When he entered the film industry, Venky Atluri came only with a passion for writing. He had no Godfather here. He started out as a small-time actor. Today, he is the director of a successful bilingual. 'SIR' in Telugu and 'Vaathi' in Tamil are doing well in theatres.
In this interview, the 'Tholi Prema' and 'Rang De' maker talks about the reception that the Dhanush-starrer is garnering ever since it was released on February 17. He also talks about other topics like his journey in the film industry, the experience gained so far, and more.
The success of 'SIR' is definitely a step up for me. Although the story takes place in the 1990s, it is relevant to today's times and how the education system struggles to achieve equity for lower-middle-class and middle-middle-class people. Education is a necessity and as long as it remains that way, 'SIR' will be a relevant film.
I approached Dhanush during the 2020 lockdown at a time when restrictions were being eased. He is a man of few words. As soon as he listened to my narration, he clapped and showed enthusiasm to team up with me. He is a gifted actor who knows how exactly a scene is going to shape up. His level of planning and insights are amazing.
Doing a socially-aware film is a shift from the rom-com genre for me. 'Rang De' made me realize that one more rom-com will result in a typecast. That's why I picked up the issue of education and built a story. I drew from some incidents I know of. I myself was educated mostly in the 1990s.
Students who watch 'SIR' will become sensitive about their parents' struggles. When I was a child, my mother had a struggle trying to educate me. I became a filmmaker when I was in my early 30s. It was too late for a middle-class person!
Our society is not conscious of the dignity of labour. We look down upon those who do blue-collar jobs as against white-collar jobs. We don't realize that work is work. A scene in the film also throws light on caste-based discrimination. I am against the caste system and my outlook is reflected by the scene.
'SIR' and '3 Idiots' (Hindi) are totally different. The thread of three boys searching for a respected teacher doesn't make them similar in any way. 'Super 30' (Hindi) was a biopic. After watching that film, I was relieved that it has got no similarities with my script. 'SIR' is fictional completely. 'Super 30' was not fiction.
'SIR' won't have a sequel. I have never thought along those lines.
Samuthirakani, who plays a villainous educational entrepreneur, has no fight with the hero. An action scene between them would have made the film unrealistic. What happens between them is a verbal war.
Sithara Entertainments is quite happy with the result. The confidence I displayed while speaking at the pre-release event has been validated by the BO result. Trivirkam garu got involved in some ways as a producer. The father-son scene in the second half was not elaborate at first. When I discussed the scene with Trivikram garu, he gave me an insight. The scene got elevated by his idea.
Thanks to OTT, non-Tollywood actors like Fahadh Faasil, Rishab Shetty, Rakshit Shetty, and Prithviraj Sukumaran have become close to our minds. Dhanush's movies like 'Asuran' and 'Karnan' have been watched by our audience on OTT. There was a time when non-Telugu movies that we knew were limited to superstar movies. These days, we know a number of Tamil and Malayalam movies far more intimately.
Language barriers are disappearing. That's why films like 'Baahubali' and 'KGF' have gone national. 'Pushpa' was watched by the Tamil audience. 'Baahubali 2' was the highest grosser in Tamil Nadu despite being a dubbed movie. It is still among the top grossers. It's not true that the Tamil audience don't watch movies made by Tollywood. 'Hello Brother' was dubbed and released in Tamil. It became a blockbuster. 'Eega' did well in Tamil. The response for 'Vaathi' ('SIR' in Tamil) is outstanding. I was witness to the audience there in a theatre clapping continuously. I am confident that the Hindi audience, too, will accept the film if dubbed. It's a universal concept.
It is too early to talk about my next film but it will be an edgy movie and not a social drama. My focus now is on maximizing the reach of 'SIR'. I will think about my next project after all this settles down. I don't want to stick to one genre.
Working with the likes of Dil Raju garu, Madhura Sreedhar garu, and technicians like PC Sreeram garu and Thaman has been a great learning curve for me. I became a better director after working with PC garu.