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Interview with Sekhar Kammula
Date: September 26, 2007, Hyderabad
sekhar kammula

Sekhar Kammula's college flick 'Happy Days' is releasing in the US on September 28 and on October 2 in India. met Sekhar Kammula for an exclusive interview. Read the excerpts -

Why did you choose to make Happy Days after Godavari film?

I have both sweet and bitter memories about Godavari film. It was a budget failure. I expected the market of my films to grow after Anand. Hence we spent around 7 crores on making Godavari. It did well in cities. But could not catch up with the B and C centers. Godavari film - though deals with the ambitions of youth - did not cater to youth crowds.

My nephew complained that all my films cater to women. He wanted me to make a youth film. I happened to go to my alma mater CBIT one day. It suddenly stuck me that we never had any genuine Telugu college film in the last one-decade that does not deal with teen love and college politics. I wanted to capture the freshness, first love, confusion, career ambitions etc we go through in our college days. I also realized that the students these days do not have the kind of attachment we used to have to our college in our student days. That is probably due to the change in the culture. I then decided to make a film that romanticizes college life. I wrote the script in one and half months.

Why did you title the film as Happy Days?
The best moments of everybody's life are in they college days. Hence I titled the film as Happy Days.

What was the next step after writing script?
I knew that I had to achieve two things in order to make this film work. The first one is to cast fresh faces and the second one is take permission from CBIT to shoot the film over there. I managed to get the permission to shoot my film in CBIT for free of cost. I ran talent search in Big FM and and managed to get 7 out of 8. We had to cast Tamanna (an actress with experience) in one role because we could not get any right girl through talent search. We did not cast guys/girls who can dance and do good dialogue delivery. We have meticulously chosen each actor to suit the character.

How did you train these new faces?
I have the habit of distributing the bound script to each and every cast and crew member before the shoot so that they knew exactly whey they were supposed to do. But for these news guys, I gave only their part of the script. Each and every one of them would have done each scene at least 50 times before they did it in front of the camera. I am feeling lucky to get such competitive actors. They brought a lot of freshness to the film with their own styles.

Tell us about the characterizations?
These eight characters in this film are of different type - studious guy, nerd, confused guy, playboy, tomboy etc. All these characters represent different walks of life.

What is Happy Days all about?
Happy Days deals with the 4 years of undergraduate college life. The whole cycle one goes through while studying at college. This film is bound to have nostalgic effect on the moviegoers. Everybody will connect with it. This film sports a challenging screenplay. Happy Days is an event driven story. At the same time there will be conflict aspect in the film, which would sustain the attention of viewers till the last frame.

Don't you think introducing eight principle characters as main leads it self would take at least half an hour? How are you going to make sure that people get to understand four parallel tracks (between the pairs) running without causing any confusion?
For such a story like this, it is a challenging task to write screenplay and do editing. This film boasts of very strong screenplay and editing.

Who is your targeted audience?
I have a set of audiences who are familiar with my films. I would be getting more attention from youth for this film. Happy Days is an urbane flick.

What is the budget of the film?
3 crores.

The rumor has it that your made a table profit of around 3 crores?
(Giggles without saying yes or no)

Are you going to change your car now?
Yes. I would be buying Honda Civic very soon.

What are the number of working days?
100 days

How much of negative did you expose?
Around 2 lakh feet. It was necessary because I shot lots of scenes in the film in backlight.

What is the runtime of the film?
2.35 hours.

Where did you minimize your budget?
I had gone for corporate tie-ups. Our tie up with Pantaloon saved us a lot on costumes front. Location charges are free because CBIT refused to charge me. I did not use any fancy camera equipment except for the hawk lenses. The remunerations of cast are minimal as I signed new faces. All the technicians worked for a relatively less remuneration and gave their maximum output. It is like a collaboration of a good cinema.

What is the response for the music?
It attained unanimous good talk. But these days we find more people who listen to songs and less people who buy music albums. People got used for free digital downloads which are affecting sales in urban areas.

Three songs in Happy Days album have same tune?
It is like the signature tune of the film. If you observe carefully these three songs have same charanams too. It gives a brand recall. And it's not bad to have such signature tunes. Veteran lyricist Veturi once told me that Ghantasala's masterpiece Pathala Bhairavi has only one raga in the entire album.

What is the reason behind releasing Happy Days on 28th September in USA as it clashes with the most expected high-prints release Chirutha?
There are two reasons for that

1. My commitment towards my word: I promised my USA distributor that I would be releasing the film on 14, 21 or 28th of this month. He also booked the theaters. I did not want to go back on my word. When I discussed this with AP distributor Dil Raju, he suggested that we had to make sure that the gap between Indian and USA release should be minimal. Hence we decided to come on 2nd October in India instead of 5th October.

2. I am always supremely confident about my movies. I always show my film to the distributors before selling it. And I show my films to press by organizing previews before releasing it.

A few of the guys from USA tried to caution me that people would not watch more than one film in a week. I wish that people watch both movies (Happy Days and Chirutha).

Happy Days is a film to which you can even take your Tamil and North friends along with you as 90% of NRIs have engineering background. This film deals with a story happened in an engineering college. I am sure that Happy Days will cross language barrier in USA.

You released Anand film on the same day of Shankar Dada MBBS. Now you are releasing Happy Days on the same day of Chirutha release in USA. What is the reason?
For me, Chiranjeevi is an icon. He went against the wave to become what he is today. I am at the beginning of my career and I am also going against the tide. The release clash happens to be just an unintentional coincidence. I am sure that Chiranjeevi will appreciate my efforts as he too might have gone through these things in the beginning of his career. It is an uphill task for me.

I would like to tell you a small incident

What is it?
We released Anand film with five prints and Shankar Dada got released with 300 prints. The prints were done at Rama Naidu labs a day before the release. We had to send one print to Vizag and we got hold of a van driver and asked him to transport the print. He waited till mid-night. When we got the print out and handed it over to him, he was pretty much disappointed and asked us 'idi chiranjeevi cinema kaada'? We had to give extra money to appease him.

Do you want to say anything to the crowds in abroad who is going to watch Happy Days?
We are taking a huge risk by releasing Happy Days in USA first. I need everybody's cooperation to prevent piracy. If you observe anybody shooting the film using cell phones or other recorded devices in theater, please stop them. If you make Happy Days release in the US a success, there will be many more urban oriented films releasing first in USA.

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