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Post Mortem - Santosham by Dasaradh
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What is this post mortem? is starting this exclusive, explosive and exciting section called Postmortem, where we conduct a postmortem of the latest releases. We shall be discussing and analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of the movies with their respective directors as to why those films have become hits/flops. We request the directors to give us their honest and frank opinions.
Santosham by Dasarath

How did you arrive at the story line of Santosham?

After watching Santosham everyone felt that it was inspired by Kuch Kuch Hota Hain [Karan Johar's blockbuster debut film starring Shah Rukh Khan, Kajol, Rani Mukherjee]. It's natural for the audience to feel so. But that's not correct. Let me explain how I arrived at the story for this film.

I wanted to make the character of Nagarjuna similar to the character of Ajay Devgan in 'Hum Dil De Chuke Hain Sanam'. But Nagarjuna garu warned me that he was not interested in acting in love stories. As a director,I cannot make a film without the angle of love in it. Hence, I shifted the love story into flash back episode. Initially, we planned Karthik [the character played by Nagarjuna] coming to his in-laws house and then the flashback would be narrated till the interval. In the second half we would show how he convinced the family and won their love and went back to New Zealand.

But we felt that the second half was too predictable and uninteresting. Since we needed to have a character to help Nagarjuna prove himself in the second half, we introduced the role of a bubbly girl who is Gracy's friend in the flash back and who acts as a bridge between the in-laws family and Nagarjuna.

Then we thought that it would be more interesting if we have love budding from her towards Nagarjuna. Also we changed the friend role into the cousin role of the heroine. If we make the sister character love the hero from the beginning and try to get closer to hero in the second half, it might give audience some suspense and excitement.

We wanted to give a reason for the hero to reject the heroine's cousin character. So, we thought that we could make the heroine's cousin get engaged to another guy so that there is a strong reason for the hero to reject heroine's cousin in the second half. That's how the character of Prabhudeva was born.

Today if I sit back and see 'Santosham' as a normal spectator, I too find some similarities between KKHH and Santosham. But honestly, the story of Santosham is my own baby and is not copied from KKHH. I wrote this story to sell it. Why would anybody buy my story if they find it copied from a Hindi film?

There is one scene similar to the one in Kuch Kuch Hota Hain when Prabhu Deva touchs Sreya and she turns back and says I love you thinking that its Nagarjuna. What do you have to say about that?

It is also coincidental. The actual scene is like this. When Sreya is crying, facing her back to the hero, Prabhudeva comes there. When he is about to say Hi, Nagarjuna warns him to be silent. Then Nagarjuna calls Sreya casually her name, she turns back and says 'I love you'. But for cinematic effect, we edited those scenes and cut it short. But my conscience knows if I copied it or not. However the resemblance is too close.

How did you arrive at the casting of the heroines and the kid?

Gracy Singh: Before Lagaan was released, I saw Gracy Singh in the trailers of the song 'Radha Kaise Na jale' on the TV. She has a family look and is capable of emoting with good expressions. On the 5th day after Lagaan was released, we signed her for the role of Paddu.

Sreya: We initially tried for another heroine. Luckily, we did not get her dates. When I visited Krishna Digitals (a movie poster maker), I happened to see the stills of Istam. I liked the heroine of that film. At that time, Gopal Reddy garu was working for 'Akasa Veedhilo' film at RFC. I called him up requested him to have a look at the songs of Istam at RFC editing rooms to checkout heroine Sreya. He liked the heroine, but expressed his doubt if Sreya might look too young opposite Nagarjuna. We did a screen test for Sreya and she fitted the bill.

Master Akshay: He acted in just one scene in a Kannada film. We picked him up for the role of Lucky. He is a Telugu kid from Mumbai. He is a very good artist.

Highlight scenes of the film in the first half

  • There is one conversation at the railway station between Nagarjuna and Gracy Singh - Nee gurinchi naaku ekkuva emi teleedu. Emi teleekunda emiti idanta ante ..daaniki kooda samaadhanam ledane cheptaanu. Prema anedi lekkalu, patralu choosukokunda kaligedi antaaru. Naaku ade kaligindi. Kaani okka vishayam telusu. Nuvvu lekunda nenu bratakalenu'. These dialogues worked very well as it depicted the lover's heart and his love for the heroine which blossoms in such a short span.
  • 'Oka manchi family nundi ammaini evaranna teesuku velte .. andulo pain emito ippude telisindi. Adi telisi vunte nenu appudu teesuku vellaleka poyi vundevaadini' - Nagarjuna says this to K Viswanath garu in the first half.
  • '20 yellu kani penchina koothuru family antha vadilesi okadi kosam vellalani dhairyam chesindante vaadu elanti vaadu ayyi vuntaadu ani okkasaari gaa alochinchi vundunte bagundedi. Tappu naadi babu. Needi kaadu!' - K viswanath tells Nagarjuna in the railway station just before interval.

