Genesis of Arundhati
I had put my mind and soul into making of Anji. I worked really hard and enjoyed the process of working hard. I had seen failures before, but not of Anji magnitude. I was depressed after the release of Anji and lost my confidence. One and half year after the release of Anji, it got national award for the graphics. Our team went to New Delhi and got the award from the President of India. We mixed with best of the talent from all over the India during the awards function. We were partying that night to celebrate the award and the idea of making Arundhati struck me. I decided to make another film with more focus and dedication. I came back to Hyderabad next day and started working on it.
I liked films like Chandramukhi and Exorcist. I hated ‘A Nightmare On Elms Street’. I hate gore. But I am passionate about thrillers. I feel that horror genre is absurd. Fear is an emotion. I don’t think that all films should have navarasaalu. I believe in mastering one emotion and take it to the peaks in my films. You don’t see comedy and duets in Arundhati. People should experience a rollercoaster ride while watching Arundhati. I had rollercoaster ride while watching Jandhyala’s comedy Sreevariki Premalekha. A horror film has only small segment of viewers in India. I did not want to make just another film that creates fear in the mind of audiences. I made it a female oriented story for a bigger appeal so that entire family can watch it. I added classical dance to it. I wanted to mount the film on a grandeur scale. The film is going to be a pleasant watch except for two harsh scenes. I wanted to play the film on ‘fear of the evil spirit’.
Arundhati is about good fighting evil. Hence I had to make sure that both the characters of Arundhati and Pasupati equally powerful. Otherwise, there will not be any dramatic impact to the film. We did not spare any efforts to get the right actors.
For this film to succeed, the heroine has to be right. I considered many options and approached some heroines. But I was not getting the right heroine. One day Gemini Kiran asked me why my next project was not starting. I told him that I was not getting the right heroine. He asked me for the specifications. I told him that I need a heroine with 5 feet and 10 inches height and she should look royal because she the queen, she rides on horses and elephants. He suggested the name of Anushka. I watched Super film and contacted her. We had many auditions. I gave her a scene in the film and told her that we are not going to give her any directions. She has to read the scene, interpret in her own way and enact the scene. She was terrified a bit, but gave a satisfactory performance.
Sonu Sood (Pasupathi):
I had Tamil actor Pasupati in my mind when I wrote the story. That is why I named the character as Pasupathi. He looks extremely good for the role of Aghora. But there is a royal side to the character where he has to look princely. That is when Ashok film got released and I noticed Sonu Sood in that film. I got hold of his number and called him over phone. I asked him to fly down to Hyderabad for get-up check. He was little surprised. When I shown him the sketches of Pasupathi character, he did not like playing such kind character. He came down for get-up check. Ramesh, who worked for Kamal Hassan films including Dasavatharam has worked for some of my films where I needed some challenging make-up work. Initially I wanted small inscriptions tattooed on the entire body of Sonu Sood in Aghora get-up. Ramesh told us that it would take six hours to do that make-up every day. He did inscription tattoos only on chest and stomach which took around 3 hours every time. Sonu Sood’s get-up also has a scar and big nails. We went into thorough detailing for that get-up. Though he did not like his role, he accepted it by looking at our enthusiasm.
Initially I asked him for 20 days. He quoted Rs 18 lakhs as remuneration for 20 days. He also gave an option where he would work for more number of days if we paid Rs 20 lakhs. I paid him Rs 18 lakhs and told him that I would pay Rs 25,000 per every extra day. And I ended up paying Rs 43 lacs at the end for the number of extra days I used him. I am very glad that he became successful in Hindi and is quoting to the tune of Rs 1 crore per film now.
Sayaji Shinde (Talla Sayibu):
Sayaji Shinde is like a hero on screen. He would help heroine at crucial moments. I considered Nasiruddin Shah, Nana Patekar and Atul Kulakarni for this role. And none of their dates were available. I called Sayaji Shinde for get-up change. He perfectly suited the role. He did lot of research on Fakir character on his own and used to tell us interesting things on sets. He has immense potential. He tries to understand each and every dialogue and scene. He would question us if he is not convinced. And he gives precisely what we want.
