business went to 100 cassettes per day but the 20 never came and if some did come they didn’t pay money on account of their closeness with me.
So eventually what worked is neither their belief nor mine. Random things keep happening completely out of your control but still your control can be in what you can do in an out of control situation. My real success I believe is in my ability to make decisions and implement them super fast.
Anyway coming back to the video library, I used to narrate the story of each and every film to my customers depending on what taste they have. In due course of time they became so addicted to the way I present a story, quite a few of them used to say that my narration was better than the film.
So I sat behind the counter of the shop for about 8 months doing a fantastic business financially, and with just one high point of being arrested and put in the Punjagutta Police station lock-up for pirating Amitabh Bachchan’s ‘Aakhri Raasta’. That was my first stint with how the Police were up close and i made friends with them and studied their psychology and later put that understanding to use in my cop films. Incidentally if anyone who lives in the Ameerpet area is interested about my “Movie House” shop in Ameerpet center which I gave up when ‘Shiva’ started, now runs as ‘Rajdoot Sweet Home’.
Coming back to the ‘wrong is right’ story one day I overheard my father telling someone that Venket the brother of Nagarjuna is looking a for a story for a film as they have K.Raghvendra Rao (of ‘Himmatwala’ fame) signed. Surendra his brother-in-law was a customer at my shop and through him I managed to get an appointment with Venket. I told him the story of Raatri (Raat) which he said won’t work in the Telugu market and asked me if I can write a story for a hero to be told to Raghvendra Rao. So I went back and in about an hour I wrote a one-line order of ‘Shiva’ borrowing from my own experiences in college and also liberally from Govind Nihalani’s ‘Ardh Satya’, Rahul Rawail’s ‘Arjun’ and Dilip Shanker’s “Kaalchakra’.
Venkat liked the story very much and he took me to narrate it to Raghvendra Rao. Mr.Rao said it sounds like an experimental film with no drama in it. I thought maybe he knows what he is talking about since he is so highly successful and asked him if I can rework on it. As I was trying to rework it, I happened to see his film ‘Kaliyuga Pandavruh’ and I suddenly realized how he must be seeing ‘Shiva’. I immediately gave up the idea of being a story writer and went and told Venket the same. I also told him that I would like to assist some director if they all feel it is so important to do that to be able to direct. Surendra with whom I have become a little close by then was starting a film with director B.Gopal called ‘Collector Gari Abbayi’ starring Nagarjuna and his dad A.N.R. So I formally joined as a 5th Assistant to B.Gopal who was very very busy in another film which he was finishing. So I started attending script sessions with 2 writers Komannapalli Ganapati Rao and Suryadevara Rammohan Rao on the script of ‘Collector Gari Abbayi’.
In the course of overhearing their script discussions with Surendra I used to come up with ideas and suggestions which visibly had an effect on all three of them. Within a few days Surendra started sending a car to pick me up which was a huge jump from my bus and occasional rides on my father’s scooter life style.
By the time Gopal was ready to shoot the film I rose quite a lot in both Surendra’s and Venket’s eyes but I did not meet Nagarjune yet. Mr.Gopal and his assistants used to feel visibly uncomfortable with my proximity to the producers considering that I was merely a fifth assistant. Also in those days assistant directors were expected to be very subservient.
My attitude and my speaking in English used to understandably turn them off to the extent that when one day Surendra was having a discussion with Mr.Gopal to cut the budget, he suggested to removing me as one of the cuts. Also in just about a week I proved to be the worst assistant director ever by often loosing clapboards and continuity books. So Surendra asked me to lay off and just hang around the set without taking any responsibilities which worked out fantastically for me and because of me being free on the set I slowly started developing a rapport with Nagarjuna who started shooting by then. Nagarjuna used to be pretty impressed with my narrative skills and also my cinematic sense but he himself was not in a very strong position because after the success of his first film ‘Vikram’ which many attributed it to being because of A.N.R’s son’s first film, he had a string of flops and he was no position to make a decision to give me a film.
So in the film industry I managed to attain the status of Nagarjuna’s chamcha and the worst assistant director ever and also as a guy with a huge attitude problem with no hope for the future.
Meanwhile I left my video shop to my staff and they cheated me royally and the business went for a toss. All the “we told you so” guys appeared back and lectured me on how in chasing a foolish dream I went horribly wrong.
And then I turned that wrong into right by making ‘Shiva’ happen.
P.S: I will come back to brag about that shortly.