Exclusive : Dialogue Writer Padmavathi Interview

Dialogue writer Padmavathi will be making her debut as a director very soon. A very earnest person, she is very clear about her strengths and limitations and has no qualms expressing it. She als is very objective and practical in her thinking and that analysis of people and cinema has helped her be an easy person to be associated with. This is Y.Sunita Chowdhary’s brief conversation with Padmavathi for Klapboardpost.com. Gandhi Tatha Chettu is a children’s film which is going through post production. It is an Indie project done by crowd funding. Started writing in 2020, Padmavathi got the funds in two months this year and started shooting in June. It will have a festival run first and then come on OTT or theatre. Why did Padmavathi choose a small film for a debut? “It is hard, in the Telugu film industry we focus on commercial films; that is our forte also. If we are doing pan Indian films, that is because we are able to appeal to the masses, able to create big heroes. This one is just about children, about a 13 year old kid and a tree that a grandpa planted. People obviously didn’t see the financial benefit in it, also my best friend
wanted to produce it. It isn’t a big budget film, and could be done in 80 or 85 lakhs. We tried for crowd funding and around fifty people invested in the film. We didn’t know who invested because it is from a website called cinemastockexchange.com. They sell shares of the film too. The ones who have invested have done it for pure love for cinema.”

Padmavathi had worked on Manamantha and Mahanati. This one, titled Gandhi Tatha Chettu was an idea given by a friend that is a love story between a man and a tree. The writer developed a story and her friend observed that it was nicer than the concept he had written. Padmavathi had actually written a story but once this came up, she took it forward. She says, “My friend’s story is about a man who plants a tree and grows up along with it and dies eventually. He planted it when he was six years old but my story is different from that. That is the intent of the story but this has branched out to different angles. I made it into a 13 year old girl, the man’s granddaughter who protects the village while in the process of protecting the tree. The story has taken a different direction. I ran the story parallelly.”

She adds, “Since we did it as an Indie project, resources were minimal. Villagers were side actors and the film was shot in pure Telangana dialect. We picked those who knew the accent and the locations were at Nizamabad and Kamareddy. There was the entire village in the background with around 200 people. We had to train them, make sure they were spontaneous. They all played a bigger part. The girl has been picked after auditioning many, we shall make an announcement soon. There are two DoPs for this – Sreejitha is a local Nizamabad girl who is a cinematographer and worked for Color Photo and the other was Vishwadev Bhatla of Uyyala Jampala. This is a genuine attempt and it shows that it has been done honestly. It is a cute children’s film. I want a lot of kids to watch it as it is based on Gandhian principles, of hope, love, non violence. I am happy and confident of its outcome.”

Padmavathi always wanted to direct a story that she was confident about and this was the one. Technically, there is no limit or the budgets or the productions; The only thing that she had to do is to write from her heart and that gave her the boost. She shares, “Writing brings the best out of me, there were so many topics to cover in the Telangana dialect..a place I was born and grew up. I as a child was observant and would speak in any dialect easily though they thought I was mocking them. In this story, if a character’s root is from Andhra, I gave it a detailing of their roots. I would give a back story and give it a specific dialect. That is one of the things that I actually loved doing, I had a lot of fun. The money was enough for the story that we were telling. With a little adjustment we could pull it off. We are looking for a festival run, we made it with that intention. It is a universal subject….between man and nature and also Gandhian principles.”

Will she continue writing or pursue directorial ambitions? She says as a matter of fact, “Both. I strictly choose cinemas based on story. I can’t write if I don’t connect. I have a very different voice and tone which suits certain films. A story is a journey of emotions and we all connect to only a few. I watch very few films, I skip horror, gore etc. I have to see, watch and enjoy. I wrote a thriller, a series called Brinda but it has a lot of scope for drama so I did it. I don’t feel the same when it comes to other thrillers. I do it intuitively. It is tough to say no to work, it has its own repercussions but we have to please ourselves and foresee what kind of a writer we shall be in the future. In the long run if I am not being choosy, there is a good chance I might hate it. I don’t want to be in that space.” Post Covid, how is the space for female writers ? She says, “It would be pretentious to say that there is equality in being treated, but most of the time we are underestimated. There are problems, but if you want to do something, we can fight and look beyond it. There will always be people who can accommodate you and will be looking for such writers. It is about funding the right people to work with.”

Padmavathi stresses that we need a lot more women to come and try for opportunities. Her family was neutral, neither did they support me or say no to not working in the film field. Hers is a family of academicians and her mother gave her the chance to explore; she had no clue about the industry. This is an interdependent industry and there can be nothing that can be done about the job security she states. “Sometimes when you do a film, you all get so close to each other and a rapport is established which is so good. There are writer-directors who are women but here writers who have commercial films and big films are few. When a popular technician was recently asked if he knew any female writers, he said he can hardly think of any names. Female writers give attention to details, we give importance to small things right? That is reflected in writings too. Gowri made a completely commercial film Pelli SandhaD, Sowjanya made a decent rom-com. Whether good or bad, we should be there. It is not about women being successful or failing…they should not be outnumbered. Here the pressure of giving an opportunity to direct and make it a success…basically because you are a woman is too much. If there is a hostile environment, talented ones get filtered. Only those with patience stay on. Not mandatory that those who have patience and are hard working might be or not be talented. For example, in my case, if I am only the writer..it doesn’t mean there is no other female writer better than me. It just means I fought it out more than anyone else. Someone more talented than me went back home not able to sustain here. If we give a healthy environment for women to sustain here, we might get better writers.”

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