Ad filmmaker Raj Pippalla is not known by many Telugu film lovers as his full-length feature debut film ‘Boni’ released in cinemas four years ago. But this ever confident filmmaker is likely to push himself forward with his creative skills in his latest craft ‘Bangaru Kodipetta’. Forever excited and passionate about films, his plan after ‘Boni’ was to develop his career into a full-fledged one by thoroughly understanding the pulse of audiences and consequently come out with new ideas. This four years gap has helped him to move his awe-inspiring ideas from his mind to the screen. Here are some excerpts from an exclusive interview with Raj Pippalla, the director of ‘Bangaru Kodipetta’.
After ‘Boni’ you almost vanished. What made you return to film direction with ‘Bangaru Kodipetta’ again?
It was necessary to take time to understand how the Telugu film industry works. I wanted to figure out what is the right fit in terms of commercial viability and stories and characters that appeal to audiences. ‘Boni’ was a huge learning experience for me.
Your previous movie ‘Boni’ was an action flick and ‘Bangaru Kodipetta’ is comedy? Is it an experiment?
Actually ‘Boni’ was a crime comedy and ‘Bangaaru Kodipetta’ is a Romantic Crime Comedy. It is a space that currently holds my interest.
What sparked the idea to focus this movie around comedy?
I love a humorous perspective on life and that will always be a part of my films.
Were there any films that inspired you to make this movie?
I love fractured timelines and multi-plot stories. Movies like ‘11:14’, ‘Go’ (by Doug Liman) were my inspiration. They are not similar to each other, except that they are both multi-plot stories and they conclude in the most fascinating of ways.
Title ‘Bangaaru Kodipetta’ sounds interesting? What is the film about?
The film is about how all of us run around looking for Bangaru Kodi Pettas (a pot of gold). In the end you realise that it resides in us.
Your creative promotional posters of ‘Bangaaru Kodipetta’ are interesting too. Looks like you have used your ad filmmaking knowledge to the extent possible in promoting this film.
Thank you. The producer and my friend Sunitha Tati and our promotion team – Anil and Bhanu and I worked together to create the posters. We wanted to reinforce the idea that the film was quirky and interesting by presenting it in the cartoon/graphic novel format.
Can you talk about casting Navdeep and Swathi in the lead roles?
I had written the script with Swathi in mind. I wanted someone Telugu who had a flair for comedy and yet was capable of a sensitive performance…. Well that was Swathi for me. Honestly, Navadeep was not the first choice. A friend of mine suggested his name and I decided to meet him and see how it would work out. Let me say now...after the journey. There is no one else who would have done justice to our film. He is an amazing actor and I am looking forward to some great work from him in the future.
How is your working relationship with them?
Love them as actors and such a joy to have cast them and made this film with them. They completely trusted me and that is a tremendous joy for any director.
As a director, what is most difficult to film?
Humor, is hard to capture. Something that is not too loud, yet makes your heart smile.
How did you collaborate with producer Sunitha Tati?
We decided to make a film which we knew was commercial and make sure it would not get affected by the current filmmaking system.
Did she give you a lot of freedom?
There was never me or her. I wanted this to be our film and both of us journeyed as two friends making a film.
What kind of say did Sunitha have over final output?
I had the final cut, though I am the kind of guy who loves other people’s opinion. It always makes the film better.
How do you put your actors at ease on the set?
I did some rehearsals and I am not sure if I put them at ease, but I did whatever it takes to get the performance.
Tell us about film locations?
‘Bangaaru Kodipetta’ was shot mostly in Hyderabad, with a few days in the Vikarabad forest, and some time in Bhimavaram and Palakollu areas.
Which is your favourite scene/scenes in the film?
Tough one.. so many… answering would give away the story.. so this question is saved for post-release : )
Why did you cast non-actors like Ram-Lakshman in key roles in this film?
One day I was narrating this story to my Aunt, Indira… one of the tracks of the movie has twin brothers… and she casually suggested casting the fight-masters… and I loved that idea.
How long did you shoot this film?
Around 45 days with few more for a song and some patch work.
Music plays vital role in a film? Why only Mahesh Shankar for music when there are many leading music directors available?
When I spoke with Mahesh for the first time, I felt that he understood the journey I wanted to take. I wanted to do ethnic funk… and I wanted to create ethnic sounds with a global palette. That needs the right sensibility, so as to give something new and yet not alienate the Telugu Audience.
Your favourite song?
‘Yemo..’, which you will hear soon… as we release our Audio.
Tell us about cinematographer Sahir Raza’s work?
I spent about 2 months with Sahir prior to shoot. I wanted a DOP who would be available for the homework and work in an independent manner, i.e., where we both do whatever is necessary to make the shot happen.
What kind of response has the theatrical trailer gotten from the audience?
Amazing response from a range of people. I am pleased that they sense a “fresh” experience from the film.
Who’s been your favourite director/directors so far?
A long list… in no particular order….and only a few names here; Spielberg, James Cameron, Steven Soderbergh, Kieslowski, Paul Thomas Anderson, Coen brothers and many more…
You have worked for Nagarjuna’s film ‘Aakasa Veedhilo’. Tell us about that work experience and your association with Nagarjuna.
It was a great experience since I was only handling production aspects of that movie in the U.S and Canada. I had come down to Andhra to work with him, though the project never materialized… that journey helped a lot in understanding the workings of the industry. From a personal pov, I am tremendously thankful to him for being such a gracious host.
Having worked with Nagarjuna and Sumanth, any plans to direct Naga Chaitanya in near future?
Would love to in one capacity or the other!
How do you react for negative comments or reviews?
Great learning elements. I soak them up and listen very carefully.
What’s your next project? What genre is it going to be? And who are you looking forward to casting in it?
:) Will announce soon.
What are the latest ads that you shot?
I shot a mobile ad with cricketer Dhoni.
What dream do you have for your future?
I would love for Andhra to be on the international map of movies and for people from here working on international projects and vice versa. It will happen.. am hoping and wanting it to be soon.
One final question. If you could take a trip down your memory lane what would you tell yourself?
Patience and trust yourself!
Wish you a big box-office success for ‘Bangaaru Kodipetta’ and Good Luck for your future endeavors.
___Radhika Andluri, Ragalahari.com