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Interview with Chanti Addala by Jeevi

: 17th July 2002 Venue: Friendly Movies Office, Hyderabad

Chanti Addala, the art director turned producer, is a very popular name with his latest film Allari Ramudu doing wonders. met him at his office on 17th July 2002, which is 2 days prior to the release of Allari Ramudu, for an exclusive interview. The cheerful and fun-loving producer was in his elements when we met him and narrated his life story in an interesting style. Here are the excepts of the interview ……


I was a movie freak since my childhood. I used to buy filmstrips [one-frame negatives of movie scenes] in my hometown Palakollu and join the interesting filmstrips to make a reel out of them by stitching them manually. I had a magnifying glass and a made shift projector using which I projected the reels I made, on the wall of my study room using the rays of sunlight falling in the room. I used to charge 5 paise for the viewers who watched them. I also named the projection wall as 'Lakshmi Talkies' (with Roti Kapada aur Makaan written at the bottom), where I projected the filmstrips. As much as I enjoyed this, I also mastered free-hand drawing.

When I failed to clear my intermediate, which caused a one-year gap in my education, I decided to enter movies and I asked my father for his suggestions. He encouraged me to enter the field as he had seen me being very passionate about watching films. Palakollu produced lots of film industry personalities like Dasari and Kodi Rama Krishna. 20% of the Telugu film industry in those days consisted of people from Palakollu. Dasari's residence was adjacent to my father's shop and Publicity Eeswar's residence was right behind my father's shop. When my father introduced me to Eeswar, he asked me to join him in publicity design. I told him that I needed one week to study publicity designing and that if I liked it I would do it. I actually wanted to venture into movie direction and when I observed the assistants of Publicity Eeswar, I realized that all of them had been doing the same work for the past 15 years and there was no career growth for them. Publicity designing starts once the production work of the movie is completed but I wanted to stay behind the camera and learn my work. So, I decided that publicity designing was not my cup of tea.

Then I went and met Dasari and expressed my desire to enter the film industry. When he asked me what I would like to do, I told him that I wanted to be a film director. He told me that there was one assistant director for every home. At that time, people like Kodi Rama Krishna and Ravi Raja Pinisetty were assisting Dasari and they had been working as assistants with him for 15 years waiting for a break. Dasari explained to me that I needed to wait for a longer time to get a break if I joined direction department. He asked me if I had any special hobby and I told him that I was good at drawing. Then he recommended me to the art director Bhaskara Raju. He was the leading art director in Telugu cinema at that time as he used to be the art director for 99% of the films released during that period. He was also looking for assistants as he had ample work.

My first assignment was for a Hindi film. The work was to do a temple set. I decorated the temple without taking any instructions and surprised Bhaskara Raju. He asked me if I had any experience. I told him that I followed the pattern that's shown in films and he was very impressed with my work.

My next assignment was for Mohan Babu's 'Dharma Poratam'. Mohan Babu wanted a set for a song in Tirupati and Srinivasa Raju [son of Bhaskara Raju] who was working as assistant director for that film was away in Madras. So Mohan Babu called me and asked me to do a set on low budget and asked me how much it would cost for the set. When I asked him what his budget was, he said he wanted the set within Rs. 10,000. Using ribbons as the backdrop, I did a set with my own creativity. When Srinivasa Raju returned, Mohan Babu jokingly remarked that Srinivasa Raju would have made him spent 1 lakh for the same set that was done in a budget of Rs 10,000. I worked as assistant to Srinivasa Raju for six years. During the making of 'Bhanumatigari Mogudu', we had minor differences and I opted out. I worked as an assistant art director to K Raghavendra Rao during his peak period from 'Adavi Ramudu' to 'Agni Parvatam'.

When I wanted to become an independent art director I got offers from a lot of companies. All the people introduced by D Rama Naidu and SP Venkanna Babu were successful and I wanted to work with either of them for my first project as they were considered as lucky mascots. Somebody told the same to SP Venkanna Babu and he called me and said that I was selected as the art director for his next film and handed me a cheque for Rs 1,116/-.

