Phalana Abbayi Phalana Ammayi is a feel-good, conversational romance: Director Srinivas Avasarala 

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‘Phalana Abbayi Phalana Ammayi, starring Naga Shaurya, Malvika Nair, produced by People Media Factory and Dasari Productions, will hit theatres on March 17. The actor-turned-director Srinivas Avasarala said it took one and a half years to write the script alone.

Realism in the film

‘Phalana Abbayi Phalana Ammayi’ is a realistic film. I didn’t want characters to mouth routine cliche dialogues or go with a proper script. I used to watch independent films a lot. The characters in those films are so realistic as if someone takes a camera and starts shooting while two characters speak to each other. It looks so realistic. So I genuinely felt that I should attempt such films.

Coming to our story ‘Phalana Abbayi Phalana Ammayi’, I was inspired by real-life characters and incidents in my life. It’s a simplistic and a common story that is closer to people. It’s not a distant story happened somewhere far off, no!. So when I thought what can be the title, this phrase struck me, Phalana Abbayi Phalana Ammayi.

Usually, films are based on real stories as filmmakers usually claim. What’s new about ‘Phalana Abbayi Phalana Ammayi’?

You’ve to watch only on the screen to find out what’s new in this film (laughs). If Avasarala Srinivas and Naga Shaurya have joined hands, everyone might think that, oh this film is going to be like ‘Oohalu Gusagusalade’ or it could be any romantic comedy. But ‘Phalana Abbayi Phalana Ammayi’ doesn’t look like a film that is scripted. Imagine how actors really look when they talk to each other on screen. Rather than banking on dialogues, comedy or punchlines, it’s a realistic attempt to explore human behaviour on the screen.

Thinking away from the commercial meters, you have this flair for writing scripts with ease. Don’t you think it is quite a challenge to even write scripts casually?

Every film has its own vibe. During the time of ‘Oohalu Gusagusalade’, I noticed some kind of joy flowing within me when I was writing the script. I felt as if I was creating a new world. While writing ‘Phalana Abbayi Phalana Ammayi’, I felt I was exploring real people. I usually take one and half year’s time to write a story. Each film decides its own style. I don’t write scripts deciding that this film is going to have commercial elements or it would be an art film. It’s incorrect to make a film keeping commercial elements in view. Even if we do so, there will be a disconnect somewhere in the middle. So we get derived output only if there is a perfect resonance between the story and the style that you intended to showcase.

Every film is different. If we think that we can easily make the next movie based on the previous movie which is a hit, we will go wrong. The story stinks. When we write a story, we can easily make out the style of the film. If you are successful in explaining the style to the crew and cast, you will probably taste success.

What’s the reason behind such a long gap between one film to another?

This current film took one and a half years. Even after ‘Oohalu Gusagusalade’ in 2014, I started writing ‘Jyo Achyutananda’ in 2016. So I take one year for scripting alone. I started this film ‘Phalana Abbayi Phalana Ammayi’ in 2019. We were shooting in the UK and the USA. We had to face struggles due to Covid. Not all were granted a visa. There were travel restrictions. Even for shooting overseas, some restrictions were clamped so we had a tough time managing all these things. So it took time to complete the shoot.  

On Kanula Chatu Meghama, the first single and Kalyan Malik

I’ve known Kalyan Malik since the days of ‘Ashta Chamma’. But I started creative interaction with him only during ‘Oohalu Gusagusalade’. I know his taste and sense of humour. So communication between us grew bigger because of the familiarity. He did amazingly well in ‘Jyo Achyutananda’ and ‘Oohalu Gusagusalade’. That’s how we collaborated to get good output again.

Usually, a director expands his market with each and every film. But when it comes to your career, you don’t seem to bother with such calculations, why so?

The story is what decides me. If any massive story strikes your mind, you would usually try to mount it. Then you carefully look into the cast. Who could be the best possible actor that fits into your story? But honestly, I don’t write stories keeping specific heroes in mind. The scale doesn’t mean budget alone. What longevity does a film have? To what extent it reached the audience over time is what matters to me.

On working with Naga Shaurya

This film has seven chapters. Each chapter’s length is 20 minutes. And these seven chapters take place in the span of 10 years. Both Shaurya and Malvika Nair are seen in different time spans and ages. Shaurya had to work really hard to bring the look of a teenager and again he had to display the look of a 28-year-young man. So we shot the film beautifully and Shaurya has this special feeling that it’s going to be a hit.

How much of your experience played the role in making the film? What’s the process in bringing this kind of process where dialogues are minimal?

I like the timings and vibes of sunset and sunrise, I always wanted to incorporate them into my films. I also know that it doesn’t really work if we come with dramatic writing and tell people that this is sunrise, no! Too many dialogues don’t really work in this sort of set-up. We need to collaborate with actors to get the natural flow. Also, I don’t know if I am saying this correctly or not. My strength is directing my actors.

Earning a nod from Malvika Nair

When I narrated the story, I explained the entire plot with all the scenes to her. When she heard the story, Malvika reacted very emotionally to the story. There was a personal connection that I noticed in her face. So the lip-lock scene existed at the script level. It’s not that I told her about this particular scene when she came to the set. When the gap came due to Covid, again I had to remind her about the particular scene in the film. I think, if actors know the reason behind such scenes, and what could be the circumstances that drove it, they will definitely get convinced and go the extra mile.

On the film’s genre

It is a love story. It’s a boy-meets-girl story and how they take their relationship is what forms the plot. Luckily the gap worked out well for the film. It has seven chapters, all should have good variations. Had I done one chapter after the other, the desired look would probably have been missed. So the Covid gap inevitably brought what I wanted. The film doesn’t have any turning points. It only depicts an emotional love story.

On future projects

I have a story ready with me though it has not reached the narration stage yet. I haven’t finalised the actors. I and Nani plan to work on a film soon, both are keen to work with one another from a long time. I am also working on web show Kanyasulkam. with Anjali, Naresh, Murali Sharma and Varsha Bollamma. It’ll come to OTTs next month.

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