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Interview with Manjula Naidu by Jeevi

: 13th June 2002 Venue: Ameerpet

Manjula Naidu is one of the very few celebrity female directors in Telugu. She is the most popular director of small screen. She has scripted the story for 390 episodes of 'Athmeeyulu' and directed 585 episodes of 'Ruthu Ragalu' and 345 episodes of 'Kasturi'. She is currently holding the honorable position as the Member of Central Board of Film Certifications by Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Govt. of India. For the first time, she is venturing into big screen with her film 'Kanulu Moosina Neevaye' with Deepak and Archana in the main leads. met Ms. Manjula Naidu at her office in Ameerpet for chitchat, where she shared her feelings and opinions about direction. Here are the excerpts from the interview


How did you get interested in films?

It's not just an interest in films. I am interested in creating films. Since my childhood I had an inclination towards creativity. I used to paint, dance and participate in dramatics. I was very active in college cultural activities. I used to take part in stage plays. Hence it has been a natural walk for me into this field. I entered television first, as its more affordable compared to feature films. I have more freedom on Television, as the commercial considerations are less.

What are the television serials you directed?

I have directed 585 episodes of Ruthu Raagalu (on DD) and 345 episodes of Kasturi (on E TV).

How did you get the idea of entering into TV media?

My husband (Mr. Sudhakar) was working for Door Darshan. He was trained at Pune Film Institute. Hence it was natural for me to do something like this. If I were not directing films and serials, I would have become a painter.

But the concept of mega serial, where the number of episodes runs into hundreds, is a new concept for Telugu viewers. What prompted you to make a mega serial?

I was inspired to make a mega serial when my husband told me about Shanti and Swabhimaan (Hindi TV serials). We also watched 'The Bold and the Beautiful' and 'Santa Barbara' on Star TV. By doing a TV serial, we can use our own finances, instead of depending on somebody else for production. This again was one of the reasons why I entered TV media first.

Could you make good profits out of those serials?

Everybody makes money. But we did not become millionaires overnight. We could breakeven. We were more into satiating our creative hunger than the greed for money.

What prompted you to enter the field of making feature films?

After having made four daily serials, I thought its time for me to do something different as I did not want to become redundant. I wanted to have some change.

How do you differentiate between directing a TV serial and directing a feature film?

I could very comfortably get in to film line as I have enough experience in TV media. But I feel, while making a TV serial one has to be more analytical. Everything has to be comprehensive. You have to get into the core of each and every matter and explain everything. We basically have time to sit back and relax while making TV serials. But in films it's not like that. You have a point to say and you just say it. Whatever thinking has to be done would be done by audience later on.

Bala Chandar, one of the greatest film directors, entered the TV media and made lot of serials. Again he attempted making a feature film titled 'Paravasam'. But Paravasam bombed at the box office, since the script was bad and the narration of story was similar to that of TV serials. Having the background of TV serials, did you make any conscious efforts to change the style of narration in your film 'Kanulu Moosina Neevaye'?

I honestly don't know. I did it in a way I was convinced. I made sure that the pace of narration of the story is very fast in film. Now I leave the ball in the audience's court to judge if the film is like a TV serial or not.

Apart from Vijaya Nirmala, we don't have any female directors in Telugu cinema industry. Did you face any difficulty in getting the work done, as this is a male dominated industry?

No. I did not face any difficulties in getting the work done. I don't believe in gender thing. Gender is secondary as long as you are competent. If I can really judge what I am doing and if I can show that I am the boss, I don't see any problems.

What do you think is the reason why we do not have many female film directors in this field?

People call film industry as male dominated because there are no or very less women in this field. But it's actually up to the interest of each individual. If they want to do it, they should come forward and do it. No matter man or woman, as long as they have that urge to prove themselves they should come out to do so.

Coming to directing your first feature film, is it just your experience that helped you or did you follow any books on direction?

I don't follow any books. I don't see many films. I am being very honest. I am very ignorant on that aspect. I can't even quote a thing from any film. It's just the pure instinct. I have learnt the basic technique of cutting the shots. The rest is just my imagination and conviction.

When is 'Kanulu Moosina Neevaye' going to be released?

It is releasing on the 28th of June.

This film has been getting postponed since the last four weeks. What's the reason behind it?

The producer told me that the buyers were apprehensive about releasing my film along with those so-called big films. After selling the product, we have to consider the requests of the customers (buyers). Since it is our first film, we are taking their advice. We cannot overrule their judgment.

