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Postmortem - Life is Beautiful by Sekhar Kammula
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Life is Beautiful by Sekhar Kammula

Genesis of Life is Beautiful
The initial idea was to make a film like Happy Days in the backdrop of a colony. Happy Days was a great college film in Telugu and I wanted another great film to be made on colony life to be placed along with Happy Days DVD in the library of Telugu movie lovers. As an after-thought, I feel that it would have been good if I titled this movie as Happy Days 2. Most of the negative talk generated on day wouldn’t be there.

The basic story of the film is about an ailing mother sending her three kids to the colony where she grew up. The culture of sending kids from villages to their relatives house in cities to study are almost gone now. I have created a character of Nagraj who is noble at heart. The character of Seenu is of responsible guy who takes care of his younger sisters. If you look at the story, each of three kids make promises to their mother. But only chinni character keeps it and the elder siblings fail to keep their promise.

I think the only Happy Days element I had truly followed for this film is the geek character of Abhi who falls in love with a posh girl. Only a star heroine can make justice to the role of Paru and that’s reason why I cast Shriya for that role. The character of Anjala Zaveri is very delicate one and she balanced it by giving the best performance. Amala is the perfect choice to the role of ailing mother.

Kavya is a lucky find to us. If I cast an experienced child artist, I feel that she might come up with dramatic performance. That’s why I had searched for a new girl. Luckily we found Kavya in Eat Street, Necklace road where she came along with her parents. We took her number and convinced her parents. The entire casting is driven from the story point of view.

With Life is Beautiful, we have 15 confident and talented actors who are ready to be cast in any challenging roles.

What is the reason for the divide talk?
Yes. The film has started off with a divide talk. Most of the audiences felt that Happy Days story is retold. Some of the youngsters who prefer entertainment are disappointed with mother sentiment. Youth liked first half and family crowds/female liked the second half. But the film’s talk got stabilized on 3rd day. Monday morning show is the parameter for movie’s performance. LIB was going strong on Monday. This film was full in 17 Hyderabad non-multiplex theaters yesterday (This interview was done on thursday). If the film doesn’t have likable content, this film would have gone down by monday. It has collected 2.75 crores by Wednesday in Nizam and Dil Raju said that LIB will break even for him in Nizam by Saturday. Now LIB is chugging along nicely.

Another reason for the divide talk is that there are too many angles/layers in the film. If you watch it again, you will enjoy finer nuances and different layers.

What are your favorite moments in the film as a writer?

1. The girl who was rejected by school for saying ‘uppu kappurambu’ wins it finally by saying about mother in mother tongue.

2. The leader of Gold phase throwing silver Ganesh idol into lake to show how middle class people react to it.

3. Paru’s flight scene

4. Nagraj and Paddu scenes about - andee and raa.

5. Nagraj looking at dancing Maya after his break-up with Lakshmi

6. Paddu’s mother sending sms to Nagraj

Why is that your films are always lengthy?
The scripts I had written for LIB is of 180 pages. One can make a 2 hour or 2 1/2 hour film if they have a 100 page script in place. Hence, the original cuts for my films measure to over 3 or 3 and half hours. The final cut version of LIB was of 3 and half hours. I don’t want to contain the writer in me at the beginning side by saying that this particular thread is not required. I feel that I fail as a writer when I restrict myself and put limitations even before I write a script. Lot of writers start of writing stories by saying that audiences wouldn’t like certain things. When I write a script, I keep telling myself that audiences will watch anything if rightly done. The moment I restrict myself at scripting stage, I will end up being a normal/mediocre and a least-privileged director. I want to make films of my sensibilities and achieve success without losing my values. I don’t get inspired by any movies. I start from blank page and try to write each scene of a film like a short story. It takes a lot of effort for me to write.

I find that certain scenes in your films are silly and childish despite having a great writing in rest of scenes?
I know what you are talking about. There is a kid in me. And I sometimes exist in a dream world. The dogs episodes and magic/geek episodes in my film are written to satisfy that kid in me.

Where did you find lake and big tree?
We shot those scenes in a village which is a 3-hour drive from Mysore. If we shoot for a day, it costs me 1 lac in Hyderabad. It cost us 6 lacs to day to shoot near Mysore. It was a 10-day schedule and it costs us 50 lacs more.

How much did Thota Tharani’s set cost you?
The budget of colony set was 1 crore and it took us 30 lacs to do maintenance as we have shot the film for 144 working days.

what is the production cost (excluding remunerations)?
It cost us around 7 crores. I can’t give your official remuneration figures, but we paid big remuneration to experienced heroines in the film.

Why is LIB awarded U/A as there is no adult content?
U/A certificate was given for usage of ‘nee yamma’ word which is used casually to represent exclamation. Also for showing liquor bottles.

How do you respond to criticism?
When some people thought that my debut film Dollar Dreams had a shoddy I editing, I defended it. At that time I was over sensitive. Over a period of time, I have accepted to take criticism in my stride. I take the criticism as authentic one and I respect it. Now, I am a good listener.

Which films are your prized possessions?
I am proud of Anand and Leader. Both of them are most honestly made brilliant films. I am not as proud about Happy Days.

What kind of films you want to do in future?
Most of my films are sugar-coated now. I want to find balance between sugar-coated approach and stark reality. I want to graduate to serious subjects. My films are always rooted to Telugu. Each of my recent films were seen by around 30 lacs of people which makes me more responsible.


Other Post Mortems:
Gabbar Singh by Harish Shankar
Love Failure by Balaji Mohan
Prasthanam by Deva Katta
Ala Modalaindi by BV Nandini Reddy
Vedam by Krish
Magadheera by SS Rajamouli
Arundhati by M Shyam Prasad Reddy
Ashta Chemma by Mohana Krishna Indraganti
Gamyam by Krish
Happy Days by Sekhar Kammula
Godavari by Sekhar Kammula
Bommarillu by Bhaskar
Chatrapati by SS Rajamouli
Anukokunda Oka Roju by Chandra Sekhar Yeleti
Manmadhuru by Vijaya Bhaskar
Santosham by Dasarath
Jayam by Teja.

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