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Interview with Ravi Babu by Jeevi
Date: 26th April 2002 Venue: Rama Naidu Studios
Other Interviews
Dipannita Sharma (Heroine)
Milind Soman (Hero)
Arunima Roy (Producer)
Mani Shankar (Director)
Sirivennela Seeta Rama Sastry (Lyric Writer)
D Suresh Babu (Producer)
Mahesh Babu (Hero)
Lisa Ray (Heroine)
Sravanthi Ravi Kishore (Producer)
RP Patnaik (Music Director)
Smita (Telugu pop singer)
Shyam (Producer)
Karunakaran (Director)
Sri (Music Director)
Gudipoodi Srihari(Film Critic)
SJ Surya(Director)
AM Ratnam(Producer)
Tammareddy Bharadwaja(Producer n Director)
Jayant C Paranji(Director)
Kodi Rama Krishna(Director)
Chakri (JD Chakravarthy)(Hero)
Ramana Gogula(Music Director)
Naga Babu(Producer n Actor)

We know Ravi Babu T, the son of character artists Chalapati Rao, as the small time villain and comedy artist. But there is another facade to his life, which many of us do not know. He is one of the best ad filmmakers in South India. He is making his debut in Telugu films with 'Allari', which is being produced by his home banner 'Flying Frogs'. caught up with Ravi Babu on 26th April for an interview. Here are the excerpts of the interview …..


Tell us about yourself and your background?

Basically I am an MBA from Symbiosis Institute of Management, Pune. After passing out from there, I had two options. I could either wear a suit and tie and sit in front of a computer or do what I always liked doing, which was trying and making a film. To tell you the truth, I did not even own a still camera till I passed out from my MBA. When all my friends were landing up in plush jobs, I joined ace ad filmmaker Mr. Rajeev Menon as an assistant. That job could not even fill the gas tank of my motorbike but I channeled it to fulfill my dreams. My job consisted of carrying lens, boxes and cameras. I think I was a quick learner as 3-4 months down the line I was promoted as an assistant director and assistant cameraman. 6 months down the line, I was doing shot-divisions and setting up shoots. 9 months down the line, I handled the projects independently. 10 months down the line, I quit the job to go abroad and study in a place called Film and Television Workshop in USA. I studied the course of cinematography. Then I moved to New York and started working as a cameraman for small shoots. I shot videos for small time musicians, artists and actors for little money. I put all this stuff on a tape and I happened to show it to some executives from Sony. They sponsored me to go to the Sony Institute of Live Digital Video Technology in San Jose, CA. I studied the course of Digital Online Editing. I became an online editor. I came back to New York and worked as cameraman and online editor for three years. Then I came back to India due to family compulsions.

Three months after I landed up here, I got an offer to act as a villain in a film. Since I am a big guy (hefty personality) and had big muscles, which I developed to operate cameras, they felt that I could suit the role of villain. So I got offer in 6 six films to act as a bad guy doing rapes and killing people. Then I ran back to USA, as I realized that it's not my cup of tea. Then I reconciled myself for a period of 3 months and came back to India. I worked on a couple of projects (one of which is Suresh productions venture with Venky as hero), which were supposed to take off. That did not happen, as you cannot really know why things can't happen in this industry. Everything looks like its happening and suddenly you realize that its not happening. A project can get delayed for n number of reasons in this industry. I am a very impatient man. I can't sit idle for a minute. After coming here, I learnt to understand and accept the delays. Delay is a part of filmmaking all over the world. At one point of time, I started acting in films half-heartedly. I did a film called Murari with Krishna Vamsi. Just before signing up that film, I made up my mind that it would be my last film as an actor.

I have a company called Flying Frogs at Madras. We make ad films. We served lots of advertising agencies like HTA and Lintas. To make regional and national ad films is my basic business. Then we put this film (Allari) together. We started the shooting on 24th January 2002. We planned a tight schedule on a tight budget. As we are making film with new comers, it does not make business sense to spend lots of money. We shot it to the budget and to schedule (45 days). Everybody has been telling me that they liked the audio of Allari. It would be more liked when they watched it on the screen along with the visuals. The visuals are planned to make it look like a non-Telugu film and a non-standard one. I personally don't like listening to music by itself. I like relating music to a visual. That's why I like music videos better. The film is now into postproduction and we are planning to release 'Allari' on 10th May 2002.

Why did you prefer so many new comers in your film?

It's not the question of newcomer or the old timer. I had a set of characters in my film and I was not going to go by any business pressure that if I put an old timer I can create a certain amount of business. What I tried to do is that I have a character. I had him etched out firmly in my mind. And I found the people who fit the character exactly. I have a hero, who is not good-looking; heroines are not sex bombs and the character actors who are perfect for their parts. For example, a standard industry person like Sudha, Annapurna or Delhi Rajeswari would be given the role of hero's mother. I have 3 sets of parents in 'Allari', out of which two sets of parents would be constantly interacting with each other.

