‘screenplay darsakudi inti pera?’ (is screenplay the surname of the director in Telugu film industry) was the popular quotation of telugu film writer/lyricist Athreya. It applies to all the directors in the current generation. One of the reason why most of the films in Telugu are failing is because director is unable to concentrate and focus on direction as he has other burdens of scripting and screenplay-writing.
Gopi Mohan is the one of the very few writers who is getting solo credits for penning screenplay for films. It all started with Dasarath’s debut blockbuster Santosham. Idlebrain.com met Gopi Mohan to get his perspective on screenplay and writing in Telugu film industry. Here are the excerpts -
Tell us about your background?
I am born and brought up in Gudiwada. I did my engineering in Belgam. I became passionate about Telugu films after watching Ram Gopal Varma’s films. I followed my dream of becoming moviemaker and headed to Hyderabad. I became a gang member in the team of RP Patnaik and Sunil. At that time Chandra Siddardha started a movie titled ‘Avunantoo Kadantoo’ (the same script is made as Swayamvaram later). I joined in the direction department and worked for that film which was stalled after 2 days. They also allowed me to stay in their room for six months after which I took a new room and shared it with Veeru Potla (writer of Varsham and NVNV) and Sudhakar Reddy (Director of photography for Pourudu).
Mohan Babu recommended me to the director N Shankar for his film Yamajathakudu. Later on I worked with B Gopal for Vamsi film.
I was a fan of Teja’s camera work and I watched Rathri film 5 times just to observe the cinematography. Dasarath took me to Teja and Teja took me in for direction department for his film Nuvvu Nenu. Teja is very good at spotting talent and breaking rules. Generally one has to work for 10 movies to become a co-director. But he made me co-director for my 3rd film. He has a terrific grip on screenplay and has a tremendous grip over pulses of the masses. It was a very good experience working with him and I learnt a lot from him.
Dasaradh is a guy with good moral values. He used to feel bad about Nuvvu Nenu film preaching elopement. At that time we thought that we should do a story that preaches family values and condemns elopement. That’s how the basic foundation of Santosham film laid. Nagarjuna encouraged us and Santosham happened.
Seenu Vytla liked my work in Santosham and got me involved in Venky. I shared the screenplay credits with Kona Venkat. Later I was in the writing team of Mr & Mrs Sailaja Krishna Murthy and Ashok films. I was also involved in developing the story and shared screenplay credits.
I am writing a story for the first time for ‘Ready’ film (Seenu Vytla and Ram).
Tell us about Ready. What can we expect from it?
It will be in the genre of DDLJ. It is a sweet film with no struggles and tensions. It’s a feel good film with lots of entertainment. The music by Devi Sri Prasad is going to rock. And the film has more than 20 artists in most of the scenes. Sravanthi Ravi Kishore is a known for making good films that appeal to family crowds and this film too will be having Sravanthi mark on it.
What is your definition of screenplay?
Scene to scene development of the story idea is called as screenplay. That is how we work here. A good screenplay should engage the audience.
What is your experience as a wannabe director?
We all come to film industry with a dream. It is not possible to achieve it for most of the people. In stead of thinking about what we want, lets do some research about what Telugu film industry want and what we can offer from the skill sets we have.
I see lots of young writers in Telugu film industry who have fantastic ideas and story lines. But we don’t get producers and directors to come forward to accept those stories. People like Sekhar Kammula and Trivikram are making a difference to Telugu film industry. We will see a transition very soon and Telugu film industry is going to change.
Did you face any struggles after coming to Hyderabad?
We do lose the sight of the goal after few years. We start understanding the practical difficulties. We start doing scripts that suit distributor/producer requirement. One should stay away from becoming normal and routine and try to maintain their own style.
We have script consultants and script doctors in Hollywood and Bollywood. How does it work here?
The producers get the dates of hero first and then start cooking the story. We do get around 2 months time before starting the project. The producers would not accept any novel idea unless you show a reference to it in any of Bollywood/Hollywood DVDs.
Why don’t our director let writers do the screenplay?
Story and screenplay for most of the films are done by ghost writers. The producer do not want to have a separate department for story and screenplay. If you look at Tare Zameen Par, Amir Khan only concentrated on direction by leaving other departments of screenplay and writing to the experts. Since ghost writers work here, they don’t put in their maximum effort because they get neither fame (no credits) not big money (meager payment). In that way, Hindi film industry encourages writers a lot.
How do directors react when a writer try to give a suggestion?
Most of the directors don’t take it in professional way. They take it personal.
Why do you think there is dearth of good writers here?
That is due to lack of film school in Hyderabad. Most of the people come here because of fascination.
How are the writers paid?
The reason why brilliant writers like Trivikram, Veeru Potla and Madan entered into direction because there is no big recognition for the writers. The growth of a writer and his financial income is always limited. If a good director is paid 3 crores, the story writers are paid 5-6 lakhs. And it is the story that gives foundation to a good film.
You came to the film industry because of the passion rekindled by Ram Gopal Varma’s films. Did you meet him?
I met him after Santosham success. I had a subject that goes into the genre of Company film. It was titled as Homam and it deals with two people from Rayalaseema. He liked the subject very much and said that he would produce it. He asked me not to go formula way and do it differently. Then Shock was released and my project was put on backburner. I want to make this film one day.
What is your top films in terms of screenplay?
1. Maya Bazaar: The story of Mahabharatam was told without showing the characters of Pandava. That is a brilliant and challenging screenplay ever made in India.
2. Lagaan: Creating interest throughout the film is very difficult.
3. Basha: It is a trend setter in commercial screenplay department. All the films that came later with hiding the hero’s identity (Samara Simha Reddy, Narasimha Naidu, Indra and Simhadri) not only became blockbusters but set new records in Telugu film industry.
4. Bommarillu: It is highly difficult to make such an engaging film with a small story point. I watched it for more than 10 times.
When are you going to make debut as the director?
Probably during July/August. If I get a big hero I would do an universal entertainer like Pokiri. Otherwise I might do a all new starcast film like Happy Days or Bommarillu.
Do you have any suggestions for director wannabes?
I feel that all the talented people will be recognized by the film industry. Some people might get chances bit late. They should learn to be patient. I see lots of attitude in new comers. They should learn some skills to manage people (directors and producers). Not everybody can become big with their debut like Ram Gopal Varma.
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