(NOTE: This interview was originally published on March 15, 2006. We are republishing the interview from our archives.)
A. Kodandarami Reddy, Chiranjeevi, K.S. Rama Rao, and Yandamuri, these names once denoted a definite box-office hit formula. Kodandarami Reddy gave memorable hits to all the top heroes in the 80’s and 90’s. He had directed Chiranjeevi in more than 20 films. At the same time, he worked with other contemporary stars like Balakrishna, Nagarjuna, Venkatesh, and even seniors like ANR, Krishna, etc. It took some persuasion to get his interview, which is now presented here exclusive to our readers:
Sri: Kodandarami Reddy gaarU, namastE! I hear you came to madras to become a hero?
AKR: (laughs) Indeed, I came to Madras to become a hero! But I didn’t get any chances in films, and I eventually landed in the direction department.
Sri: Even getting a chance as a director is not an easy thing. How could you find success in that?
AKR: P. Chandrashekar Reddy and I belong to the same village. When I searching for roles, he helped me and I stayed with him. He was the one who introduced me to V. Madhusudana Rao gaaru…
Sri: P. Chandrashekar Reddy himself is a director! Why did you not join him instead?!
AKR: He wasn’t a director by then â€“ he was an associate to V. Madhusudana Rao gaaru. And, thus I joined him too. …While doing that film, P.C. Reddy gaaru got a chance as a director and K. Raghavendra Rao took his place from then.
Sri: Raghavendra Rao already worked with veterans like P. Pullayya (Ardhangi, Jayabheri, etc.) and Kamalakara Kameshwara Rao (Pandava Vanavasam), etc. by that time, isn’t it?
AKR: Yes, he did, but he also worked for Manushulu Maaraali with V. Madhusudana Rao gaaru After that, he went back to his father K.S. Prakash Rao gaaru. I continued to work for the Hindi version of the film, and that too was a good hit of those times.
Sri: Samaaj Ko Badal Daalo, you mean?
AKR: Yes! Raghavendra Rao became a director soon after, and I continued to work for both Raghavendra Rao and Madhusudana Rao gaaru.
Sri: Before your first film Sandhya was released, I heard that you lost a couple of opportunities as a director. What exactly happened?
AKR: True! I was supposed to direct Ram Robert Raheem (remake of the Hindi flick Amar Akbar Anthony) with Krishna gaaru. I was close to K.S. Rama Rao gaaru. He recommended my name to Uppalapati Satyanarayana who was making the film, but Navayuga (distributor) backed off, suspecting that it’d be risky to invest in the project if it’s directed by a debutant. I was crestfallen, but Lakshmana Rao gaaru of Laxmi publicities encouraged me, called the producers to inform that he’d finance a film that I’d direct. That was Sandhya.
Sri: Interestingly, both these films, Ram Robert Raheem and Sandhya, are remakes. Did you plan it that way?
AKR: Yes, I felt that a remake would be less risky than a straight film. While Sandhya was still in making, there was a marriage in Sree Lingamurthy’s house, which several distributors attended, saw the rushes for Sandhya, and bought distribution rights for all areas right away! The film was a decent hit at the box office.
Sri: Tell me about your second film Nyaayam Kaavaali.
AKR: While doing Sandhya, Kranthi gaaru approached me with the novel Kotta Malupu, which was published in the periodical Chatura. We made a lot of changes to translate the plot on to celluloid. Personally, I do not like court dramas, but Sarada gaaru and Kranthi gaaru encouraged me to do those for the movie. I did those scenes, albeit reluctantly, without following any standard procedures and protocols. When the film was released, Chiranjeevi and I went to Vijayawada to see the audience’s response. The film was received so well that it went on to become a super hit! …
Sri: …And at the 100-day celebrations of the film, you announced another film in the same combo…
AKR: Yeah! After Nyaayam Kaavaali, we wanted to do a film with more emphasis on the technical aspects. So we did Kiraayi Rowdy-lu, which was also a hit.
