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Interview with Marthand K Venkatesh by Jeevi

There is a saying that a film is made on two tables. One is story table and the other is editing table. It is left to the editor to change the fortune of the film with fine editing. Marthand K Venkatesh is an ace film editor in Telugu film industry today. 70% of the film he edited went on to become the blockbusters. has met up with him and a long personal as well as technical interview on film editing. Here are the excerpts -

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Tell us about your background?
I belong to a filmy family. My father is KM Marthand was a famous film editor of yesteryears. His uncle is BA Subba Rao was a legendry Telugu film director. BA Subba Rao inspired my father to enter film industry. NTR gave first chance to my father as an editor. My father used to be the only man who edits almost all Telugu films at that time. He edited around 300 films. He was addicted to alcohol and his health was upset due to his liquor consumption. I was forced to become a helping hand to him at editing when I was doing my intermediate.

When did you get your first break?
K Raghavendra Rao asked me to give me feedback on Coolie No. 1 film. I told him that I did not like second half as hero raping the heroine did not appeal to me. He liked my honest feedback and frankness in telling what I did not like. He gave me opportunity to work as an individual editor for the film Allari Premikudu (Jagapati Babu). He gave 10 films continuously for me as an editor including Pelli Sandadi film.

When did you get good recognition as film editor?
Suresh Productions gave me recognition. My father used to work for all Suresh Productions films and I used to be his assistant. I used to give frank feedback for all those films. Suresh Babu liked my judgments and he encouraged me a lot. He used to take me to the previews and used to ask my feedback. I used to give honest and frank opinions about films. Luckily all those predictions became true. The major break as a film editor came to me with the film 'Preminchukundam Raa' with Jayant as director.

But it was K Raghavendra Rao who taught me about editing. He used to ask me for logic for every scene I cut. He taught me many more things about editing. He used to scold me. Editing his songs is a great experience to me. He used to have a story/concept for each song. His songs are poetic. I got 5 films the year I got introduced and all those films became hits. I got great films like Preminchukundam Raa, Bavagaru Bagunnara and Toli Prema in the first year itself. I was very lucky. My father expired the year I became an independent editor. I got close to Pawan Kalyan with Toliprema. I worked with all his successful films like Tammudu, Badri and Kushi.

What is editing?
Editing is all about trimming a film to the length the film is supposed to be. We have to decide where we need to keep the close shot. We have to decide how much length a shot takes, which shot looks better in which angle, is the dialogue appropriate for the scene etc. We have to maintain the flow and tempo of the film. Depending on the situations in the film, we increase or decrease the pace of the film.

Do you listen to the story before editing the film?
I discourage the directors from telling me the story before editing. I will get more judgment on the film if I edit it without knowing the story. Few of the directors are good at narrating the story. But they are not good at shooting the film the way they narrated the story.

What are the various techniques in editing?
During my father's time, single positive editing used to be there. Single positive means where the sound is mixed with the spool we get. There is a difference of 19.5 frames difference between the visual and the sound. They used to edit the film by keeping the difference of 19.5 frames difference in mind, which is very difficult. There used to be manual editing when I started my career. There used to be different feeds for visuals and sound, we run those things simultaneously and edit the film in both ways - sound and visuals. That process used to give heavy noise. Later, we got steamback process, where the noise was relatively less. Now we have the avid system, which is extremely convenient. The avid editing made the lives of editors so easy that out life has become less tedious. When you have everything on computer it is easy to manipulate. I can edit a film on Avid in maximum of 10 days where as it would have taken at least 1 month if I were to edit it using orthodox old system.

There is a saying that a film is made on two tables. Story table and editing table?
I can't say that bad films would run well due to good editing. But a good editing can surely increase the range of films. A hit film would become superhit due to good editing. An average film could be made above average. But good editing cannot make a flop film work. I am fortunate enough to get directors who agree with me and leave the editing process to me alone.

What is the advantage of using optical work while doing editing?
Optical work means doing transitions between one scene to another scene. It completely depends on how the director permits us to implement it without any interference. We use the technique of dissolving when director makes a mistake while canning certain episode. But directors these days are asking me to use dissolve technique for those scenes where it is not needed. We use dissolve very selective to differentiate the time lapse (day to night or today to next day). There is a difference between films made with slow cut and fast cut. For trendy films like Super, we use the technique of fast cut.

K Raghavendra Rao taught me to most important secret of editing. He asks me to do the humming while keeping some gap between two scenes. People have a misconception that editing means cutting and joining. It is very wrong. Editing has got many more facades to it than what people generally thing of.

For the first time I observed the optical work of throwing flashes in the confrontation scenes of Kushi film?
That is what we call as optical work. There are certain programmed procedures which we should use them selectively as per the demand. We have control over the optical work which not only involves in scene dissolution but also uses sound effect.

