Recently, Srinivasa Reddy of 21st century movie makers launched a movie with Chakravarthi. The film is titled Kaasi. Officially the film was launched on 16th of March. During the press meet of the movie, a lot of interesting things were told like JD will shave his head for the climax and will have to lose a lot of weight. Also it was announced that JD is directing a Hindi film for 20th Century Fox (Hollywood Banner) production. We wanted to know more details and got a chance to ask the same with Chakravarthi. A very jovial, straight forward (you will know in a short while after you read the interview) Chakri, offered us a slot the next day. The following interview took place on 17th of March, 2003 at his residence in Hyderabad.
Some of the responses are better heard than translated. Click here for a juke box window.. . If you have a problem opening it from here, the audio clips are archived in Music-Specials section.
You did B.E. ..
Yes. I am an unemployed engineering graduate
Why did you choose films?
Why did I chose films.. Why shouldn't I chose films? See, films are also profession.
The only difference is you get to see us on screen as opposed to a bank employee or any other profession. Other than that I don't see any difference. Films are not above human beings yaar.
We did not mean to say that. What made you chose films as your career?
B.E. is just my educational qualification. My passion was always in films. Do you know how to ride a scooter (We replied - Yes). What did you study?? Oh my God. That's how the question is. Engineering is just my educational qualification. My passion was and will be films. I did Engineering because my mom wanted me to do it. I wanted to stop my education when I was in my Xth standard. Since I have no one to back me up in the film industry, I knew there will be a 3-4 years struggle. So I wanted to make into the movies very early. After Engineering would be too late.
Movies are my passion right from my childhood. Now a days, passion word has become fashion for youth.
How did you bag the role in the film Shiva?
I started my struggle for movies in my intermediate itself. One person I have to thank the most in this regard is my sister Vyjayanthi. She lives in New Jersey, US. She is my source of inspiration. When I wanted to discontinue my studies after my Xth standard, she suggested me that Inter fail is better than 10th pass. The logic sounded good to me (says this in a humorous way). You can try for in films but keep continuing the education. In Inter, I wanted to join HEC. She asked me why? I said when I am supposed to fail my intermediate why should I take MPC? She came out with another interesting logic that MPC failed is better than HEC failed. So I did my intermediate and later on took EAMCET. Once I was in Engineering, I knew I had to finish it.
During my intermediate, I applied to Adayar Institute for Films in Chennai.... (At this point, we asked him a question)
Is Ramgopal Varma your colleague in that school
No. He is 12 years senior to me. He was 12, by the time I was born.
(continuing the answer to our earlier question)
I applied to Adayar Institute for Films in Chennai. They have rejected me out rightly. Forget about calling me for an interview, they didnot even accept my application. Once I visited Madras and I got the hang over of it. At that time the whole movie industry was in Madras. Because of that hang over, I used to plan trips very often with my friends, like picnics. My friends used to freak out in Madras making merry and I used to go around these studios to meet producers and directors. Once, I came across an ad in a daily by Annapoorna Studios for actors. I thought why would such a banner issue ad for actors? But I did not want to take a chance. You see I don't have any relatives in the film industry to support or push me up. Moreover, I thought it wouldn't hurt to apply. So applied and I got a call.
You seem to be very attached to your family. Can you tell us more about your family.
I take pleasure and feel very proud talking about my family. I am really proud talking about my mom, especially. My Mother, Kovila Santha, is highly qualified. She is a professor in Classical music - Carnatic. She has done double PG and doctorate in music. She also authored many books. Some books are very important for the field of music.
My sister is an engineer. She is settled in US. My brother-in-law is also an engineer. They have a son, Amit. God knows what he will become. They want him to be a doctor. But I am sure he will become an actor.
What are your upcoming projects?
I will be directing a movie for 20th Century Fox. It is a highly reputed banner in the world. They are making a Hindi movie and I am directing it. Also I am directing a film for Rajkamal films (Legendary director V.Santharam's home production). Apart from that I am producing my own film in Hindi. I am not acting just directing and producing, The details are yet to be finalized. In Telugu, I am doing Kaasi. Another movie is in planning. But I would like to talk about it only when details are finalized/
Can you give us more details like casting and technical persons for these movies?
I finished the scripts for both 20th Century Fox and Rajkamal films. 20th Century Fox production is a triangular love story. Casting is going on for these films.