Sri: In Krishnam Raju’s Pralaya Rudrudu that followed, the song kumkuma poosina aakaSamaa… has the mark of Raghavendra Rao!
AKR: (Laughs) Of course, yeah! I was still new, and I also assisted Raghavendra Rao for so many years that some such mark is inevitably found. I developed my style later though.
Sri: Most of your films were out of novels…
AKR: Yes, I did films based on novels with nearly all heroes of those times. All the movies that I did for Creative Commercials were based on Yandamuri’s novels. With Krishna, I made Rama Rajyamlo Bheema Raju based on Vasundhara’s novel. Goonda with Chiranjeevi for Rajyalakshmi Arts banner etc. was based on novels too.
Sri: Your film Khaidi with Chiranjeevi, which has a story based on the English film Rambo, was a super hit. But then, in the same combination, Veta based on another English film was a disaster. What went wrong with the latter?
AKR: That’s because people didn’t have any expectations for Khaidi. But, by the time Veta hit the theaters, they were already expecting to see something. Also, the heroine getting married to someone else in the film was not taken well by many. All these made the film a disaster.
Sri: I think you worked with Chiranjeevi for more than twenty films. How is your relationship with him?
AKR: We were always good friends. I know him well and I do know his moods so much that I can perfectly assess how he is going to be in the next moment! And, yeah, we worked for more than twenty films together.
Sri: How come there is no film in your combo after Mutha Mestri!
AKR: Actually, we did plan some projects, but they didn’t work out. He was busy too, and then the stories we had did not suit his image.
Sri: We hear this all the time! When a film doesn’t happen despite crazy combinations and lots of planning, the reason is that the story doesn’t suit the hero. How, then, do other people make films with the hero nevertheless?!
AKR: (Laughs) I think everyone knows the answer!
Sri: So, what went wrong really?
AKR: Nothing went wrong. We are still good friends! (He refused to talk further on that)
Sri: By the way, is it true that you directed some part of the film Iddaru Mitrulu?
AKR: Actually, I directed the songs but not the film. As Raghavendra Rao gaaru was busy, I looked after it but not completely.
Sri: With Kamal Hasan, you worked for Oka Radha Iddaru Krishnulu, and the film was a good hit too! Why was there no other film with him?
AKR: We did plan a couple of films with him, but he didn’t like the subject. Also, he was concentrating more on Tamil than on Telugu. So, every time we went for discussions, he wanted to do it either in Tamil, or he just didn’t like the subject. And, I too was busy at the time, and finally, nothing worked out!
Sri: People say that he interferes in the shooting a lot…?
AKR: Not true! Sometimes, he asks if he can improvise the shot with some gesture or a small modification in acting, and that’s all common! And, there were at least some cases where I didn’t agree with his suggested changes, and he played it my way then! Thus, there is nothing like he directs the shot himself! It just never happened!
Sri: You worked with Balakrishna for films like Anasuyamma Gaari Alludu, Nari Nari Naduma Murari, Bobbili Simham, etc. How is your relationship with him?
AKR: He is very good. His heart is like that of a child â€“ very open. We never had any issues or misunderstandings between us.
Sri: How was working with the legendary ANR gaaru, and other veterans like Krishna, Sobhan Babu, and Krishnam Raju?
AKR: It’s a great feeling! He never had an attitude that he’s a senior. He is a down-to-earth person who is always ready to listen to what the director said. We learn things by just being with him. He is a walking encyclopedia! Krishna gaaru is a very straightforward person. …I never had any problems with anyone. I had a very good relationship with all the stars that I worked with. We never had arguments!
Sri: I heard that you were cheated in business and thereby lost a lot of money. Is that right? How did that happen?
AKR: That’s not concerned with films, and that was a long time back… (He refused to tell in detail about it)
Sri: What’s the reason for this gap anyway?
AKR: It’s not in our hands! The projects which were supposed to be done didn’t materialize…
Interview by: Sri Atluri
Compiled and Edited by Nachaki