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Postmortem - Arundhati by M Shyam Prasad Reddy
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Arundhati by M Shyam Prasad Reddy

Part 2

Arundhati links:
Jeevi Review
Anushka interview 2
Anushka interview 1
Deepa interview
Raahul interview
Ravi interview
Photo gallery

Working stills
Drum song
US schedules

Continued from Part 1

Published on 18 Feb 2009

Birth of the story idea
When I was a kid, my aunt used to visit us every Saturday and tell us bedtime stories. She used to talk about mystic happenings in Gadwal Samsthanam. I always wanted to explore that aspect and make a film. The mysticism of Gadwal Samshtanam is the base story idea of Arundhati.

International films inspiration in Arundhati
I get inspired by watching international movies but I am not a great fan of Hollywood. I love watching Japanese films and European films made by independent filmmakers. These films are so powerful that their 2-years of hard work gets translated into a 2-hour compact inspiring movie. They make movies with so much of passion, conviction that it hits you when you watch those films.

I want to capture those memories of my aunt with Manorama character in this film where she narrates the flashback by sitting on a stool where as all other kids sit around her and listen to her story interestingly.

Coming to the inspiration part, there is nothing wrong in getting inspired. If you have stuff in yourself, you get inspired in a good way. If you are shallow, it just resonates.

Coming to Arundhati, let me give the example of Fakir (Sayaji Shinde) characterization. Fakir character draws inspiration from the priest character in The Omen (1976) film. The priest keeps warning Gregory Peck about Satan repeatedly. The Omen film was released when I was 16 years old and I was studying my 10th class. I watched that film for 15 times in Devi theater, Chennai. I still remember all the scenes and dialogues of that film. The Omen film made a lasting impact on me.

I never watch my films once they are released
Talambralu was my first film as a producer. I went to a public theater to watch that film. I started finding mistakes and errors right from the first scene. I could not watch it knowing that I was capable of doing much better stuff. Since then, I never watched my film after it was released. Even when my family members watch it on TV, I go to my room and concentrate on some other work.

Watched Arundhati for over 2000 times during postproduction
It might sound exaggerated. But, I must have seen Arundhati film for 2000 times when I was doing postproduction. Even if the editor cut it by 5 frames (runtime - 1/5th of a second) I can catch it in Arundhati. My core team members wanted me to watch the copy on the morning of 16 January when final strike order (for doing prints) was to given. I have not watched it and asked them to watch the film. When they said that film is good, I gave the strike order. Had I seen Arundhati film before giving strike order, I might get disappointed over certain minor issues and should have stalled the release of the film. The first print came out six minutes after strike order was given and we sent the first print to Prasads for the screening. I am so possessive about my work that I can’t see any mistakes in it. I know that we can never reach perfection, but I still get disturbed about it. I know all my films framewise.

I had even contemplated about postponing Arundhati for summer in order to make it completely perfect. I am sure that summer season would have added 25% more collections to what Arundhati is generating now.

Hindi version of Arundhati
There had been tempting offers from the biggest production offices of Bollywood. One might have some doubts about Arundhati working at Bollywood boxoffice. The Bollywood movie lovers might have seen lots of costume dramas like Jodha Akbar in the past. But they are never exposed to such an intense film that caters both educated and uneducated people. Arundhati is being appreciated by middle class, upper class and lower class people unanimously.

I will take a break for week and visit some isolated place and think about pros and cons of remaking Arundhati in Hindi. If I get convinced about remaking it in Hindi, I plan to cast Anushka, Rajnikant and Shahrukh Khan for the roles of Arundhati, Sayaji Shide and Shahrukh Khan respectively. I want to run a contest about readers’ opinions and their suggestion about possible script improvements for Hindi version. (click here to participate in the contest).

Nobody pirated Arundhati film for the first 28 days
I spent 30 lacs over a private taskforce team consisting 45 retired cops. I hired 20 cars and sent them across to all the possible pirates video shops and houses. I personally spoke to the commissioners of Hyderabad and Chennai. Since I had been the chief of anti-piracy cell in film chamber, I came across many pirates and understood their modus-operandi. I had all these pirates call me personally on my cell phone and they have to tell that they did not copy Arundhati on that day. I had cars stationed in front of major pirate video libraries so that they would not dare to copy when our security men are eying on them. In spite of all our measures, the pirated version of Arundhati came after 28 days.

Internet is the culprit
Somebody uploaded the pirated version of Arundhati from Kerala. And people started networking and downloading the film for free. The irony is that the first physical pirate DVD came to Andhra Pradesh through internet. The guy we arrested last week (Sobhan) got it for free from internet and he started distributing Arundhati pirated DVDs before we got him arrested.

Why do some of the Telugu people in overseas indulge in internet piracy?
I did my masters in USA and I have lots of relatives in USA. The Telugu people who work in abroad struggled for their ranks and they went to the best of the schools. What I don’t understand is why some of these people download pirated versions and watch films on computers and internet. They spread torrent links to the friends. I request everybody to think twice before doing such things. They might be doing it for fun, but it is hurting producers like me a lot.

At present, Arundhati is running in 348 theaters
Initially I wanted to release Arundhati as a small budget film with 35 prints. I decided to release it on my own. I gave the film to exhibitors without taking any advances. I paid for the print cost and publicity cost. I negotiated with the exhibitors for the best of the hires. Now I can see the total revenue streams for a big commercial hit of a Telugu cinema. The last person who did the same in the history of Telugu cinema was Ramoji Rao for Pratighatana film. I retained the film for the entire areas and held the negative rights.

At present Arundhati is running with around 290 physical prints and 11 digital prints in over 348 theaters with four shows. Every day I will get the collection figures from all these 348 theaters. I spend around 3 hours of time (evening 5 pm to night 8 pm) analyzing the figures and knowing the trend. Each and everyday we are giving a minimum extra print order of 3. By March 2009, the total prints number in Telugu will cross 360.

Tamil version with more than 250 prints
I am going to dub and release the film in Tamil and Malayalam in a couple of months. During Ammoru time, I released the Tamil version with 250 prints. This time, Tamil Arundhati will be released with more prints. I tied up with a distribution company ‘Sri Thenandal Films’ in Chennai for distributing the Tamil version.

I watch unlimited number of movies
I am huge movie lover. During my Chennai days, I used to go to Trivendram by driving car. I used to rent a room in a Hotel and watch three movies a day. There were times when I watched six movies a day (theater + DVD). I love to indulge myself in watching movies till I fix on my script. Once I narrow down on my script, I hardly watch any movie. The last Telugu film I watched in theater was Happy Days in 2006.

Google Earth is my other love
If movies are my first love, Google Earth is my other love. It thrills me. I completely travelled all over the interiors of Andhra Pradesh by now through Google Earth. It fascinates me. Now I am spilling over to Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. I love to look at the roads and measure the distances from various land marks.

to be continued………….

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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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