Also for my production, I am casting two heroes and two heroines. Heroines are finalized - Shilpa Shetty and Shamitha Shetty. Jatin Lalit would provide the music. Sameer will provide the lyrics. I am introducing a new camera man who worked with legendary cinematographer Ashok Mehta (Bandit Queen, Mr. India). Heroes are yet to be finalized.
How do you feel as a director?
Starting from my career, I was both an assistant director and an actor. I was the assistant director with Ramu from Shiva to Satya. Apart from that I was also the part of the editing team for Satya. As a matter of fact, I did the entire post production work for Satya (Designing sound, dubbing, editing and mixing). So it's not a new job. I never made anything so obvious that people would realize my directorial skills in Telugu. I have decided I will not direct a film in Telugu for some time... no.. actually I decided I will never direct a film in Telugu. I will only act here.
What happened to Mahatma Autobiography, a film about Chiranjeevi fans?
That movie just happened and stopped. If only that released, probably, I would have directed more films in Telugu. The movie was designed to be a thriller. It's not about Chiranjeevi fans. The hero happens to be a Chiranjeevi fans. I am a great fan of Chiranjeevi myself. But it has nothing to do with the story line. I finished 60% of the film .
The film stopped for two reasons. Ramgopal Varma started Satya and offered me the role. He wanted me to be there. He said that the movie will be done in 2 months and then I can continue my work again. The movie took 1 1/2 year to complete. As I became a part in the cast and crew, I was with the film all through the time. Second reason is that there was a major misunderstanding between Ram Gopalvarma and other producers of that movie. Ramu, Allu Aravind, Aswini Dutt and Jagdish Prasad are the producers. So that's why the film stopped.
Yourself, Krishnavamsi, Teja - all come from Varma school. How do you feel about Teja and Krishnavamsi?
Audio: Clip No. 1
I feel Jealous. They are my colleagues and made it big. So I am jealous about them. You expected me to say that I am very happy about them? I know them so well. So as a friend I am happy. Especially for Teja. It takes 30 years of struggle for others to achieve the reputation and money he made in three years.
How did Kasi happen?
Kaasi... Producer Srinivasa Reddy, earlier made a film with me - Navvuthu Brathakalira. That flopped. Usually people keep all their hit films on the wall. But I do that for flop films. It's because they will remind you of the mistakes you made.
I was wrong choice for Navvuthu Brathakalira. But Srinivasareddy and Kodi Ramakrishna insisted me on doing that film.
Usually the actors go into trips that they are doing routine films and should try something different.But then we are forgetting why the audiences like us. If audiences like to see you in that way, that's how you go. As an actor, everyone wants to do different roles. Every one wants to be Kamalhasan. But the fact is Kamal never tries to be different but what he does is different. I think audience liked me as an angry young man. Nobody would like to see me in slow, calm going person. I told Krishnareddy garu during the making of Premaku Swagatham that it is not going to work out.
So I thought, it's high time that I should do an action film, my genre of film. When I say action film, I dont mean fights and bashings. A power packed film with good emotions. Like Gulabi, Anaganaga Okaroju or Egire Pavurama. Srinivasa reddy called me and told me that he wanted to an action film. He is quite an intelligent man by himself. Director Srinu told me the story. See, it's not the story but the treatment that makes the difference.
Recently I approached a producer in Hindi. He asked me for a story to produce a film. I said it's not the story that matters but the treatment (Kadha kaadhu Kadhanam mukhyam). But he insisted for a story line. So I told him two story lines. There is a dacoit and the Govt. and the military are unable to catch him. So they send two thieves to catch him. He didnot like this story line. So he asked me for something else. I said there are these lovers who are very attached to their families. Hero's sister-in-law dies in an accident and the heroine's family decides to get the heroine married to hero's brother. In the climax, everything is revealed and the young couple ties the knot. He said that's also not good. I told him these are the story lines for one of the biggest hits on Indian screen. sholay and Hum Apke hain Kaun. So I told him, my friend it's not the story but the treatment that matters.
Back to Kaasi, director Srinu wanted to narrate the story to me, I told him not to tell me on how the hero goes to Kaasi and other things. He told me the story in most unorthodox way. We sat in the car and from airport to the office - 15 minutes - the story and the film are decided. I need to lose a lot of weight and shave my head. I said that's fine. As long as the character demands, I can do that.