What is the reason behind casting Deepak as hero?

He suited the character and our budget.

Telugu dialogues have some kind of native punch in them. For a non-Telugu guy, to get the timing right for a Telugu dialogue is very difficult. Did you put any extra effort on that aspect?

I did not face any problem on that front because I used to explain each and every word and what it meant to Deepak. He delivered the goods perfectly. You find assistants doing the task of explaining dialogues to the cast. But I personally ensured that Deepak was aware of the exact meaning of each and every word. It's just the matter of right communication between the artist and the director. We should be sure of what we want. Then we can extract the maximum performance out of any artist.

How many days did you take to shoot 'Kanulu Moosina Neeyaye'?

45 days.

Did you shot the film within budget?

Budget is elastic. If an artist takes more than two takes, it also affects the budget. I might have calculated for three takes. What if an actor takes five takes? Everything is not in our hands.

You must have seen the final copy. What are the expectations on the film?

This film might not have great openings. But after a week or 10 days, the film is going to settle down and become a hit. The story of the film is novel. It's not the usual kind of faction war or puppy love. The audience these days has become so predictable that they can tell the entire story after watching the first half an hour of the film. In my film, nobody is going predict what is going to happen subsequently, till the climax.

Are there any incidents, which let you down, after you entered the TV serial making? Were there any failures?

There was nothing like failure as such. There were times when I thought I have become too redundant. There is one incident where we pulled out a serial on E TV that is directed by some other director and produced by us, because that content was not up to the expectations and standards we have set for ourselves. And the theme was not convincing enough. Though that serial was making good money, we called it off as the audience expects more from us. We could not take the right decision of selecting the right director and concept for that serial.

When we say something through our serials, crores of people watch it on TV. And we have to show something responsible. I can't allow any trash to go on Television just because it's coming from our company. I lost money by pulling out that serial. I can earn money again. But if I continued that serial, I would have lost the reputation, which can never be earned again. I don't think it's a failure. I take it as a success.

What are your future plans?

I am planning on making some more serials on satellite channels. Let me see which channel would air them. And I am also planning for my next feature film.

As a television producer, what are the parameters you take into consideration to select a particular channel to air your serials?

The first thing we consider is the financial viability. The second factor is the viewer ship of the channel. Sometimes, I am confident that even if a channel does not have viewer ship, I can pull the viewers to that channel with my serials.

One thing I don't like about present day tele-serials is that all Tamil serials are dubbed into Telugu and dumped onto our viewers. That is really humiliating.

Why cant TV channels air Telugu straight serials?

Because it's easy money. The production cost is nil for a dubbed TV serial as it was already made. The dubbing cost is hardly Rs 10,000 to Rs. 15,000. Even if they spend lavishly for a dubbing serial, it would cost a maximum amount of 1 lakh. And they can earn lot of profits. For channels like Teja and Gemini, they don't even have to pay for dubbing rights as they are networked through SUN.

It should be a policy matter to the channel heads not to encourage dubbed serials. If they like any serial from other language, let them remake it with the local talent.

Do you have target audience while making TV serials?

Yes! We do have target audience for TV serials. It again depends on the time slot we get in the channel. If it is telecasted on prime time (something like 9 pm in night), the entire family is the target. If it is telecasted in afternoon or evenings, housewives and retired people are the target viewers. We have to prepare the story, which caters to the tastes of target viewers. At the same time, I can't air trash on my serials. I have to make them think and debate on what I am saying. And I am glad that people some how trace my numbers and call me in odd times by telling what they did not like and how. If a character is killed in 'Ruthu Ragalu', people used to call me in mid night and complain that I should not have done it. It means that they are involving themselves in the serial. It also implies that we are imbibing some moral and ethical values in to the viewers.

But some of the serials that are being aired now are preaching bad ethics and spoiling family values. It's so disgusting. We are given half an hour slot every day to communicate something to so many people. Nobody else has that privilege. Hence we should be very responsible. Instead of taking the society forward with their serials, the makers are taking the society backwards. It's a very dangerous trend.

Do you have any words to say for the director wannabes?

Whoever wants to enter the film industry should do it with conviction. One should also realize the responsibility that he/she has in influencing the society and the mankind. It's going to be history. The film you made will go into the annals of Telugu cinema. Movie direction is not a game. So, please take care about what you are saying though your film.

Do you have any message for visitors?

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Click here to read the bio-data of Ms. Manjula Naidu

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Interviewed by Jeevi
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