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'I have finally learnt how to say no'

Last updated on: March 7, 2013 14:32 IST

'I have finally learnt how to say no'

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Radhika Rajamani in Hyderabad

Lakshmi Manchu, daughter of well known Telugu actor and producer Mohan Babu has made her mark as an actor, talk show host and producer. She has lived in the US and acted in AXN serials such as Las Vegas, Boston Legal and Desperate Housewives.

Lakshmi has also acted in films, in Anaganaga O Dheerudu, Dongala Mutha, U Kodathara, Ulikki Padathara (UKUP) (Telugu), Department (Hindi), and Kadal (Tamil).

Her bi-lingual production, Gundello Godaari (in Telugu) releases on March 8. She acts in the film that also stars Aadhi Pinisetty, Taapsee Pannu and Sandeep Kishan. It is directed by newcomer Kumar Nagendra.

The Tamil version Maranthen Manninthen will release in two weeks.

Lakshmi Manchu talks about her film in this exclusive interview with Radhika Rajamani.

How did you decide to make Gundello Godaari, a part real-part fictional tale?

Yes, it is part real, part fictional. I wanted to do a film that we have a real connection to. Everybody knows about the disaster that happened (in 1986).

The Godavari river is considered a goddess. As long as you are good to her, she's good to you, otherwise she'll wipe you out. I wanted to recreate something that has happened already.

The film is an adaptation of Godaari Kathalu written by BVS Rama Rao. We have created the fictional part of the love stories.


Image: Lakshmi Manchu

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'I'm not a rich producer but a passionate filmmaker'

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Why did you make it a bi-lingual?

I was born and raised in Chennai. My love for films came through watching Tamil films. Telugu films never released there; we saw premieres of Telugu films only if my dad was in it. This is a story not connected to Telugu or Tamil. It is a love story set against the backdrop of the floods.

If it does well in Tamil and Telugu, I'll do it in Malayalam, Kannada and in Hindi. This looks like a grand-scale film.

I showed the film in Tamil Nadu to the producers and they said, you are a very rich producer. I'm not a rich producer but a passionate filmmaker. This is what I eat and breathe every waking hour.

You chose a newcomer, Kumar Nagendra to direct the film...

In America, people gave me work because I was a talented artiste and not because I was Mohan Babu's daughter or somebody's sister.

Kumar has shot quite a few ads. I was impressed with them. 


Image: A scene from Gundello Godaari

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'It was a challenge to run and pick up roosters'

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Aadhi has not acted in a Telugu film for a couple of years now...

He is considering this his first movie and wants to really come out with it. He's a brilliant actor. He's done a great job. I don't think that any actor today will put in the kind of effort he has put in.

Being immersed in water for so many days, he was down with typhoid and then malaria. He still came to shoot and finished his commitment. I have high regard for him as an actor. We grew up together as friends.

What about Sandeep? He runs after roosters in the film?

He was ready to do a film with me and my production company. It was really funny to see him in the village backdrop. He's an urban boy. It was a challenge to run and pick up roosters. Now I'm a pro in doing so.


Image: A scene from Gundello Godaari

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'I would drink a ton of lemon juice to cleanse my system'

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How was it for the cast to be immersed in dirty water for long hours, seeing dead bugs etc?

There was dettol, aloe vera and turmeric around. I would drink a ton of lemon juice to cleanse my system! Everyone did that.

Everyone fell sick except the director and me. I couldn't afford to fall sick because Mani Ratnam's Kadal and Department were happening at the same time, besides my talk show. So there was no way I could fall sick.

The visual effects are one of the main highlights of the film. Did that cause the delay in release?

Yes, water is an element that no special effects company has really mastered and I take pride in saying that everybody who has worked on this project was Indian and they came from Hyderabad. That entailed a lot of time to get things right.

They have done a brilliant job. I have to give it to Eva and Ethnic -- the two companies who worked on it. They should be given the credit.

Ilaiyaraja has composed music for this film. Has he done the background score too?

He's done songs on Godavari and stories based on Godavari in the past and with Tamil audiences, if it's Ilaiyaraja there's an immediate connect.

He's really put his soul into the movie. We edited the film and took it to him. After what he did, the movie just turned into something else. We are very grateful for all his expertise in the film.


Image: A scene from Gundello Godaari

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'I was hurt with the Kadal experience'

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Now that the film is releasing, how do you feel?

I'm numb now. I'm in labour pain right now. Until I give birth (to the film), I'm going to be in this numb situation.

What has been your learning lesson?

It's been a very emotional journey. I think I have grown up and I am a woman now. I always considered myself as a crazy, passionate hippy girl who wants to make films no matter what. I have finally learnt how to say no after all these years.

What is your reaction to the Kadal episode? What was your reaction when you felt your role was trimmed?

Not trimmed, but chopped. Ninety per cent of it was gone. It's unfortunate. I saw when I was dubbing for it and I was pretty shocked.

I am a producer too and I understand why that happens. As an actor, I was hurt but then it's Mani Ratnam and I have all faith in him that he would only do what is good for the film and that's how a director should be.

But the song Nenjukulle disappointed me. That was shot on me for six days. There was PR done on me saying it was my song. If my role is chopped, it doesn't matter. I have that song. That will show what I can do, I thought.

Being in a Mani Ratnam film, you want some screen space. I was hurt because I wasn't informed. Whatever little people have seen of me, they've appreciated my work.


Image: A scene from Gundello Godaari

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