Sekhar Kammula, writer, director and producer, is known for making films that are an exceptional combination of aesthetic values and commercial viability. Most of his films have been box office successes. The busy filmmaker takes time out of a busy day over breakfast to talk to Channel 6 about his passion for films.
My day starts at around 7 in the morning with a cup of coffee and the newspapers. I simultaneously plan my day and spend time with my kids before they leave for school. If I am working on a story, I sneak into the room on the top floor of my house. There I have a special chair — it is like the seat of King Vikramaditya from where he gave justice — where I sit and pen my stories.
When not writing, the day follows a drawn-up schedule. So, if I am shooting, it follows a certain time-table. Sometimes we shoot for four hours, sometimes all day. Presently, for Life is Beautiful, which is due to release on August 15, we are in the wrapping up stages. So besides a day-long shooting spell that is left, I usually spend my day in the studio, editing.
Till date, this film is the biggest production for my banner Amigos Creations. For the first time, a massive and realistic set has been erected by art director Padmashri Thota Tharrani at Padma Rao Nagar. We launched a massive star hunt for this film. From the 40,000 e-mails apart from the walk-ins and others, we zeroed in on the final 11 actors. They may not be the best of the lot. But, we do have the best-looking fresh star cast any talent search has thrown up in the country.
I work with newcomers because my script demands it. In Happy Days, it was Varun Sandesh and Nikhil Siddarth and in Leader it was RaNa Dauggubati. Life is Beautiful about all the things I remembered from my childhood, the different stages of growing up and innocence. It is reminiscent of the times at my grandmother’s house, playing in the garden, young love, the mistakes we made, and just being young and free.
Happy Days received a lot of praise and it dealt with four years of life in an engineering college, while Life is Beautiful is about life in a colony.
When we were casting for this
film, I thought of asking Amala to act as the mother of one of the characters. I was keen to have her on board. She heard the script, and because she is familiar with my movies, she agreed.
If I am not writing or shooting, I drive around the city and love soaking in the scenario. Sometimes I have stopped at Irani centres for a chai and many times I have observed people from close quarters. I am a simple man. In the neighbourhood, I still play gully cricket. I love spending time and playing with my daughter who is in class IV and my son who is in class I. But whether working or on holiday, I am an early riser and sleep early too.
As for my food habits, I am a simple vegetarian. When I am home, I watch television, but though I am a filmmaker, I never watch a movie from beginning to end.
Ever since I can remember, I have been charmed by films made by Bapu and in Guru Dutt. I was always fascinated by the manner in which they handled their subjects. Having said that, I don’t like to copy anyone and all my films have my own signature. And, my films have a local flavour. They cannot be remade into other languages.
During my college days, like everyone else, I opted for engineering. After a B.E. in Mechanical Engineering, I did my Masters in Computer Sciences in New Jersey. After working in the IT industry for three years, I enrolled for the MFA programme at Howard University in Washington DC. I was involved in making short and feature length films.
After returning to India, I decided to make Dollar Dreams, which was about the exodus of Indian students and IT professionals to the US. It was a low budget film made from my own savings. My father was worried about this shift in career but gave in after I won the National Film Award for the best debutant director. That convinced my father that I knew what I was doing. Godavari, Happy Days, Avakai Biryani and Leader followed.
There is a reason that my films have English titles. Dollar Dreams could not have been different as it was the story of earning dollars. Telugu titles to Happy Days or Life is Beautiful could not have been possible as thinking of Happy Days as Manchi Rojalu would sound odd and Life is Beautiful as Jeevitham would sound really flat. For now, I am looking forward to the release of my latest film and I hope it is well received by the audience.
As told to Lakshmi Ramakrishna