Kushi film stands out as the best film in which optical work is used effectively. In most of the other films, I notice that effect to be used just for the sake of it?
Few directors insist on using it. Few of the directors want special sound and opticals for ramping shots.

But what is the use of having opticals with out any actual use of it?
Most of the directors force me to do those things. There are different ways by which the directors look into the edited versions. Each of the directors has different technique of the editing. Jayant wants me to delete the entire scene in the film rather than trimming the shots. Director Puri Jagan doesn't give a damn to the geographical logic of the film. Jagan don't care about geographical accuracy. If he had to can a shot in Vizag residence, he would directly open the shot in the home, without bothering about authenticity of Vizag. It depends on directors and their faith on editors. Directors like Seenu Vytla leave everything to the editor. All I can say that if there is proper coordination between the director and the editor, there are always bit chances of the film becoming hits.

What happened to Dhana 51 film's editing? It was so lousy??
After working for a couple of days for that film I differed with the director. He then asked me to look at the editing in Satyam film. I told him that I worked for 150 films so far and 120 of those films were super hits. Soorya Kiran wanted the sound to come first then the picture later. I gave him an example of lightening when the visual comes first and sound later. He disagreed. He said that I belong to an old school. Then I told the producer ML Kumar Chowdary that it would not workout between me and the director. I worked for hit films like Idiot and Pedababu for that producer. But I had to say no to him for Dhana 51 because of the director. Even Nagarjuna asked me about Dhana 51 after release, I told him the insider info.

Dhana 51 is so bad from the editing point of view that there is neither color consistency nor smooth flow of scenes?
I have not seen the final film yet.

What are the best flop films you had edited in the recent days?
Yuvakudu is one film that flopped, though I did my best work for that film. 143 is another film that failed at box office, though it was a good film. These are the two films I failed as the judge. Though a big flop, I got tremendous satisfaction as working for 'Maa Ashokgadi Love Story' by Suresh Krishna.

What is your take on awards?
I got Nandi awards for two films - Toliprema and Daddy. Both are good films. But there are many more better films for which I deserve a Nandi awards. I felt guilty about taking award for these two films.

What do you do when you find that the final cut come too lengthy?
The duration of original version of Sekhar Kammula's Anand was 3:22 hrs. I made sure that 2 reels of the film were removed. Though it would have been good, Telugu film lovers are not used to watch the films over 3 hours.

What should be the exact difference between sound and the picture?
The thumb rule is that there should be 3-4 frame difference between the sound and the picture. During the songs, there should be a difference of 11 frames between the sound and the picture. Nobody follows it now.

Do you follow books?
No. I do not follow any books. But experience of working with right people helped me a lot. Let me tell you the incident that happened during Daddy time. Allu Arvind asked me if I like Chiranjeevi. I told him yes. Then he told me to forget that Chiranjeevi is the hero of the film. This film might be a hit or not. An editor should be like a critic. He asked me not to look at the film like a Chiranjeevi's fan. He insisted on looking at the film like an editor and do justice. Allu Arvind gave me a biggest lesson to treat a film on its merits. I do remember it for my life time. An editor should be very frank to the producer and give the true picture.

What is the kind of cooperation you get from directors?
Most of the directors are very cooperative. One day, I big director called me asked me that the director of an opposition film has around 200 dissolves cuts in it. But we have only 4 dissolves in the entire film. I explained him that we use dissolve technique to indicate time lapse as per the demand of situation. A few directors think that using new techniques like dissolve is fashion. But these things should be used sparingly.

How do you edit the film?
I learnt the art of editing from my father. I feel that I have become a good editor because of my father. I used to observe him keenly when I assisted him. He used to take the rush first and edit it roughly. Then he used to go home. The next day used to come with a fresh mind to have a re-look at it again. He then uses his judgment for the final cut. I feel that this kind of editing helps the film a lot.

While editing the fights, I make sure that sound effects are not added while editing. I edit the fights in mute mode. My father cautioned me not to edit the fights with the sounds on, as sound might cheat you. D Suresh Babu used to ask me to show him the edited parts of his films without sound.

Do you follow any Hollywood films to observe the editing part?
I do checkout for the 'special features' part of Hollywood film DVDs and observe if any interviews on postproduction and editing. I sometimes get inspired by films. I used an episode of an English film DVD to do titles of 143 film. For each title, there would be a movement followed by ramping shot.

Tell us about your association with Pawan Kalyan from Toli Prema to Kushi?
My association with Pawan Kalyan helped me a lot. He used to personally sit for editing of fights episode. He composed fights for Badri film. He used to come to editing room to mark the fights. He taught me a great technique in editing the fights. He asked me to mark the total time taken to complete one fight scene on the screen. We have to take that duration as the fixed parameter and then we can use different related shots (with different angles) in that duration of time at a rapid pace.

