His directorial, Jo Achyutananda, is scheduled to release on September 9 and one would expect Srinivas Avasarala to be neck deep giving finishing touches to his film. We catch up with him on the sets of the Telugu remake of Hunterrr, in which he plays the lead. “These days I’m working nearly 20 hours a day. Until about 1.30p.m. I was at the editing suit for my film, afternoons I shoot for this film till about 10 p.m. And I’m back doing what’s necessary for Jo Achyutananda,” says Avasarala, during a break.
In 2014, when his debut directorial Oohalu Gusagusalade came as a breath of fresh air, he had a few offers. But he took his time. The idea for Jo… came at an uncanny time, when he met with multiple injuries on his wrist while shooting for Kanche in Georgia. When he was wheeled into an operation theatre, he found himself humming Kishore Kumar songs. Out of the blue, he was stuck with an idea of a story of two brothers. “They were taking me in for anaesthesia and I kept hoping that when I wake up after the surgery, I’ll remember this trail of thought,” he laughs. An operation table might be a weird place for a new story idea, but Avasarala says he was at his relaxed best, since there was nothing else he could do anyway.
The first glimpse of Jo Achyutananda would make one wonder if Regina is the bone of contention between brothers Nara Rohith and Naga Shaurya, but Avasarala denies it with a glint of a smile. He didn’t want to make another love triangle, after Oohalu... “It’s a story between brothers,” he quips.
After Oohalu…, a few actors sent him feelers and enquired when he’s starting his next. He laughs at how they backed off the minute they learnt it was a two-hero story. Avasarala narrated his idea to a couple of actors before approaching Nara Rohith. “At that time he was doing action films and I wasn’t sure if he’d take it up. But he listened to the story and was game,” he shares. Next, he was looking for an actor to play Rohith’s younger brother and roped in Naga Shaurya, with whom he worked in Oohalu… He was keen on casting a fresh face for the leading lady, before the tables turned in favour of Regina Cassandra. Much before he had the script in place, Avasarala decided he would want Shankar Mahadevan to sing a song in rag Yaman. ‘Oka Lalana’ composed by Kalyanramana is like a dream come true.
The strength of Oohalu… was in its writing and Avasarala has his formal training in script writing to thank for it. “The most important education I received is in writing. You can come up with great ideas but you need to know the craft, to structure an idea into a good script. Oohalu… figured in a list of seven must watch films of 2014. A few days ago I came across another article that mentioned Oohalu… andAshta Chemma among the 15 small films that made a difference. Things like these make me happy,” he smiles.
As an actor, Avasarala hasn’t had it easy. He contends that the industry, largely, doesn’t focus on writing strong parts beyond the hero’s character. He remembers a time when a producer gave him a cheque for Rs. 5 lakh for a role he didn’t quite like. “I didn’t have much in my bank account and my car didn’t have enough fuel. The money was tempting but I stuck to my guts and said no,” he says.
Of late, we’ve seen him in a bunch of projects including Nannaku Prematho, Kanche, A… Aa andGentleman. He cites varied reasons to pick a project, from wanting to work with Trivikram and be around with friend and director Mohanakrishna Indraganti watching him work. “Money is never a prime reason. If work is satisfying, money will eventually come.”
Acting in the remake of Hunterrr was an instinct-driven choice. He liked the Hindi original and agreed. “There’s always a chance that the film might work for the wrong reasons, but I hope it clicks for right reasons,” says Avasarala, referring to the character of a sex-addict protagonist.
Be it as an actor or a filmmaker, Avasarala doesn’t want to be swayed into making hasty decisions. “The other day someone who has money at his disposal asked me if I’d make a film. I am all for collaborations done the right way. Filmmaking is an art; it shouldn’t end up like making an inanimate coffee table,” he signs off.