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Red hot and deliciously different

The ‘avakai’ gets romanticised and in turn presents the dreams of rural Andhra

Photo: Nagara Gopal

The ‘avakai’ makers Bindu Madhavi, Anish Kuruvilla, Sekhar Kammula and Kamal Kamaraju

Passion for good cinema brought together Anish Kuruvilla and Sekhar Kammula when Sekhar was casting for his debut film, Dollar Dreams. Anish studied political science, public administration and economics benfore shifting gears. Sek har, likewise, had quit working as an engineer to enter cinema. With hits like Anand, Godavari and Happy Days behind them, the duo is awaiting the release of Avakai Biryani. Here’s a sneak peek.

Different terrain

His first feature film as a director has taken shape after he spent a decade in the industry. Anish calls it a natural choice. “I was in my mid-20s when I thought I was ready to make a film. I went to Mumbai and tried my luck and eventually gave up. After working with Sekhar and especially after Happy Days, I felt I was ready to direct.The film reflects my state of mind ,” he says.

Avakai Biryani, shot in villages beyond Vikarabad, is a romantic drama of a young auto driver and a village belle selling avakai biryani. “The film is about their hopes and tribulations. The story will be debatable and deals with a few issues,” says Anish.

Anish will transport the audience to a fictional, idyllic village, Devarakonda. “This Devarakonda is different from the real one that’s situated near Nagarjuna Sagar. Instead of coconut trees and paddy fields, you will see rocks, mountains and plains The dialect is not Telangana, barring a few references,” he explains.

With the script in place, he zeroed in on Kamal Kamaraju (“I worked with him in Confessions of a Film-maker and felt he was hero material and yet unconventional.”) and Bindu Madhavi after a search (“She was a model and spoke fluent Telugu; she was on”). Music, as with their previous films, continues to be the USP. “I got lucky,” says Anish. “Manikanth Kadri’s music inspired me to make my film even better. And for cinematographer Shyam Dutt, who has never worked in Andhra, the terrain of our villages were all new.”

Sensible paisa vasool

Sekhar Kammula looks back at the time when Anish joined his team and reminisces, “I cast him in Dollar Dreams when he was assisting Nagesh Kukunoor on Rockford. Later, he became my executive producer,” recalls Sekhar. “We were a small team making Dollar Dreams. Anish used to act, then double up as an assistant and then come back to act in the next shot. He went back to his corporate job after the film. When I was ready to make Anand, I called him. He made the big decision of quitting a cushy job and joining my team.”

Sekhar feels Avakai Biryani is an experiment in the right step. “People have started appreciating good cinema. Yet, we are nowhere close to making A Wednesday or Mumbai Meri Jaan. I had to sugar coat Happy Days to make it commercially viable. I steered clear of issues,” Sekhar confesses. “If Avakai Biryani succeeds, we can be sure of looking at different kind of cinema. Until now, we’ve been experimenting within a boundary. In Telugu films, it’s either sensible paisa vasool or a ‘mass’ paisa vasool.”

Sekhar highlights a portion of a song that romanticises the making of avakai. “That is something every Telugu will identify with.”

Lucky break

“I heard the film’s name and the first thing I wanted to do was to eat,” sheepishly smiles Bindu Madhavi. Dusky, refreshingly different and typically Telugu… Bindu Madhavi, who makes her debut with Avakai Biryani defies convention. “I think I will be a trendsetter. Once the movie is released, the focus will shift to Telugu girls, and producers will rush to cast them,” she says confidently.

Hailing from Madanapalle, she has been living in Chennai along with her parents since standard XI. A B. tech in bio-technology, Bindu is not new facing the camera as she has sold everything — from saris to jewellery as a model. So, when the offer came to play a leading lady, her first reaction was to jump in excitement! “I was modelling in Cochin, when I got a call to act in a Telugu film. When I heard it was Sekhar and Anish handling the project, I just said yes,” she recalls.

She plays the role of an avakai-maker in the film and has had her tear jerking moments too. “I had to cry a lot in one scene and director Anish wanted a natural look. Instead of using glycerine, I coolly ate nine green chillies and tears just burst out. It was a perfect shot but the spice created havoc in my tummy,” she says laughingly. With the movie’s release date getting closer, Bindu is keeping her fingers crossed. “I can’t say a single negative word about the film. I am very scared of failures,” she admits and adds, “I am so anxious that I even message Anish that I am going to die.”

Bindu is gearing up for an innings in Telugu film industry but wants to wait before her big leap. “There have been offers but I don’t want to mess it up by signing every film that comes my way. I want to savour my moment and carefully plan my career,” she signs off.

Charged up

A degree in architecture has little to do with acting. Until you meet Kamal Kamaraju, an alumni of JNTU, who takes a bow as an actor with Avakai Biryani. “There is not much difference between an architect and an actor,” says Kamal while putting his cell phone on a silent mode. “If an architect gives shape to other people’s dreams, an actor brings alive a director’s vision.” Kamal is all charged up about Avakai Biryani releasing this mid-November, as it is his first film as a lead actor. “I play an auto driver in the film, but he is not a beedi-smoking auto driver, who thrashes people at the drop of a hat. He is ambitious and wants to succeed in life. Everyone who has an aim in life will connect with the film,” he says. He had a ball shooting in Vikarabad but the tough part was to sit in an auto. “Thanks to my height, it was very painful to sit as my knees would hurt,” he recollects. Kamal does not want to reveal his name in the film. “It is a big surprise and I don’t want to spoil the fun,” he says.

Kamal began his career as an assistant art director with Anukokunda Oka Roju. It was followed by a cameo in Chatrapathi. But it was playing an IPS officer in the hit movie Godavari, which gave him enough recognition. Kamal is grateful for whatever little work he has done till now. “I want to be known as an actor not as a hero. I am happy with the roles I have done till now,” he says.

SANGEETHA DEVI DUNDOO AND NEERAJA MURTHY

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