At that time D Rama Naidu was making a film titled 'Brahma Putrudu' with Venky and GV Subba Rao was the art director. They needed a modern set to be erected for a song. Rama Naidu called me and asked me to erect a modern set in the lines of Michael Jackson song within 24 hours. I did a set in 24 hours and it was very much appreciated by Venkatesh Babu and Rama Naidu. Rama Naidu told me that I would be doing art direction for his next film and gave me an advance of Rs 5,000/-

My first film was the award winner 'Prema' with Venkatesh and Revathi in the direction of Suresh Krishna. Simultaneously, I got another offer to work for Chiranjeevi's 'Raja Vikramarka'. From that day onwards, I did not have to look back. I worked with all major heroes for all major hits.

But unfortunately, I could not work with SP Venkanna Babu garu, as he was forced to put another art director for his films due to pressure from his hero. But today, I can proudly say that the advance amount given by SP Venkanna Babu is the talisman behind my success.

Since my main aim of entering the industry was to direct films, I started working over stories. Rama Naidu has this unique style of involving a technician in all the departments of movie making if he finds a technician as talented. He used to make me involve in story discussions, direction, script work, dialogues etc. Even if I bunked any of the discussions, he used to scold me and then invite me for the following discussions. Though it irritated me then, now if I look back in retrospection, the credit for all my success goes to the kind of holistic treatment given to me in Rama Naidu's films.

RR Shinde recommended me to Rama Naidu saying that I had a good story. Then Rama Naidu promised me a direction chance, if he liked my story. I wanted to do a rehearsal and I called the cameraman V Srinivasa Reddy and asked him to listen to my story so that I wont get nervous while narrating the story to Rama Naidu at a later point of time. After listening to the storyline, Srinivasa Reddy told me that the story was excellent. Then he also hinted to me that if I directed a film for Rama Naidu, the whole credit would go to Suresh Productions.

But at that time, D Rama Naidu did not have time to listen to my story and asked RR Shinde to have a hearing. RR Shinde liked it and recommended it to Rama Naidu. In the mean time, Srinivasa Reddy used to meet me and told me that since Rama Naidu would do my story, Srinivasa Reddy has a different story written by choreographer Suchitra. Since he produced two films already, he wanted me to join him as co-producer for his new film. He also assured that I needed to invest only 3 lakhs and rest of the money would be pooled in from the financiers. Since, he has 2-movie production experience I blindly believed him and told him that I would give 3 lakhs. Then choreographer Suchitra narrated the story and I liked it a lot and we started the movie 'Aaro Pranam' in the direction of Veeru. All the money was spent during story discussions itself. Again I was asked to get 3 more lakhs .. and 10 more lakhs etc. At one point of time I invested 25 lakhs and started repenting that I made a bad move of producing the film. All my well-wishers scolded me for leaving my good position of art director and venturing into production line. I approached each and every possible person who can lend me money. Finally I landed up investing 1.25 crores (95% of which was lent from my friends). The financiers did not release any money for the film till it entered the last schedule and they gave some amount (30 lakhs) when all the big producers gave them assurance about repaying the money. At the end, we completed postproduction work and the final copy of 'Aaro Pranam' arrived. We showed the film to distributors and everybody appreciated it. But they were willing to buy film at a rate which is 42 lakhs lesser than the production cost.

I had a sleepless night that day. I had two options. One is to sell the film at 42-lakhs deficit. Other one is to wait for the buyers to come at breakeven price. If I wait, I might not get buyers and end up losing 1.3 crores. If I sell the film now, I might lose 42 lakhs. If that film becomes hit, I might recover the amount.

I decided to sell the film at a deficit of 42 lakhs. Luckily, the film became a commercial success and I got my investment back. That film had a novel point and was a youth film. If it was released now, it would have become a bigger hit.

At that time Balayya gave dates to Srinivasa Reddy, as he was following up with Balayya up for a film for the past two years. But I had a minor misunderstanding with Balayya during the making of 'Bangaru Bullodu'. I told Srinivasa Reddy that I had a misunderstanding with Balayya babu and asked him to go ahead and do a solo project. But Balayya was kind enough to forgive everything and invited me to produce his film. We produced Pavitra Prema with Balayya babu. At that time, he was having flurry of flops like Devudu. Lot of people did a bad propaganda on Balayya when he was down with flops and tried to discourage us. Balayya babu is a perfect gentle man with childlike mentality. He is very frank. Pavitra Prema become a good hit and ran for 100 days in 21 centers. He is such a perfect gentleman that after the sensational hit of Samara Simha Reddy, he called us and offered to do a film. Show me one hero, who is so caring about the producers who gave a good hit to him when the hero was at his low.

