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'I am no Mahesh Babu or Pavan Kalyan'

Last updated on: November 23, 2010 10:14 IST

'I am no Mahesh Babu or Pavan Kalyan'

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Radhika Rajamani in Hyderabad

US born and bred Adivi Sesh is the person behind the Telugu film Karma shot with an all American crew entirely in the United States, the first Telugu film to have that distinction.

The 25-year-old studied film direction at the San Francisco State University and spent two years working on Karma where he also dons the mantle of not just the director but an actor as well.

He has directed many plays and short films before his maiden feature film Karma. Incidentally, Sesh has also won Mr India San Francisco and Mr India Waves titles.

In this exclusive interview to rediff.com, he shares all about his debut Telugu film Karma.

Normally Karma and destiny are philosophic concepts. How did you decide to make a film weaving these concepts together? Is it because of the fact that you had a miraculous escape in a car accident?

Yes, definitely. In 2008, I had a major car accident on a freeway near San Francisco. I was unconscious and when I woke up, I was told by the doctors that I had survived a car crash of almost epic proportions! The front left wheel of my car had been crushed into the gas tank in the back of the car! Why did I survive it? Was it due to the actions and their fruit in this birth or the previous one? Questions started running through my mind and that led to the foundation of the karma concept.

Did you start believing in karma then?

I've always believed in the concept but it is after the accident that I'd become truly fascinated by it. I think on some level, we all believe in karma. This is the reason the film has the tagline, "Do You Believe?" 


Image: A scene from Karma

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'Karma is a reflection of my personality'

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The film is called Karma too. Also why did you choose to make it a supernatural thriller and not in any other genre?

I think Karma has a certain "unique novelty" and that is it's USP. I am no Mahesh Babu or Pavan Kalyan. I'm simply a filmmaker/actor with a dream to make and perform in good cinema. I think the audience needs to respect my work before they believe in a newcomer like me. I think it might have been much tougher for me to get their respect had I made a simple love story with 6 songs, 3 fights and a family wedding.

By creating trailers that are unique and never before seen posters, I am happy to say that I've been able to make my target audience curious about Karma. I believe that all our creators have managed to create that novelty factor. Getting the audience's attention is one of the most important things necessary for a film that deals with fresh ideas and moreover fresh technicalities.

Why did you set the film in USA and shoot it there?

Karma is the first Telugu film to be completely shot in the United States. As I've grown up there, I was more comfortable in dealing with a Hollywood crew. Karma is a reflection of my personality. I think the strongest thing about Indian films is their story while the highlight of American films is their technique. I intended to do something that creatively matches both worlds together. I wanted to make a film that has Indian soul and American technique, in the process a film that contains the best of both worlds.

Moreover, I think when we see American locations in Indian cinema, we typically see landmarks like Times Square or the Empire State Building. I've filmed Karma in places like Carmel, Pacifica and Big Sur. It's safe to say that the locations in Karma have never been seen before not just in Telugu cinema but in Indian films in general.


Image: A scene from Karma

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'I can't pick between acting and directing'

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Did you do the post-production there or in India?

Post production works like editing and 40% of the visual effects were done with American companies in the States. The mixing, DI, sound design and the rest of the visual effects were done in India. In essence, Karma is a true Indo-American collaboration.

Is the film subtitled for an international audience? 

The US release is subtitled in English, a first for a Telugu film.

You also don the hat of an actor besides the director? Was it easy doing both? Did you feel at any point doing both were delimiting as an actor or director?

I think acting and directing together is one of the hardest things a filmmaker can do and I wouldn't wish that stress on anyone. Something I've said to a lot of friends and colleagues is the fact that I find acting and directing to be like my right eye and my left. I can't pick between them; I'm in love with both. At the end of the day, I love both individually as well and wouldn't even mind doing one of the two for someone else.  

 


Image: A scene from Karma

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'Karma is more of a director's film'

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Did you enjoy acting or directing?

While acting is my first love, I find a film to be more of a director's medium. I think it would really depend on the script. Karma is more of a director's film.

Is this the first time you are acting in a feature film?

Yes, this is my first time, though I've acted in plays, short films and other videos when I was educating myself on the basics of cinema.

How and why did you choose Jade Taylor, a foreign actor for the lead role? How has she performed considering that concepts like karma are alien to her?

I think that today, Karma has become a universal concept though it is somewhat misunderstood. Karma does not mean fate or destiny. The literal definition of karma is one's actions. That's where the words "kaam karna" in Hindi come from.

What matters is Karma Siddhantham, i.e. the fruit of our actions and how they impact our lives and births in general.


Image: A scene from Karma

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'I am a full-blooded Telugu guy!'

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You have three well-known Hollywood musicians to score the music. Why did you choose them for a Telugu film? How did they understand the lyrics to compose?

Pete Wonder has produced over a hundred hip hop artists while Leland Thunes is qualified enough to teach European Classical music. Justin Durban has worked on several Hollywood films and his resume includes working on the television campaigns of the Harry Potter series and Angelina Jolie's Taking Lives.

I think at the end of the day, the work that these three have produced can create a fresh sound for Telugu cinema. Their fusion of Western instruments with Carnatic music is one of the pivotal points in giving Karma that novelty factor. A lot of my supervision was necessary to make sure that they were comfortable working in an Indian setup.

How do you think people will react to a Telugu film with a foreign actor and an all American crew?

I am a full-blooded Telugu guy! So is most of the cast. Moreover, our lead actress Jade Tailor took extra pains to go through 3 months of Telugu training so she can pull off a Telugu character. I think it will be interesting for people to see so much International talent coming together to create a Telugu film.

Will the film appeal to the audience at large or would it cater only to a niche audience?      

I think the film is essentially an urban one that deals with universal themes. Stylistically, it is city oriented but conceptually, I think people can relate to it anywhere from Anakapalli to Zurich.

Are you nervous about the release?

I am confident of the creative potential of the film though I am awaiting the audience response eagerly.

Do you want to act and direct more Telugu films?

I hope to make and act in films for the rest of my life.


Image: A scene from Karma

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