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'It felt wonderful to win the National Award'

By Radhika Rajamani
March 27, 2015 08:48 IST
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'I was hoping to get it, but never imagined, even in my wildest dreams, that it would happen.'

Director Praveen Sattaru talks about his National Award winning movie Chandamama Kathalu.

Chandamama Kathalu, directed by Praveen Sattaru, just won the National Award for the Best Feature Film in Telugu.

The film follows the anthology format with eight different stories woven together.

Director Praveen Sattaru talks to Radhika Rajamani about winning the Award, the film, and his future projects.

What was your initial reaction when you heard about Chandamama Kathalu winning the National Award?

I felt wonderful. It was an out-of-this-world feeling.

It was hard to believe at first but the news gradually sank in.

What made you send the film for the Award?

I made the film to bridge the distance between a commercially viable film and a critically acclaimed film.

I believe that a critically acclaimed film could also become a commercial success. You just have to hit that small little sweet spot with the right subject.

We had to go through a lot of drama to release the film in the heat of the state’s bifurcation and the most crucial election in the history of the state, or rather two states (Telangana and Andhra Pradesh).

To top that, 80 per cent of the critics gave bad reviews.

I was disappointed and started to question my belief.

But when the film was uploaded on YouTube, the response was amazing; the comments were hundred per cent positive.

I needed to know what the film was really worth and what better way than sending it to the National Awards.

Did you expect a National Award?

I was hoping to get it, but never imagined, even in my wildest dreams, that it would happen.

Why do you think the film scored over others?

I think the film hit that sweet spot with the jury: the human angle, real characters, unpretentious performances, music which carried the soul of the characters, seamless editing, beautiful cinematography and, above all, the screenplay, which glued all eight stories together.

Every department had to work in the film’s favour for it to win the Best Film. 

Do you consider it an honour and a responsibility to win this award?

For an IT guy with a desk job in the US, who has no connection whatsoever with filmmaking or people associated with films, someone who has never made even a one-minute video, or been to a film school, or done classes in script writing, to win a National Award for the Best Regional film is definitely a very big deal.

It proves a point, doesn’t it? This award is the highest honour for regional films in India and it is a prestigious honour.

Now the responsibility is to win an award for the best film in the nationwide category.

Will the National Award help when you make another film?

No, it will not.

I did not make Chandamama Kathalu to win a National Award, but it did.

I must have thought and done something right for it to happen.

I will continue making future films with the same belief and respect towards cinema and any award is the cherry on the top.

Were you happy at the way Chandamama Kathalu was received by the audience and the critics?

No, I was not. For multiple reasons, we could not pull audiences to the theatres.

But whoever did watch the film raved about it.

I guess it was the timing of the release.

My biggest disappointment was with the way the critics responded.

Some said it’s a mediocre film, some trashed it and whoever liked the film liked it immensely. It was mixed.

Winning the National Award boosted my confidence and belief.

Image: Movie poster of Chandamama Kathalu

Not many Telugu films win a National Award in any category. Why is it so?

I have no idea. I am not an analyst.

But, I believe that the intention with which films are made here is flawed.

As a filmmaker, you should believe in your script and not some calculations based on baseless analysis.

Filmmaking is an art, just like other great arts. If you are true to the art, you are sure to receive appreciation both critically and commercially.

What are you working on right now?

I am working on a comedy titled Guntur Talkies. It is in pre-production. I am planning to shoot it shortly.

I am also working on a biopic of Pullela Gopichand, the ace shuttler.

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Radhika Rajamani in Hyderabad