I narrated a story to him and he hugged me after listening to it. He asked me to start the film. The only mistake I did was taking Muthyala Subbaiah as the director. The subject I narrated was a mass story with great amount of action and had a title of 'Narasimha Naidu'. Balayya's character was a very short-tempered one in the movie(like 'Tana kopame tana satruvu'). The film would have become a blockbuster if the original story was retained. But the director played around with the story and changed it entirely. They changed the title to 'Krishna Babu'. Muthyala Subbaiah created jail scenes and sent hero to jail thrice. In the original story, that jail incident was not there. B Gopal was the correct director for that film. Muthyala Subbaiah, being a soft director changed the entire story texture. After the release of that film, people commented it as 'Kastala Babu' and 'Jail Babu'. When I narrated the initial story everybody liked it. But I don't understand why they changed the story line and the producer does not have say in it. The film turned out to be a disappointment.

Then I realized that I should not start the movie unless I am 100% convinced about it being a producer. That's the reason why I dropped out from two big projects of a big hero at the last moment, as I was not confident about the storyline. The same stories were made as films with the same hero and both of them turned out to be damp squibs at the box office.

Then we started 'Bachi' film. As everybody was appreciating the storyline during story discussion stage, I felt that it was not suitable for Jagapathy Babu. I told Poori Jagannath that every hero has strength and we should make films to suit the strength of hero so that film becomes hit. Jagapathi Babu is a family/ladies hero. And Bachi story was meant for heroes with mass appeal. Then Poori Jagannath and Jagapathi Babu told me that this story is made for Krishna Vamsi's own banner. Since he was busy with Murari, they wanted to do on our banner. Then the project started and I was not really comfortable with it. So I decided to play safe by doing another project titled 'Tirumala Tirupati Venkatesa', a remake with Srikanth as hero in the direction of Sathi Babu, on Friendly Movies banner. I stayed away from Bachi film, though I was a co-producer. I went to USA and returned during the postproduction stage. We saw the double positive of the film in a preview theater. I called up Poori Jagannath for breakfast and told him that I did not like the film and audience won't receive it. I suggested a few changes in story and proposed to reshoot a part of it. I was also willing to dole out 25 lakhs for that purpose. But Poori Jagannath was totally confident about that film. Bachi was released with the best openings in the career of Jagapathi Babu. Everybody in the unit told me that movie is going to become a super hit as it opened with 200% openings in lots of areas. We released it on our own through Suresh productions. I was startled on looking at the collections sent from Suresh distributors office through fax. The downfall started from 2nd week and it was out of theaters by 4th week. Then I spoke to Poori Jagannath again that Badri became a super hit because Pawan Kalyan starred in it and it had story that suits a mass hero. If Badri was made with Jagapathi as hero, it would have run for just 2 weeks.

At the same time, 'Tirumala Tirupati Venkatesa' became a minimum guarantee film and fetched profits.

Later on Srinivasa Reddy started a film with Venu as hero in the partnership of another producer. I follow some ethics in doing business. When you are doing business with one person, you should not start another venture in partnership with some other person in the same business line and that too without intimating the first person. This is precisely what Srinivasa Reddy did.

I then started working on a script in the combination of Poori Jagannath and Mahesh Babu. Then Mahesh Babu told me that his movie would take around 9 months to complete and he asked me to go ahead and do another project. Hence I decided to do a small film in the mean time. At that time, the unit had come to shoot a portion of Student No.1 to my house. I saw NTR for the first time there. The first thing he did was to come and prostrate on my legs to say 'namaskar', as I was wearing Ayyappa Mala. I liked his manners [paddhatulu] and obedience. After watching him in those sequences canned at my house, I was also impressed with his acting skills. Then I decided that I should make a mass film with NTR as hero.

