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The Rediff Interview / Jaya B, director
Jaya B: From journalist to filmmaker
May 15, 2007
Jaya B is one of the few woman directors in the Telugu industry today. Always interested in films, she started a film publication, Superhit, with her husband, B A Raju, after working as a journalist in a Telugu daily.
The next step was direction and her first film Chantigaadu was fairly successful. Her second venture Premikulu was a flop. Jaya's third, Gundammagari Manavadu, was released on May 12.
Radhika Rajamani met with the filmmaker for a tete a tete on films and other projects. Excerpts:
How was the response to Gundammagari Manavadu?
It is doing well and I'm happy. I made this movie with a budget of Rs 1.10 crore in 36 working days. My aim is to make clean films which do well.
This film is set against a rural backdrop. Why?
Even though I studied in Chennai, I am attached to my village in West Godavari district where I was brought up by my grandmother. I wanted to expose the unconditional love between the grandmother and grandson.
Is it autobiographical?
To some extent, it is. I shared the same kind of relationship with my grandmother. In fact my grandmother helped me realise my dreams. She sold her house in the village to help me because of her faith in me. In the film the grandmother sold her jewellery to help her grandson start a hotel.
Does your film have any message to the new generation?
My mother has brought up my sons well. I notice that kids growing up in this healthy atmosphere become good citizens. I have seen this with my sons and I would like to dedicate the movie to the senior citizens. Do not forget your grandparents as they are important to you.
What prompted you to cast Ali in the lead role?
I have known Ali personally for many years. He has a certain innocence in his face and he is a good performer. In my last two films, I had cast newcomers. But for Gundamma�I needed good actors. So I cast Vadivukkarasi, Tanikella Bharani, Kota and Ali. In fact Ali had not done a lead role for the last 10 years after Yamaleela.
The story harks back to yesteryear's films�
Everybody loves old films. Movies like Missamma and Gundammakatha are still watched even today. My sons even ask me why such films are not being made anymore. Also, I notice women are hooked to television these days. If one makes clean films they will surely come and watch.
How did you manage to get superstar Krishna?
I wanted some noted artist even though it was only for a cameo. My husband and I are fans of Krishna.
Why did you include so many songs in the movie?
My strong point is audio. The films of my previous movies have been in the top 10. I love music and compose most of the tunes. Raghavendra Rao once complimented me that I compose like him. I wanted to make a clean film and a mass entertainer and songs are crowd pullers.
Why did you decide to make the film in the commercial format?
I want to establish myself as a commercial director even though I love art films first. Akira Kurosawa is my inspiration and I have grown up watching films of Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen, Goutam Ghose and Aparna Sen. If I make art films, I can't reach out to the audience. In the future I will make a film in Telugu to reach the intellectual audience.
What will this offbeat film be about?
It is inspired by a real story about a mother and her two visually-impaired daughters and the circumstances she faced and how she coped. The script is ready.
Have you decided on casting?
I want to get the original two kids and train them in acting through workshops. I have narrated the story to Bhanupriya and Nandita Das. I have yet to decide on the cast. The film will be made in the later part of the year.
As a woman director in a male-dominated industry do you face gender bias?
No. The industry people know me as a journalist at a professional level. When you are a leader, people follow. If you are in a commanding position people listen to you. Also my communication skills are good because of my journalistic background and I am able to get work done from people. In fact, on my sets, I do not allow smoking and playing cards. People can indulge in these after packup or before but not on the sets. In fact because of my attitude I was called Gundamma on the sets!
Why are there only a few women calling the shots in the Telugu film industry?
It's a tough field. As you said it's a male-dominated industry. But even within this industry male directors find it tough to make the grade. One has to be in command. As a journalist I have seen how actors question and play around with directors on the sets. If you are not strong you will be played around with. I have seen girls becoming Assistant Directors trying to get into the filed and then disappearing.
A lot of experimenting is going on Malayalam, Tamil and Hindi. Why is Telugu cinema lagging behind?
Producers want to take the safe path as they invest crores in each project. Everybody wants commercial success. So the same love story and action stories are made. The industry needs strong directors.
Does being a journalist help you as a director? Are you still involved with Superhit?
Yes. When my manager approaches people to be cast they immediately agree. Actors don't throw tantrums on the sets. Also because I am articulate I am able to express well and get work done.
As for Superhit, I look after administration, finance, printing and circulation. Sometimes when my husband is not there, I do the editing. I write once in a while as I am now busy with scripts.