In one set of parents, I wanted a dark old father and a young pretty mother. So there was a mismatch, so that there is a reason to create some tension between them. In other family, I wanted a boyish looking old man and a fat dark wife. The man had to look handsome and wife had to look very ugly and fat. I cast Kota Srinivasa Rao for dark old man. He is perfect for that role with certain amount of frustrated look in his face. He is not good looking and is a terrific actor. For his wife, I signed a beautiful middle-aged new comer. For heroine's father, I cast my dad because he is good-looking man and if we put sporty cloths on him, he looks younger. He also has comic disposition. I can pay him less too. For his wife role, I had a problem. You can't find dark and ugly mothers in Telugu film industry. I searched a lot for her and finally found a stage artist called 'Subhashini' in somewhere near Bheemavaram. Finally I had brought her down for a screen test. I just had one look at her and decided that she is perfect for the role. She has done a terrific job.

How did your experiences of being editor and lens man help you as a director for 'Allari'?

Oh. Yeah! It helped me a lot. Though I am a cameraman and editor, I used newcomers for these jobs. The director looks at progression of shots and style of shoot and the editor in me says me how much length I have for this shot. The cameraman in me tells me what is possible and what is not. So all these three guys in your mind work together in synergy and come up with a decision very fast. And you are able to execute the shot right.

Did you assist any film director?


There might be some sets of rules about how to direct a Telugu film. You must have broken most of them.

Yes. I have broken most of them. Some I broke because of ignorance and some I broke because I felt like breaking. I don't know how much of them would be accepted. I think I have broken them to an acceptable limit, because I have shown the rushes to a few people. Nobody complained. They all found that it's different.

What kind of films do you watch regularly? Telugu, Hindi or English?

I grew up on a diet of English films. I also like watching action Hindi films by Amitab Bachchan.

What about Telugu films?

The latest Telugu films I have watched were Murari and Nuvvu Leka Nenu Lenu.

If you don't watch Telugu films regularly, how do you keep yourself updated about the tastes Telugu audience and trends in Telugu filmdom?

I am able to fairly guess! There were a couple of films which were hits and which were predominantly made for young audiences. As a result, lots of wannabe producers and directors felt that dishing out youth films by packaging them with fast numbers, new faces to act and silly jokes would do the trick. That has become a trend. Since lots of movies are made in this pattern, it has become monotonous too.

If you take 70's and 80's genre American films like Karate Kids, Scream or I know what you did last summer, which were made for young audiences. They were also received well by all the section of people, as they were well made and brilliantly executed films, which had central theme, focused storyline, terrific performances and great technical values.

Now people are getting fed up of watching too many new faces and people are dying to watch films of stars. But there are not many stars who are giving big hits now a days. We are in a kind of flux where they are waiting for a big film from a big star and at the same time they are ready to accept something different from younger and newer people. That is where I cam trying to position my film. This film is for the movie audiences who want to see the same stuff executed and told to them in a fresh way.

Would you mind telling the budget of this film?

Sorry! I can't disclose it.

Tell us if it is more than a crore or not?

It's definitely more than one crore yaar!

Is it less than 2 crores?

I can't reveal the budget now. I am doing the business of my film. Revealing the budget at this point of time would affect my business deals.

How is the business for this film?

I did not put any press meeting so far, as I want to make sure that I make a complete film and then market it. I don't like boasting about the film, which is in production phase. I want to see the final work and then talk to press as a comfortable position. I would feel guilty if I do a huge press release at the muhurat and state that it would be a superhit and then make an average film later. It also gives a wrong impression about me in the minds of cinegoers.

What is the contribution of 'Suresh Movie Film Distributors' to Allari?

They are presenting the film. They are partly funding the project and they are distributing it.

The success rate of ad filmmakers turned directors is pretty less in Telugu and Hindi. How do you feel about it being one among the ad maker turned director?

Why don't you consider John Mathew Matthan, who made an excellent film like Sarfarosh? I don't know why other ad filmmakers failed to make it big in films. Had the technique overshadowed substance? It might be a pure coincidence that lots of ad filmmakers did not click in movie direction.

Why did you name your company as 'Flying Frogs'?

I wanted a name for my company which people would remember when I tell them for the first time. I did not want to call it as Ravi productions or movies. I wanted to have a completely offbeat name, which would go through straight.

Do you offer any suggestions for director wannabes?

I am new myself. So I cant really offer any suggestions. But I would tell you what I did. I am a guy who has been blessed with lots of opportunities because of my father and the connections with movie field. I strongly feel that one should stay focused. Stay so focused that you would forget everything else and think this is what you want to do and you have to do it and there are no two ways about it. Just believe in yourself constantly. You may have to meet people who do not want to meet you. You may have to talk to some people who do not want to talk with you. You are trying to write a script, which is not forming in your head. You might constantly have acidic attacks because nothing is working for you. You are not able to sleep at night and your personal life is devastated. But still, I would say 'stay focused'. If you stay focused and believe in yourself, it would definitely happen to you!

Interviewed by Jeevi
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