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Director Karthik Dandu talks about 'Virupaksha', his journey since 2015 and more


Director Karthik Varma Dandu says that 'Virupaksha' came from him after years of rumination and cogitation. He stuck to his guns after his first movie failed to draw audiences in 2015. 'Virupaksha', his second film, took shape after 'Pushpa' director Sukumar started working on its screenplay in 2018. In this interview, the young director talks about the latest Summer hit. He says that a few incidents in 'Virupaksha' were drawn from his personal experiences, which included the sudden death of a neighbour due to a freak accident. He talks about his idea of horror and says that horror movies have a wide set of audience. "Many I know watch horror movies when they want to chill out in their free time. That's why films like 'Arundhati' attained a high status," Karthik says. The film will be expanded into other languages slowly. The makers are following the 'Kantara' model of releasing in the home territory and then going for a release in other languages.

I was brought up in Vizag. My father passed away when I was in college. My mother is a strong woman and it is she who brought me up. My brother migrated to Kuwait and supported our family financially.

Horror is my favourite genre. There have been no sincere, honest, bona fide horror movies in Telugu for years. Horror comedies have been there, but I wanted to make a proper film with horror elements. I read a news report about the murder of a woman on the suspicion that she was a witch. The innocent woman was lynched to death in a village somewhere in North India in 2016 or so. What if she really knew black magic? Wouldn't it have put her killers in danger? That's the spark behind 'Virupaksha'.

Till 2018, I was not Sukumar garu's disciple. After I narrated the story of 'Virupaksha', my journey with him began. Since 2018, I have been his disciple, I must say. He is the project-maker of 'Virupaksha'. It was he who decided that BVSN Prasad must be the producer and Sai Dharam Tej must play the lead role. About 6-7 versions of screenplay were written. With Sukumar garu, the story remains the same but the treatment undergoes improvements. The best thrilling moment in the climax came from Sukumar garu.

The character Nandini had to be played by someone who is fresh to the Telugu audience but not to cinema. I stumbled across Samyuktha Menon, who by then had done a couple of movies in Malayalam. Her name is Nandini because Nandi is Lord Shiva's 'vahanam'. The name of the village is Rudravanam, which has a Shiva connection. Several names are metaphorical.

Ajaneesh Loknath completed his work in just 6.5 days. He had time constraints. Raja Krishna's sound design is equally creditable. The train scene in the first half is getting universal acclaim.

Anything that is spine-chilling is horror. If I suddenly go to the 10th floor and jump from there, you will shiver. That's horror. It's such an idea of horror that made me write some scenes in 'Virupaksha'. I don't agree that my film is a mixture of 'Chandramukhi' and 'Arundhati'.

I worked on the story of 'Karthikeya' with Chandoo Mondeti. Later, I directed my debut movie 'Bham Bholenath' with Navdeep and Naveen Chandra. It was a commercial failure. After that movie flopped, I analyzed my strengths and weakness. I took a gap of years before doing my second film. I personally don't believe in the supernatural effects of black magic, etc.

When Sai Dharam Tej was hospitalized for 22 days in 2021 after his road accident, I was devastated. It was like I was in a coma myself. I regained strength only after the hospital issued a statement saying that he was safe. During his recuperation, I reworked some ideas to make it even better. He underwent speech therapy to fix his speech issues, and also participated in dance classes to make his body flexible. He struggled for the first three days on set. Later on, everything was alright.

Many producers and directors have called me in recent days. I have not accepted an advance amount from any producer so far. I have got 2-3 consummate ideas in mind for my next film.

Updated on April 25, 2023