Palace interiors: We hired two floors of Annapurna studios to erect the sets of Palace interiors. The dimension of the floor is 180 feet x 120 feet. But I needed 250 feet floor. Hence we hired two floors. In one floor we have the ground floor of palace. In another floor, we have the first floor of palace that sports drums. It took 4 months to construct those sets and it cost me around Rs 85 lakhs to do the interiors.
The indoor scenes of 15 minute flashback episode are shot for 106 days. We worked inside the sets for six months. We had to age the set, then destruct it so that we had to shoot in the ruins.
We shot the village house scenes in Rama Naidu’s Nanakramguda village.
Palace exteriors: I wanted a place where palace stands atop of the hill. I found what I want in the fort of Banaganapally. We grew gardens for three months. It would cost a lot even if you whitewash the fort. But we varnished the entire fort though it is highly expensive to a give a facelift. Then we had to redo our work to age the fort and show it as a dilapidated fort for the latter part of the story.
Jewelry and Costumes:
Deepa from Mumbai designed the looks and jewelry of Arundhati character. Jejemma dress in Arundhati cost around 8 lakhs with 22 kilograms worth of jewelry on it. The manual labor cost for the embroidery on Jejemma saree cost around 1 lakh rupees. Anushka wore that heavy dress for 106 days (from the day of Aghora entering the palace to Jejemma locking him up).
Horses and elephant:
There is a scene in ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ in which the heroine rides the horse by sitting on a side. I wanted Anushka to learn horse riding. She used to get up at 4 am every morning and used to go for horse riding club which is situated beyond Gandipet. Then we scouted for the horses in Chennai and Bangalore, we got skinny horses. They suggested us to get good horses from Rajashtan. We could not get the right horses and could not shoot horse riding scene.
We had a scene in which Jejemma goes to a temple on Elephant ambari (in song). We got that elephant from Karnataka. The transportation got delayed and we had 400 junior artists waiting for the elephant which arrived on sets at 4 am.
You announced Sabhapati as the director first and then replaced?
I called Sabhapati and gave him the camera, lights, sets and Anushka and then asked him to shoot the climax part of the film. He has to shoot the climax, edit it and show it to me. If I liked his work, I would sign him as the director of the film. I did not like the work he delivered. I asked him to take time and do it one more time. I was still not satisfied and told him sorry. He is a good friend of mine. He stays in my place whenever he comes to Hyderabad.
Filmmaking is both pleasure and pain. One person goes through that pleasure or pain of filmmaking for a film. It could generally be the directors like Puri Jagan and Guna Sekhar who go through that process. But for my film, I am the one who goes through it. Releasing a film is like experiencing an orgasm. We go through the process of scripting, shooting, post-production and finally get the high while releasing it. If it’s coming the way we anticipated it’s a pleasure. If it’s not working out it’s a pain. In movies, we don’t get a second chance like TV serials and newspapers. If TV episode is not good today, we can correct it tomorrow. If today’s news standard is bad, tomorrow we can better it. But our movies fate is sealed in just two hours after the release.
Two versions of Arundhati
We took 210 days to shot the first version of Arundhati and I did not like it. We took another 40 days to shoot the version two with changes. And in those 40 days I could get 70% of betterment to the original version. We did 120 days worth of the shoot in those 40 days.
Small film - big budget
I started the film with a compact budget of 3 crores. After going to sets I though it would cost 6-7 crores. I don’t stop at anything when I start making a film. And I ended up spending 13.5 crores on the film. I believe in spending money. You get what you pay for. If you pay 2 lacs, you will get Maruthi 800. If you pay 30 lacs, you will get a Benz.
continued in Part 2
Ashta Chemma by Mohana Krishna Indraganti
Gamyam by Krishh
Happy Days by Sekhar Kammula
Godavari by Sekhar Kammula
Bommarillu by Bhaskar
Chatrapati by SS Rajamouli
Anukokunda Oka Roju by Chandra
Manmadhuru by Vijaya Bhaskar
Santosham by Dasarath
Jayam by Teja.