(This has to be read in continuation to my previous post titled “Wrong is right”.)
As I was hanging out on the sets of ‘Collector Gari Abbayi’ Surendra had an idea of making a film based upon ‘The Sound of Music’ which was later made into ‘Rao Gari Illu’. In ‘Collector Gari Abbayi’ since I came towards the end after most of the script was done and decisions of casting and selection of technicians were already made, I thought it will be a unique opportunity to be involved in a film right from the inception of the idea. By that time my status was that I became close to Venket and Surendra and Nagarjuna but nowhere were they remotely in a state of mind to offer me a film to direct, their basic contention being I don’t have practical experience.
But on the force of my personality I slowly started influencing Surendra who wanted an established Director for ‘Rao Gari Illu’ to take a new Director with lots of experience. I suggested Tarani the 2nd assistant in ‘Collector Gari Abbayi’ who had around 14 years of experience and who I knew well. My agenda was that if he is directing I can be an intrinsic part in all the decisions right from the beginning or more simply put, that I can be a backseat Director. So I manipulated Surendra to decide on Tarani which he finally did. I was ecstatic because of this development as it gave me a chance to study right from the ringside how an idea grows and shapes up into a film. Little did I know how horribly wrong this would go. Tarani initially was very grateful to me as he knew that I was the main reason for Surendra to take him as a Director, but slowly with time he grew tremendously irritable with my constant perceived interference which I thought were my creative inputs and also became very jealous of my proximity with the actors and the Producer. A.N.R, Nagarjuna’s father, was the star of the film who kept a distance from everybody including Director Tarani. All the other actors like Jayasudha, Revathy etc used to constantly want to interact with me more than Tarani which understandably upset Tarani a lot. A point came where Tarani gave an ultimatum to Surendra that he won’t shoot if I am on the set. Seeing Surendra’s dilemma I offered to stay out. But the problem was that since it was me who narrated the story to all the actors and Tarani was not shooting it the way they thought it should be and also that he was not able to tell them the reasons for the changes created a lot of discomfort on the set.
Meanwhile ‘Collector Gari Abbayi’ released and became a big hit and Nagarjuna was in form. By that time he already came into a frame of mind to take a chance with me as a Director. But A.N.R was completely against it and told Nagarjuna ‘just because Ramu can speaks in English and quote from English novels and films does not mean that he can direct’. Nagarjuna expressed his helplessness.
As this was going on, one day Tarani was shooting a key scene and A.N.R had a doubt on the structuring of the scene which Tarani could not answer. To escape Tarani told him that the scene was conceived by me and approved by Surendra and that he was just forced to shoot it. A.N.R called for me and Surendra.
He took off on me at the stupidity of the scene when I stopped him and explained to him the whole point of the scene and how it should be shot and in that discussion A.N.R realized how wrongly Tarani was shooting and worse than that he didn’t even understand the point of the scene. He asked me to be present for the shooting of the scene and by the end of it he told Nagarjuna at home that he was mighty impressed with me.
With that practically all decks were cleared as A.N.R gave a green signal at least to seriously consider to give me a break. Nagarjuna was positive anyway and Venket and Surendra were reasonably positive but still dilly dallying a little now and then. Now the question was when? Venket said they were shooting a film called ‘Vijay’ with B.Gopal and Surendra was planning another film with Kodandi Rami Reddy starring the father and son again and after that there was another project with K.Raghvendra Rao. So Venket said they can think about my film only after those films got over. My heart sank as I was in no mood to wait that long.
By that time I understand enough of how the industry operates. Surendra asked me to make a story for Kodandi Rami Reddy’s film which I did. He signed Ganesh Patro as a dialogue writer. Kodandi Rami Reddy during those days used to do 7 to 8 films a year and most of the time would not even remember the story of the film he is currently shooting. I took in this information. I narrated the story to Mr.Reddy and Mr.Patro who were fine with it. Then Surendra wanted Mr.Patro to go to Hyderabad, as at that time we were all in Chennai, to narrate to A.N.R as he was shooting in Hyderabad. Later that night I talked to Mr.Patro and offered to go to tell the story to A.N.R myself. Mr.Patro to save the trouble of going called up Surendra and told him to send me to tell the story as I anyway have written it.
So Surendra sent me to Hyderabad to tell the story to A.N.R. I went there and by a deliberate design I narrated the story in such a way that A.N.R. had lots of problems with the script. He called up Surendra and Mr.Patro and Mr.Reddy and told them the story does not work at all. They were taken by surprise and waited for me to come back to tell what the problem was.
I went back and told them a completely different version of problems for what A.N.R had, which were designed to confuse Mr.Patro and Mr.Reddy. The advantage I took is that I clearly knew that Mr.Reddy does not have a script sense and he also has a weak memory and Mr.Patro at any given point of time is busy with 10 films and he is primarily a dialogue writer. So the sum effect of all these proceedings of them not knowing what I told them and the complicated design I worked on confusing them resulted in suddenly there was no script for the film and the dates of Nagarjuna were just around the corner.
Leaving all three in the room in a state of confusion, I went to Nagarjuna who used to live in the upstairs of the office then and told him that there is no script for the Kodandi Rami Reddy film and there’s no way a script can come up in the given time and I said since my script is ready as long as he decided to take a chance on me someday or the other why not take it now. He asked me about what Surendra might say. I went to Surendra and told him that since he will loose a project with Nagarjuna and not get his dates for quite some time, I will try and convince Nagarjuna to do my film in the same dates, to which he agreed. Then I met Nagarjuna and told him Surendra is keen to do the film with me only and I called Surendra in and told him Nagarjuna is fine with it. I don’t know how clear I am being here but the basic point is that I made both Nagarjuna and Surendra feel that it the other’s decision. But both of them said they have to talk to Venket. He wasn’t home as he went for a party. I waited till midnight until Venket came and told him that both Nagarjuna and Surendra decided to do the film with me. He was non-committal. In the morning before Venket woke up I told Nagarjuna and Surendra that Venket was very happy about the decision. And after Venket woke up I took care that no two of them will meet with each other without me being present. They three also had some subtle personal issues with each other which I took advantage of by making each feel that if one opposes the other two will support me.
Then I leaked out the news to the staff at the office. So when Surendra was asked by a staff member if Mr.Reddy’s project has been shelved, I told Surendra it could have been leaked out because of Nagarjuna or Venket and told him that he should hurry up and break the news to Mr.Reddy himself before Mr.Reddy gets to know from outside which is bound to create a bad taste. So Surendra met Mr.Reddy and told him.
The news spread like a wild fire as a major production company like Annapurna Studious dropping the reigning top Director Kodandi Rami Reddy and signing on a rank newcomer Ram Gopal Varma has never ever happened before. With a formal telling by all three to A.N.R, they gave a go-ahead and “Shiva’s” pre-production work started in full swing.
I conned and lied to everybody concerned but the one and only one truth was that I genuinely believed in my heart that ‘Shiva’ would be a far superior film to whatever Mr.Reddy might make and also that it will do lot more good to all concerned and mainly to me of course.
P.S: Tarani after the success of ‘Rao Gari Illu’ made a few flops, is now back to working as an assistant director presently to Poori Jajan.