My wife and I sat together and discussed about how we can do it. I approached B Gopal and asked him how it would be if we make a film in B Gopal and NTR combination. B Gopal was not comfortable with that idea as NTR did only one film - and that too a love story. But everyday, the idea of making mass film in this combination was tempting me. At that time, Nuvvu Nenu was released and it became a stupendous hit. I approached B Gopal after a week and told him by giving the example of Nuvvu Nenu, which became hit because of the director though the cast was new. And I told B Gopal that he was sitting idle even after giving a super hit like 'Narasimha Naidu'. If B Gopal does a small film with a new hero and make it a big hit, people would accept that B Gopal could deliver hits without any star in it. I also assured that I would put all the money in the project and take the onus of entire risk. Finally B Gopal agreed to do the film. Then I went to NTR and told him that I was planning to make a film with him. He immediately accepted it and said that he was very happy working with a producer who worked for two films with his babai (Bala Krishna). When I told him that B Gopal would direct it, he jumped with joy. He was very excited about it. He postponed all his other assignments and accommodated dates for this project.

I prepared the combination of cast for the film and called up B Gopal who was in Kaasi shooting Indra. He was shocked at seeing the casting of film. He asked me if Nagma would be ready to do as the mother of Arti Agrawal. Then I told him that I have already started negotiations with Nagma and it had been three days by then. I also told him that I would make Nagma accept the role in 10 days time. Then B Gopal told me that the film's range would become much higher if Nagma was cast as Arti's mother. I knew Nagma's mother personally as her second daughter Roshini acted in my film 'Pavitra Prema'. I used to call thrice a day and urge Nagma to begin her second innings. I told her clearly that her days as heroine were over. If she wants to enter the tinsel town again she has to do character roles and this role of NTR's mother-in-law would be the right entry for her in her second innings. On the 6th day, Nagma accepted the role and we made the announcement. I got much more name and fame for this film compared to all the five movies I made so far. Earlier only industry people and fans knew Chanti Addala, but with 'Allari Ramudu' everybody now knows who Chanti Addala is. I owe all this to combination of the film. With 'Allari Ramudu' film, I got confidence that I can make any movie now. I am capable of making a minimum guarantee film anytime.

I would like to clarify an issue here. The general public has a misconception that producer can do anything (especially flirting with heroines etc). But it's not the right notion. There are lot many producers, who came to industry after seeing the glamour and they are suffering to release their first film now. Film industry is a beautiful place. Common man might not recognize a Tata or Birla if he walks on the street. But if a smalltime comedian or villain walks on the road people would follow them and ask for autographs. All the producers who had long-standing in the industry do not have any bad remarks on them.

Cinema is a beautiful lie. Whatever we say on the screen is nothing but a big lie. But we mesmerize them by entertaining with songs, dances, sentiment scenes and comedy kicks. Even the audience knows that, whatever they are watching is not real. There lies the capability of films.

I have 20 years of experience in the field. Even with this kind of experience, I had to face problems while making movies. All the new entrants come into this industry after seeing one success, where a producer spent a very little and gained maximum because that film became a super hit. Lots of new guys enter the field with that kind of mindset without studying it. And all these guys fail to even release their films forget about actually earning profits. Let me tell you an example. A heroine in my film was working for a Tamil film. That producer requested me to let off the heroine for a couple of hours for his film. He also told me that if I do not cooperate with him, he might end up attempting suicide. That's the state of people coming into the industry without proper planning.

Producers now should concentrate more on stories and scripts. The days of stardom have gone. All the films with good stories and scripts are running well. If you are spending 1 crore on a film, you should make sure that even if you lose the entire one crore - it should not effect your life style. Even if nobody is buying the film, you should be able to release it on your own.

Movie industry is an unorganized one and it does not work in a systematic way. That's the reason why corporate people have stayed away from the industry. Only the empirical style (Naatu Paddhati) works here.

In this industry, most of the times we have to put aside our personal interests and cater to the public interests. Even though I am telling you all these precautions, I have given a couple of flops earlier. Nobody can understand the way the film industry performs. A guy traveling in Benz car today might be seen traveling in Maruti tomorrow. A person living on the road might be traveling in a chauffeured luxury car tomorrow. Take the example of Uday Kiran today. He has no film background. He might be having interest in films since childhood. He became a hero overnight with 'Chitram'. Thousands of people tried along with Uday Kiran on that day and hundreds of youth heroes are coming to the field now. There are even kids from filmy background with fan following. Those guys did not become successful. Without any background and fan following Uday Kiran has become a star today. That's because the public likes him.

[Interview to be continued later ... stay tuned]

Interviewed by Jeevi
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