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Interview with Krishna Vamsi
Date: October 8, 2009, Hyderabad
kishna vamsi

Krishna Vamsi is known for making hard-hitting movies. His movies differ from other commercial movies in terms of social conscience. He is one of the few filmmakers who wants his films to be a cause of good change in society. His latest move Mahatma encapsulates the ideology of Mahatma Gandhi. Krishna Vamsi says that Mahatma is a perfect masala movie that balances the commercial elements with the righteous content. Here are the excerpts of the exclusive interview with -

What prompted you to make Mahatma movie?
Some of the real incidents and news items ignite the spark in me to make movies. I was watching a program on Channel V in which the anchor shows the photograph of famous personality and ask the passers-by on the road to identify the celebrity. In one such episode, the anchor was showing Mahatma Gandhi. The passers by were answering it as father of Indira Gandhi/Sonia Gandhi etc. I felt ashamed that lots of people are unaware about Gandhi and his contribution to free India. That is when Lage Raho Munna Bhai was released. It became a blockbuster. Till then I was under impression that a movie on Gandhi would never appeal to common moviegoers. Then I decided that I should make commercial movie with Mahatma as a theme.

How can your film based on Mahatma ideology appeal to masses?
My Mahatma is a masala movie. I wanted Mahatma movie to appeal to the raw instincts of the people, especially in B and C centers where the rate of literacy is pretty low. I tried to make Mahatma as a masala movie without losing my distinct signature, flavor and soul.

Is that the reason why you roped in Paruchuri brothers?
Partly yes. Paruchuri brothers can contribute more to politically motivated movies. I liked their progressive nature in old films like Ee Pillaku Pellavutunda. I loved Krishna's Eenadu movie. I want them to contribute Mahatma like the way they did in the beginning of their career for progressive films.

You touched the subject of current politics with this movie?
I tried to project the point of view of Mahatma towards politics. Mahatma movie represents my understanding of Mahatma teachings. Das character in Mahatma movie doesn't reflect the personal opinions of Krishna Vamsi.

Did you do any research while doing Mahatma script?
Yes. I read most of the literature of Mahatma like 'My experiments with Truth', 'Lets Kill Gandhi', 'Autobiography of Mahatma Gandhi' etc. I also watched several movies on Gandhi like Gandhi, Hey Ram, Gandhi My Father etc.

It is revealed in music launch that Mahatma movie is about bringing out the goodness in people to eradicate the evil within?
Yes. There is goodness in everybody. But we try to hide it for selfish reasons out of necessity. We camouflage the goodness in us. Some of the incidents in real life bring out the goodness in us depending on the intensity.

There is film backdrop in Mahatma like Khadgam. How extensive is it?
If Khadgam had 30% of film backdrop, Mahatma had only 2-3% of film backdrop. There are two scenes and a song regarding films. The perception of film industry in Mahatma is different from that of Khadgam.

You were highly courageous and forthright when you commented that the Muslims who support Pakistan against the interest of India are traitors of India. No other film (including Hindi flicks) dared to call spade a spade. Were you not afraid of it?
I don't shrink back to evade from the common responsibility to say truth and cinema is a powerful media. That is the reason why I had that dialogue in Khadgam. Back of my mind, I was little afraid that somebody might attack me. But I was single (unmarried) at that time and I was prepared to get attacked if needed. I might not make the same statement if I have to now because I am currently married. But I feel that when I make a comment, I make it on the system/issues, but not on individuals. It was done in noble intentions.

There is talk that Mahatma movie suffered at the scissors of the censor board for the objectionable content?
I had to show the current political scenario at local level through Mahatma film. After watching the movie for censoring, the censor board developed a cold feet about passing the film. They told me that though there is no objectionable content in the movie, it is vulnerable for some politically motivated organizations making a controversy out of it. We had to make the RC (revising committee) to watch Mahatma. They asked me to remove the lyric 'Indiramma Inti' part of the song. I was convinced with their point of view and altered it. There are also a couple of dialogues featuring Indira Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi which were removed. They felt that one of the party buildings in the movie resembled Gandhi Bhavan (Congress head quarter in Hyderad). Hence I remove the exterior shot. One of the character in the film is called kaka. They objected it as there is a politician with a nickname of Kaka in Congress and I changed it to dada.

Is not it a pity that we can't even have the names of politicians and parties in movies in India. Where as in USA films like Fahrenheit and W. are made on the present government prior to the elections.
Yes. The people in USA are more matured and more educated. The people of India are driven by emotions. I think this is the case with all third world countries.

You had bitter remarks on Slumdog Millionaire movie in Jajjinaka song?
I found Slumdog Millionaire to be highly offensive for Indians. I do agree that it is a fantastic movie that deserves an Oscar. But the way they shown India is highly offensive. When those kids say 'This is India' in Agra, the Americans thrown money at them and say 'This is America'. How this scene and this dialogue is relavant to the movie. They just kept it to insult Indians. Sekhar Kapoor made a Hollywood movie on Queen Elizabeth. I read so many articles on how Sekhar Kapoor is restricted from doing certain scenes in the movie. If Sekhar Kapoor keeps such content on UK, would they allow him to get away with it? Fahrenheit 911 was banned in USA. What is stopping Indian government from banning Slumdog Millionaire in India? Satyajit Ray was condemned in India that he became a great filmmaker by showing India in poor light. I do admire AR Rehman and I feel that he deserved Oscar much before Slumdog. I wonder why all these Indian technicians and actors didn't protest when they are making offensive scenes on India. Though it is out of context in Mahatma movie, I wanted to inserted those lyrics to express my views on that movie.