I am doing a very special guest role in the direction of Srinu Vytla for Ushakiran movies. He is one director who I am very keen to work with. I want to finish it off fast and then jump on to Kaasi.
Audience were very disappointed with Golmal? Your role is very less and not molded well
P.N.Ramachandrarao is a very nice person and is interested in casting me in his film. It's almost from last 10 years and things didnot work out. This time he said that I have to do a guest role in the film. So it started of as a guest role with one song. And also since I was in Bombay, he said he will shoot that song in Bombay. The role was designed to give lead to the climax. The producer had some personal problems (P.N.Ramachandrarao is not the actual producer) and he is gone for sometime. No one knows where he was. P.N.Ramachandrarao is in mess now. He wanted to add some more length to my character. I told him it would not work. Anyways, I don't regret the film as I got a chance to work with such a nice person.
But then again, movies affect your image..
The thing is this is movie industry. Out of 130 movies made every year, only 3 hit it big. When Chiranjeevi did Bigboss every one said he is over. After 20 films and long struggle, Ravi (RaviTeja) is very hot now. No one knew him until the last few years. Anything can happen here. If only Golmal became a hit, people would have praised like anything. So I dont regret for any movies that I did.
I did the movie as a favor to P.N.Ramachandrarao and I didnot charge a single Rupee for the movie. I did this movie on friendly basis.
Can you give us more details on 20th Century Fox movie!
I dont like to talk about the things which are not finalized yet. But Jatin Lalit and Sameer are roped in. And We are looking at a big cast. Again as I said, I will only talk about them when they are decided. Directing a film for a Hollywood production banner is not a joke. I am sure, my well wishers, and Telugu film audience and industry will feel proud about me for that.
How did u get in touch with 20th Century Fox.
If I tell you that, you will compete with me. I am just kidding. (laughs and continues). I have narrated almost 32 films to Eagle films Parvesh Mehra. Though he liked all the story lines, he wanted some improvement. Finally he liked a story. Parvesh Mehra has got a tie up with 20th Century Fox. So after listening to the story 20th Century Fox decided to make the movie. I was in US last month discussing with 20th Century Fox.
We heard that you went to US on personal grounds during Golmal. Did it happen around that ime?
Yes. Actually I went for a knee surgery. That's when I met the people form 20th Century Fox.
Any films with Ramu?
I think, Ramu and I reached our peaks with Satya. I dont think we can do anything better than that. Probably bigger but not better. Satya movie is like mother to us. Nothing can be better than your mother. (laughing).
People say as the career progress, actor evolves?
I will tell you one thing. When you ask most of the stars about their best film, they say it is yet to come. But for me it is Shiva. All the best I can do, I put it in a film called Shiva. That's my all time best performance. People think Gulabi or some other movie should be it. But no. It is definitely Shiva. The reason is that Shiva is my first film and there is no prior experience or coaching for me in acting. The actors I was shooting with are brilliant actors - Raghuvaran, Kota, Subhalekha SUdhakar, Bharani, Amala, Nagarjuna. Though the director is a new comer, I am well aware of the fact that what ever dialogues I utter, the background is provided by Ilayaraja. So working amidst these great performers was very thrilling. The first dialogue that I shot was "Bhavani ni Kalavali". And I expected that every one in the sets clap. That was my first dialogue and I did that good. But no one clapped. I was a bit disappointed. Venkat Akkineni was standing right there. So I went to him. He asked me how is it going. I enquired if I did good. He said that I did very good. Upon knowing my concern, he remarked that if they are not giving you bad words for your performance, then you did great.
Even today I am known as J.D.Chakravarthi. J.D. is not my surname. So even though I knew nothing, I am known by the character I did in the movie. So what else could be better than that. After that it's improvisation.
Though you played Satya - title role, Manoj Bajpai got the limelight.
You are 100% right. I am the editor of Satya too. While editing the movie, I told Ramu the same thing. He didnot agree with me. I told him Manoj is the highlight of the film. I knew it was Manoj as he was playing to the galleries. When the first copy came out we saw the movie. Ramu is one man with little emotions. But he cried for the scene where I die and appreciated me a lot. Then also I told him, it was Manoj who did splendid. He got a bit frustrated. He called me sadist and pesimistic. I told him that he is watching the movie as a movie maker rather than a filmgoer. He has developed. But I am still in the audience. So I told him the I understand the audience better.
