Deva Katta: Telugu audiences have evolved

Deva Katta needs no introduction. With hard-hitting films like ‘Prasthanam’, Deva Katta not only won a fan following among film aficionados but also became a favorite for many filmmakers. After a long gap, he launched a new film with Sai Dharam Tej as the hero. The film would resume its shoot once the lockdown gets ended. 

Let’s find out what he’s up during the lockdown…..

From ‘Vennela’ to the recently launched political thriller with SDT, your prasthanam has not been a smooth ride. There are long gaps between films…

It depends on how we see it. Everyone has to go through their cycle of understanding and getting through the system. Some invest time in the beginning and some as they enter depending on one’s personality. ‘Vennela’ and ‘Prasthanam’ were totally under my control including the production. I was able to make decisions and stick to them. From ‘Autonagar Surya’ onwards there were various factors that I failed to overcome and get control over the process.

Having said that, I am not in a race with anyone to make as many movies as possible, but while balancing my family and personal life, I’ll keep making films that I thoroughly enjoy writing and shooting. When I am not shooting a film, I keep writing. There are a bunch of scripts that will make their way onto the screen sooner than later.

What do you see as the reason for the failure of Hindi Prasthanam? The Telugu version brought you fame.

I made that commitment seven years back before Sanjay Dutt went to jail. I think it’s a little too late for the Hindi audiences. Though 80% of the reviews were great, we didn’t have the right approach and packaging to make the best out of it.

How has been the experience of ‘Baahubali’ web series? There’s still no talk of its release.

I have fulfilled my responsibilities of setting up the show Bible, writing screenplays for initial episodes, and shooting a part of it. I had to move on with other commitments as the show requires a larger team to shoot the rest of the episodes and the grand action sequences. Netflix is working on it. For a Bahubalian or GoT experience, it takes more time, budgets, and efforts.

What was your role in ‘Baahubali’ movies? Many people say you wrote all the crucial dialogue parts. True?

Not at all. I only wrote the war speech “maranam, edhi maranam” lines in the first part. That too was thought through by SSR gaaru (Rajamouli). I just arranged words to his thoughts.

Did you expect that ‘Vennela’ Kishore would become such a rage when you introduced him 15 years ago?

Of course! He is a lot more fun off-screen than on screen. He is still way too under-explored and he can be one of those legendary actors like Brahmanandam gaaru and Kota gaaru.

Also Read: Vennela Kishore: I am always prepared for a ‘pause’ in life

How do you spot talent? You gave break to Sharwanand and Sundeep Kishan.

It was through auditions and whatever the limited connections/resources we had. We also looked out for talent in theatre and Television.

Short films, documentary, feature films, web series… you had attempted all…

Yes, because I enjoy writing as much as I enjoy shooting. So wanted to be busy in all formats.

How have you been keeping yourself occupied during the quarantine period?

Writing, watching movies/shows, listening to music, exercising every day, and also playing Table Tennis.

You have also directed web series. Tell us web shows you’d recommend? 

My most favorite shows in recent times have been ‘Breaking Bad’, ‘House of Cards’, ‘Game of Thrones’, ‘Money Heist’, ‘Wild Wild Country’, and ‘Narcos’. I am exploring many latest shows now.

What books or films an aspiring writer or director should read/watch?

Any films that are of your natural taste but keep an appetite for the evolving international content. On filmmaking some good books are those famous ones like Syd Field’s “Screenplay” and Robert McKey’s “Story”, Sidney Lumet’s “Making Movies” etc. Another good source is “Masterclass” online classes at www.masterclass.com.

Name five films that you go back to watch for inspiration?

Godfather I and II, Doctor Zhivago, Bourne Series, Any movie from; Quentin Tarantino collection and Tarkovsky collection.

What is the toughest job – making a film or selling/promoting it?

Both require equal effort and attention.

What are the changes you have noticed in filmmaking in the last fifteen years?

More genre-oriented and author backed films are being well made and are well received by the audiences as well. There is room for all kinds of films now.

Do you regret taking up the ‘Autonagar Surya’ project? What went wrong with this film?

I still feel it’s one of the best scripts out there. It was badly executed and got screwed by a bunch of cheap cons.

When people are lapping up entertaining films more, you are making a political thriller with Sai Dharam Tej. What made you approach Sai Dharam Tej for this genre? When will this movie begin its regular shoot?

As I mentioned, it is time for all kinds of films. Audiences have acquired a taste for well-made films irrespective of the genre nowadays. More than calling it a political thriller, I would call it a social drama that we can all relate to. We were supposed to start a regular shoot from April 20 before COVID-19. We will start as soon as the industry opens up.

Many industry people say, there’s a dearth of writers in Telugu cinema. Do you agree?

Maybe we went through a slump for a while but now we are evolving and filling the gap.

You have been airing your political views quite vocally on Twitter. Don’t you think this will harm your prospects?

My views are purely issue-based. I don’t criticize any politician or a party. It’s our responsibility to take a stand on issues because they matter to our society, our lives, and our future. We can’t expect progress without even having an opinion about policies. It will never harm me and I was never trolled because I don’t stand by any particular party. I praise as well as criticizing the same side based on the topic/issue.

Whose work you’ve been inspired by?

Outside India, there are at least a dozen like Quentin Tarantino, Stanely Kubick, Kurosawa, Tarkovsky, David Lean, David Lynch, David Fincher, Christopher Nolan, Alfonso Cuaron, and Dennis Villeneuve. To name some in India: The likes of Mani Rathnam, K Balachandar, and among recent directors, Meghna Gulzar, Neeraj Pandey, and Sujoy Ghosh.

Should a director make films that give him joy or pander to mass audience’s tastes?

Anything the director loves he should follow as he will find his way to reach out to the audiences. That’s internal to the very process of storytelling.

A famous Telugu writer said that secret to a director’s success lies in ‘Telisina Katha Kottaga Cheppali, Teliyani Katha Arthamayyela Cheppali’. Do you agree with that?

Totally!! Beautifully said!

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