K Raghavendra Rao is my guru in editing. He used to scold me and teach the techniques. He is the man of the reasoning. He used to ask me the reason behind each of my editing shots.

My father used to ask me to utter the dialogues in the scene and then estimate how much time would it take to react for another person. Whenever I edit a dialogue-oriented shot, I make sure that I utter the dialogues and see if the length matches with that of the artists on the screen.

Are there any filmmakers who give you the script of the film as the reference along with the spools to edit?
Yes. Sekhar Kammula is one director who came with the complete script and asked me to use it as reference to the shots/scenes I edit. There are certain directors who narrate me stories before making films. Late Tirupati Swamy who directed Ganesh for Venkatesh has a peculiar style of story discussion. He used to have reference to each scene of Ganesh in one of the earlier films. He used to get respective video tape for each scene in that film and used to narrate the story and dialogue for me. For example, there is one scene in Ganesh where Venkatesh enters a jewelry shop to get money. He has the reference of this scene in Mani Ratnam's Dalapathy where the round table conference happens. You might call it as copying, but he has done his homework with perfection. If you keep the box office status of the film aside, visually Ganesh is the most striking film with perfect filmmaking and editing standards.

Are there any films edited by you that have become too lengthy which forced the projection boys at theaters edit the film?
I made sure that all the films edited by me have appropriate length. But Prema film for which I assisted the editor faced this problem. It was a very well made film. I had to edit it after release.

The Suresh Productions banner has a unique style of taking care of film after the release. They send people to all the stations on the release day. These guys are expected to tell which scenes people are feeling boring. By night, they take feedback from various people from various areas and edit the film by removing the boring/unnecessary scenes.

You are known for your frankness in industry. You tell your opinion about the film on the face of director/producers. Do they take it positively?
Yes. When I give them honest feedback during post production stage, it helps them. If I say that film is bad, they could sell the film off for the best available price. If the film is good, they could wait for good prices or release it on their own. Filmmakers like Nagarjuna, Jayant and Seenu Vytla take it positively even if you criticize the films. There are a few people who don't take criticism. A big producer removed me from the film after I edited 9000 feet when I said that the film is bad.

Give me any example where your suggestions helped the filmmaker?
For Raghavendra film, I told the producer Raju that it won't work. Second half of that film was boring. I told him that I would make a trailer using all the best material in the film footage that includes showing of vital get up of hero. He said yes. I made a trailer and the business was closed immediately after one day of airing that trailer.

Are there any films which you expected to run, but bombed at box office?
Yuvakudu, Neeku Nenu Naaku Nuvvu and 143. Nobody was confident about Vasantham during postproduction time, but I firmly believed that it would appeal to a certain section of audiences who would make the film hit.

Do you involve yourself in film while editing. Or do you edit the film without yourself getting emotionally involved?
My father told me that when we edit the film we should involve so much in that film that we should laugh when there is a comedy scsne and cry in emotional scene. Even D Rama Naidu used to follow it. If I see an emotional scene in my film, I get a thin vapor of water on my eyes.

When you edit the film on avid machine you have a small monitor. Would there be any difference between sound and image when you watch the same thing on big screen?
There should be 4 frame difference between ear (sound) and eye (image). Lots of producers and directors are opting for MTV style of picturization. It looks good on TV, but it affects your eyes to watch on big screen. If you could use that MTV style for an episode it is ok, but one cannot use it for all the songs in the film. The images on the screen won't get registered and it strains your eyes as well.

What is your contribution towards hit/flop of the film?
I do take responsibility, especially for the directors who leave everything to me. VN Aditya and Jayant give me complete freedom in editing. I share credit for the flop of VN Aditya's Manasu Mata Vinadu.

Do you want to direct films in future?
I have got many offers to direct films, but I said no. I am in the position of No.1 now. Why to leave that luxury and fight in the new field as debutant.

What are your hobbies?
I watch TV a lot when I am home.

Which films did you get the maximum positive feedback for your editing?
Idiot and 143. At the same time, I take negative feedback sportingly. Everybody criticized me for the editing in Chirujallu film.

Do you follow reviews?
I do follow the reviews of for all my films and take the comments (positive or negative) in good spirit.

What are the films you are working now on?
Andhrudu, Style, PB arts (Bala Krishna), Seenu Vytla film (Vishnu), Sathi Babu's film (Srikanth), Sekhar Kammula's Godavari and Puri Jagan's film with Mahesh as hero.

Other Interviews
Sayaji Shinde
Shashank (Hero)
Gangaraju Gunnam (Producer)
Meghana Naidu (Heroine)
Venkatesh (Hero)
Gowri Mumjal (Heroine)
Deepak (Hero)
Siddardh (Hero)
MS Raju (Producer)
Chiranjeevi (Hero)


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