My friends and well wishers knew my part in Satya. They have high respects for me. You know, Shahrukh called me before the release of the movie and complemented me that the movie would be a flop if Shahrukh did the role of Satya. Though my character Satya did not hit the audience, it is critically well acclaimed and that's why I am working with 20th Century Fox. Dont you think so?
How is your relation with Manoj?
Manoj and I are very good friends. I hate Biku Matre but not Manoj. After the movie, I told Manoj that the character that clicked was Biku Matre and not Manoj. I told him he can be Nana Patekar to the industry and not to chose the movies with dance numbers and all. He laughed at me and signed Dil Mat le yar and others. We are very cordial to each other.
You turned singer also? Do you intend to continue the career?
I am not a singer. Sometimes I take it to singing one track when melody is not necessary and needed. There are some good playback singers in the industry. So let me not put my finger into it.
What are your other interests or passions?
My only passion is films. Anything to do with films. I love watching films too. But I dont like the movies where there is tragedy. And also the movies where you show India in a poor light, depicting the poverty, drought and other things. Those are supposedly art films. I feel like shooting the makers.
They are trying to show the problems in reality..
(Audio: Clip4 continues)
(Chakri became a bit emotional.. but answers with a cool mind)
What can we do? You know the reality. Did you help it? Did you take money out of your pocket? We do nothing except watching that, and make it for international audience. If you want to help a social problem, try to educate people. Get the help from Megastar. If Chiranjeevi is fighting for social cause, classes and masses would see and think about the issue. See now Chiranjeevi is doing a lot of social work like blood bank and eye donation. I came across people who said he is doing it for publicity. Why should he do it for publicity? Does he need any new publicity? Or will this eye donation add anything to his image? NO. He has the image and he is using it in the right direction. He is trying to do good work. But people are not appreciating it.
Take the help of Chiranjeevi or Nagarjuna. Make a socio commercial cinema. Making a film that shows India in a poor light and sending them to film festivals, dont they think they are making fools of themselves. Even monetarily, they spend minimum 60 lakhs in making a movie. Why can't they distribute the money to the poor and needy? No. Because, if they get 4 awards, they get minimum 12 lakhs from DD. In US, there are 36 paid channels. and These channels buy the award movies at rate of around $40,000 dollars per movie.
Again, whom are you selling these movies to? US, Australia and UK. Well I hate that thing and that's my personal opinion.
Movie is for entertainment. Movies are unrealistically real. When you are very happy in life, you say yeeee. But in cinema they sing a song.
We heard that you had a rift with KrishnaVamsi after Gulabi.
Ya. We had a rift because of Maheswari. We had a problem and we did not talk to each other for 2 years. Now we are friends again. What else do you want to know?
But after Gulabi you did three movies with her.
I said I had problems with Krishnavamsi. Not Maheshwari. Even though you didnot ask me if I had an affair with Maheshwari, I am telling you NO.
(Though we wanted him to go more into details)NO, We didnot intend to ask you that.
(He laughs and continues). Maheshwari is a terrific girl. Vamsi and I were best freiends.
I was the key player behind Gulabi. Ram Gopalvarma had no intention of launching Vamsi or making a movie at that point.
I organized things for Vamsi. Ram Gopalvarma never even knew the story. Ram Gopalvarma trusted me and started the movie.
Anyways, Maheshwari is a nice girl and just a good friend.
Maheshwari is definitely not the kind of a girl, I will have an affair with.
So, who would be your choice..Aiswarya Rai
NO. I would say someone like Divya Bharathi. She is no more. Also Sridevi.
Are you married?.
Are you kidding? If I am married, will I have the guts to talk about all these things?
What is the personal side of Chakri?
I am quite contrast to what you see me in movies.
I never touched alcohol in my entire life. I dont go to disco because I dont like to talk in loud noise. Actually it's not talking, shouting. I love music but hate noise. And also 500 people crowded and dancing is not my kind of theory where I would be comfortable.
I am very aggressive and at times I lose my cool. I am very physical. Vamsi portrayed me well in Gulabi. 70-80% of the character resembles very close to me in real life. By the way, I am one day senior to Vamsi. I joined Varma one day ahead of Vamsi (laughs).
