Balagam’ to achieve this commercial range: Director Venu Yeldandi

‘Balagam’, which was released in theatres on March 3, has been doing extremely well at the BO. Produced by Dil Raju Productions, the film is directed by Venu Yeldandi, popularly known as Venu Tillu, the comedian of ‘Jabardasth’ fame. In this interview, Venu talks about his vision and convictions. When the story of ‘Balagam’ reached a distributor, he felt that the script deserved the backing of a big name. “That’s how the script reached Dil Raju. I am also extremely delighted that Megastar Chiranjeevi garu himself is amazed by ‘Balagam’. He watched the movie in detail,” Venu says. The director also reveals that he had made a 70-minute documentary on his mother but didn’t release it. Catch him talk about ‘Balagam’ and his future plans.

I have acted in about 200 films. Yet, I didn’t get a commercial break. I used my free time to write some stories. I wrote ‘Balagam’ with the aim of going to the next level in my career. I am influenced by arthouse Marathi movies and raw Kollywood movies, where the performances are realistic. I walked out of ‘Jabardasth’ in 2015, following which my interest in writing grew with extra time in hand.

When I set out to create ‘Balagam’, I delved into watching numerous movies to stimulate my mind. After all, the core of the story revolved around a deceased body. I had to contemplate on the appropriate duration for displaying the body, how to prevent ennui in the viewers, and other similar questions during the scriptwriting phase. The screenplay and ambiance had to remain consistent throughout the film.

I come from a large joint family. I am my mother’s 9th son. Our extended family comprises 120 members. Even a small festival brings 50 of them together. When my father died, they all gathered. The death rituals and cacophony were new to me. Those experiences were considered in writing ‘Balagam’.

The climax of ‘Balagam’ has a real-life inspiration. Komurayya’s get-up and demeanor have been drawn from my father’s elder brother, whose wife died ten days after his death. They had been married for 86 years. Their deaths ten days apart were an indication that the two soulmates wanted to be together in the hereafter. That understanding struck me like anything! Their son broke down during the rendition of a song while a death ritual was being performed. All that influenced me to make ‘Balagam’.

‘Balagam’ is not a preachy film. Nobody would listen to you if you preach. You have to make people realize things by themselves without melodrama and preachiness. That’s why I infused that important song in the climax.

I wrote ‘Balagam’ for myself. But nobody would have invested Rs 2-3 Cr in me. Moreover, I haven’t been seen on the big screen for 3-4 years. Had I been the lead actor, the budget would have been about Rs 50-60 lakh. I grew up in Sircilla. That’s why I located the story in Telangana. The audience don’t mind regional backdrops. Don’t we watch Korean dramas, Hollywood movies, and all?

Honestly, I didn’t expect this range of commercial success. I only hoped that the film will recover the costs. Dil Raju garu’s backing is the reason why ‘Balagam’ reached this range. He wanted the film to be released in theatres. In fact, the song ‘Potti Pilla’ was not in my mind. The bakery scene between the lead pair was also not in my mind. He also gave some suggestions regarding the sequencing of scenes.

I will be directing movies for sure. And I will also be an artist. I recently narrated a storyline to Dil Raju garu. He gave the nod. It is going to be made on a bigger scale compared to ‘Balagam’. I will be its director.

Since the release of ‘Balagam’, even my close friends refrain from addressing me as ‘arey’ (laughs). This sudden shift in their behavior is both daunting and peculiar! It will take some time for me to get accustomed to the newfound admiration and regard for myself.

I come from a family where I am the only one who completed SSC. It’s historic in our family (laughs). For someone like me to dream of a film career itself was beyond imagination. There was a time when I hadn’t travelled to Karimnagar from Sircilla. I didn’t know anything about the 24 crafts. Such a person as I became popular with ‘Jabardasth’. I am now 40. Had ‘Balagam’ flopped, people would have mocked my directorial ambitions.

‘Balagam’ is an original story. I pity the journalist who is claiming that ‘Balgam’ is based on a short story he wrote (in 2013) for a Telugu daily. Someone is misleading him. Both his story and my film are based on a death ritual. Two different people can make two different films on the same ritual.