I heard that you had severe criticism on all political parties like Congress, TDP, PRP and TRS in Mahatma?
I am a grown man now. I am unemotional now compared to Khadgam days. Whatever is been criticized in Mahatma movie reflects my point of view on the system. I didn't pinpoint and target any of the individuals.

Tell us about the characters in Mahatma?
Srikanth plays the role of street rowdy called Das who gets attracted to Gandhi's principles. Paruchuri Gopala Krishna plays the role of Bhikya, a suspended police constable. Uttej plays a vibrant character called Rehman. There is another character called Thagubothu Ramesh who says jai to a party that gives him money. Bhavana plays the role of a lawyer who gets bail to hero whenever he gets in jail on petty charges. Pellam Voorelithe Jyothi did the character of a lady politician. Ram Jagan plays the role of a street-play actor Ballary who appears in different get-ups in different parts of the movie. His character ends with the appearance of Gandhi character. Charmme did the role of herself in the movie and she did a song. I hired lots of competent actors from stage like MS Chowdary, Jayavani, Bhavana, Naidu Gopi, Priya and Jonna. All of them gave superb performances.

You are known for extracting intense work from the actors. How did you master that craft?
I can't act. Hence it is not possible for me to act and show it to the actors. But I create a comfortable environment for the actors and explain the situation to them. I also tell the necessity of that scene and expression. When an actor is given the minute details of the scene and is created a comfortable environment, he will excel.

You created lots of real life characters that became highly entertaining and memorable in movies. How did you do it?
I create characters from real lives. I get inspired by real people with peculiar characteristics. Then I would try to identify actors who are near to those real life characters. For example, the character of Ahuti Prasad in Chandamama is inspired by a real person whom I know back from my village. And I realized that Ahuti Prasad also possess half of those characteristics in real. That is why that character played by Ahuti Prasad in Chandamama got so much popular.

Are you satisfied with what you have achieved so far in your career?
I am yet to reach my high point. I want to do a film to my uttermost satisfaction. But various things like box office elements stop from doing it. I want to make brutally honest and naked movies like Irreversible and Fahrenheit 911

But, you Ninne Pelladatha was a big commercial blockbuster and at the same time, it became a trend setter where innumerable films followed that pattern?
The same formula of love story in a household has been narrated in Telugu films since Gundamma Katha time. I followed the same patten. But the style of narration was fresh and it hit off well with the movie lovers. But I don't think I have done a path breaking work with Ninne Pelladatha. Sindhuram was a path breaking film, but fared badly at box office. I started balancing art and commerce in my own way. I can't make a personal film now.

What motivates you. Is it money or appreciation?
The appreciation from people lead to high box office returns. If people like a movie, it automatically will become a winner at box office. But I feel that I should make movies to appeal to the crowds of B and C center. I sincerely feel that all my movies have something good to tell to the society. If B and C center people appreciate my film, they will try to change after watching it. I honestly feel that the real change in the society starts with the people B and C centers. The multiplex crowds will watch the movie, appreciate it and get on with their lives. They don't carry movie along with them once they leave theaters.

From Gulabi movie to Mahatma it has been a journey for me where I understood how Box Office work from film to film. I feel that I had been improving with every film regarding understanding the box office.

There is a beautiful song on Telugu Tejam. Can you explain it?
There are only two popular songs on Telugu like 'Cheyyetti Jai Kottu Telugoda' and 'Maa Telugu Talliki'. If you look at Tamil people that are always proud of Tamil Thimiri (Tamil proud) and we Telugu guys lack it. The level of self respect is low in Telugu people compared to our neighboring states. I want Telugu Tejam song to become a Telugu national anthem. This song comes on the screen during titles and I have showcased all prides of Telugu from Viswamitra, Sathavahana to YSR.

You are appearing a lot in media for Mahatma unlike your earlier movies. What is the reason?
Irony is that I had to promote it and hype it more because I made a film on Mahatma Gandhi. And Srikanth is not a commercial star. We need to create all the hype this movie deserves.

What is your gut feeling on the movie?
I am pretty much confident about the movie's success. The last 20 minutes of the movie is going to be the high point. I have shown the violence in the climax using the concept of non-violence.

Tell us about your next movie?
My next movie has Ravi Teja. Ravi Teja plays a character of a guy who is from Sri Krishna Devaraya's dynasty. It is an entertaining movie which is linked up with a burning social issue of the present times.

What is the purpose of Mahatma movie?
Even if Mahatma movie could change one person per theater, I feel that my efforts gone into making the movie are justified.

You made a movie on Mahatma and did a lot of research. What are the noble qualities of Mahatma do you think you possess?
I am a stubborn man like Gandhi. I speak truth 90% of the times. During the remaining 10% of the time, I might not speak lies, but I avoid telling the truth. I think that I conquered hate while making this movie. We (Jeevi and Krishna Vamsi) had a slight misunderstanding because of a review. I used to hate you and avoided speaking to you for years. But, now I personally called you for an interview. I realized that you have to do your duty and you have your priorities. It shows the change I had gone through while understanding Gandhi.


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