No. I started my career at a very early age and got to work with Ramu. Ramu was making big waves and I had to work hard to keep him impressed all the time. After all, I had no one to back me up in the film industry. I believe that when you are in a relation you need to give it your time. Because of that I could not afford a girl friend. And at this point I could not afford as I am afraid of losing the hard earned.
What is your ambition?
To become an actor and that is fulfilled. My ambition is fulfilled with Shiva. Whatever is happening is bonus.
I made some mistakes Akka Baavekkada, Premaku Swagatham and navvuthu brathakalira. But I have no regrets. Because no body forced me to do that. It's my decision. So no regrets.
What about Durga? You directed the movie. How do you feel rewarded.
20th Century Fox is the answer. How do you think I got it? See, A big film with a big stars Sharkukh, Karishma, Nana Patekar, Boney kapoor, Ismail Darbar could not sustain 100% openings where as Durga opened up with 100% collections. What else do you need as an achievement.
Who is your favorite actor?
I have so many. To start with Gummadi. 40-50 years ago, people used to overact. But Gummadi always did a balanced performance and done some good roles. He is a great actor. Savitri in Missamma was brilliant. Relangi was extraordinary in Appu Chesi Papppu Koodu. NTR was fantastic in Paatala Bhairavi. ANR was superb. Suryakantham was out of the world performer, Chayadevi. There are so many actors.
Also I am a big fan of Rajendraprasad. I like Chandramohan. I love Raghuvaran, Subhalekha Sudhakar, Sudhakar, Amitabh Bachhan, Kamalhasan, Mohanlal and the list continues.
Who do you like in the youth heroes?
It is very sorry that I don't get to watch much of Telugu Movies in Bombay. I come to Hyd for few commitments, finish it off and go back. In that short period, I dont get much time. I will tell you an example, a month ago or so when I was flying from Bombay to Hyderabad, there was a girl travalling in the same flight. She gave a smile at me. I thought OK and returned the smile. She got up for some thing and on her way back she smiled at me again. She is a nice cute girl. Before we landed, this continued for 5-6 more times. When I landed at the airport, I saw Azhar there. So went and wished him. Took my baggage and as I was making my way out, people cheered at me shouting JD. After that they started cheering at that girl too.
I didnot understand. I asked my driver if Hyd has changed so much that they started cheering at girls now. He replied quietly that she is a famous heroine. And she is Anitha. I heard that she acted in Nuvvu nenu. I knew Nuvvu Nenu film but as our Teja's film. Nothing more than that.
So that is my standard in Telugu movie levels. If I narrate this incident, people will think I am doing overaction. What can I do? I live in Andheri and dont get Telugu channels in my locality. So all I get to watch Telugu channels is when I come to Hyd. I know Tarun very well. But I have not seen any of his films.
You should tell me about the new heroes. I keep watching Jr. NTR though. He is a great dancer.
What is your relation with Teja? Did you meet him after he became a successful director.
No. I have not met him. He was very busy. Infact, we worked for quite a long time under Varma. It's so sweet of him to mention my name in a recent statement about his marriage. But we never had a personal relation where in we are in regular touch.
Why did he mention your name about his marriage?
Actually he fell in love with a girl in Nellore. We all helped him out.
How do you plan your career?
14-15 years ago, when I was standing in lines to get tickets for Chiranjeevi movies. I never expected that one day I will sit here to give interviews and talk about movie making. Also did I expect the Gulabi to become such a hit or Golmal to become such a flop. When I cannot decide these things, why should I plan? You can think about your career but you cannot plan.
You plan the career making some assumptions?
Assume..(a brief pause) Assumptions are always in dark. You assume she loves you. But she is not. So I dont believe in assumptions.
Other personal interests?
I love cricket. My favorite player is Azhar. I used to like Ravi Shastri. Gavaskar is good but not my type. He is slow.
Sachin is excellent. Also another hero is Rahul Dravid. He is the one who comes at 15th over and takes it till the 50th over. Did you see today's paper? Someone died of heart attack when Sachin was out. I will bet that never would that incident happen for Rahul Dravid.(everyone in the room breaks into laughter). I love Rahul Dravid. I like his cricket attitude.
He finished the interview with the remark that it was his pleasure talking to us. It was so modest and great of him. We thank Chakri for receiving us so friendly and taking all our questions patiently. We wish him all the success in his future endeavours.