The above-mentioned three scenes worked out well to make movie a hit. There is another scene, which is very much appreciated by audiences in the first half.

  • Nagarjuna tells this to the relatives of heroine in the kitchen - 'Innallu Paddu tana intlo valla gurinchi cheptunte edo anukune vaadini. Kaani ee roju mimmalni choosaka telisindi. She missed this family a lot'

Highlight scenes of the film in the second half

  • Nagarjuna's dialogue to Sreya - 'Preminchukovadaaniki iddaru vyaktulu chaalu. Kaani pelli chesukovadaaniki rendu kutumbalu kavali'.
  • Prabhudeva's dialogue in the climax - 'Ee roju naaku illundi. Kaaru vundi. Mobile vundi. Alage oka pellam vuntundi. Anthakante theda emi vundadu.'
  • The climax dance in which all the family members dance to the dholak sound.

Weak points in the movie

  • There is only one scene in the film, which we could not present well. That is the death scene of Gracy Singh. The scene of accident also did not come out well in New Zealand due to local security reasons. We were supposed to call technicians from Australia to make sure that nothing untowardly happens during the shooting of the accident scene. We could not get vehicles that were scratched and moreover it was raining heavily then. We had to compromise on that accident scene.

The scenes that I liked a lot but which did not make it to the final copy

  • In the entire movie, there is no shot in which Gracy Singh says I love you to Nagarjuna. When Gracy Singh gets admitted into hospital after the accident, Nagarjuna visits her. She tells him that she has been thinking about him and their sweet memories and that she has realized that she had never explicitly said 'I Love You' to him. She asks him if he wanted her to me say that to him now? Then Nagarjuna takes her into his arms. She says 'I love you karthik' and dies. As she dies, the camera goes into top angle. But this scene was deleted later as it did not get universal acceptance by the cast and crew.
  • There were lot of scenes that were edited at the last moment due to length problem. When Nagarjuna was about to leave to New Zealand in the first half, Ahuti Prasad asks him to consider marrying some girl for the sake of the kid. Then Nagarjuna feels very proud that the family members of Gracy Singh wholehearted love him.

Memorable moments during the making of Santosham

We traveled from Christs Church to Queens Town in a bus while shooting some scenes in New Zealand. It was an 8-hour journey. Nagarjuna garu and the producers traveled separately in a car. Sreya, Prabhu Deva, Anitha Chowdary, Pruthvi, Master Akshay and I traveled in a bus together. We all danced for 3 hours continuously. Seeing Prabhudeva dance in that bus was a treat to the eyes. We were sweating heavily even in the cold winter.

Contributions from the team

Gopi Mohan is given the credit for screenplay for this film. He helped me a lot with the script. Gopi, Trivikram Srinivas, RP Patnaik, Kula Sekhar and Sunil used to be roommates in Punjagutta. I used to move around with them everyday. At that time Trivikram was working with Posani Krishna Murali. All of us were struggling for a chance to get into movies. Trivikram Srinivas was the first guy to become successful in our gang followed by RP and others. Veeru K, who was my roommate, helped me on the script too. When I got Santosham offer, Trivikram Srinivas was tied up with other big projects. I requested him to be my audience for 2 hours on every day for about a week. I narrated scene-by-scene film to him and he made instant corrections and modifications to those scenes. The kind of person he is, valuing friendship more than anything, cooperated with me to a great extent. My assistant directors Gopi Mohan, Sai Kishore and Yadagiri helped in making the film a success. I would be very happy if any producer makes films with them as directors.

There is a comment that the film is too heavy with less comedy.

There are a lot of comedy scenes, which were edited during the editing phase, as they tend to dilute the serious mood of the film. Actually there were hilarious scenes between LB Sriram garu and Sunil. But we edited all those scenes, thinking they might break the narrative of the film.

There seems to be too many English dialogues in Santosham?

I realized it when a couple of people mentioned it after watching it in the theaters. It was not intentional. I wanted to use natural language as dialogue writer.

What were your expectations after seeing the final copy?

I believed that Santosham would run for at least 10 weeks. Luckily, it got good response. Such a huge success did not astonish me and neither was it surprisingly delightful. Good movies are always bound to get responses. I had similar experiences in the past where our team celebrated the success of Chitram and Nuvvu Nenu.

Other Post Mortems:
Jayam by Teja.

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