Exclusive: ‘Our film school happened in friends rooms’

Y.Sunita Chowdhary

Ramula in Pitta Kathalu is Upendra Varma’s first project as an editor. The talented and multifaceted technician is Tharun Bhascker’s kindergarten friend. He is happy that his work is being appreciated and here in a conversation with Klapboardpost.com, he talks about his journey from Pelli Chupulu to Pitta Kathalu. Ask him how he bagged this opportunity, he says, “Director Venu Udugula narrated some panchayat stories and we were shocked. Tharun wanted the same shock value to be communicated to the audience. He wrote a screenplay and I, being with him for a long time, understood his wavelength. After the cinema had been shot, I wanted to do editing. I worked as a first AD too for this film and have been seeing every shot. I even had time to write my own screenplay and was planning to make my film. I was at Tharun’s home and did the edit on his system and finished it in 6 or 7 days. Tharun too wanted a few changes. We thought there were too many slow motions and waited for a few days and then went with the flow. Saanve Megghana came for another audition and did a brilliant job and so did Naveen. The director usually experiments with new actors and when he sees a spark in them, ropes them in.”ramula

Upendra showed a lot of zeal and passion right from the beginning for film making. He will be soon directing a feature film and is working on drafts. By the end of this year, a film should be out for sure. The editor had studied in HPS and was madly in love with Maniratnam films and his make believe world. His films made him curious and led him to research how films were made. He is well aware of his forte and limitations and is constantly working on improvising and upgrading it. For him filmmaking is an endless area and he says in so many years of film making, people are still coming up with so many unique concepts. He says, “Our film school happened in friends rooms. There are a lot of people asking if film school is important. I have a different perspective. In a film school, more than learning, you find a team and explore. All like-minded assemble at one place. I never considered it as a learning experience. When you watch a film, you have a sensibility of differentiating a good cinema and a bad cinema.”

He further says, “I did engineering and lacked clarity. I was so naïve that I didn’t even know that there is an art college. When I heard about it, I knew it was meant for me. It was a bit late but I caught up. We can learn so much on the internet, can shoot on the phone and getting a camera is not an expensive thing at all now. When I showed my inclination to work in films, my parents wanted me to be sure about it. Initially they didn’t understand if I was serious because post engineering, I ventured into game designing. I was thinking in a movie perspective. The stories that we tell in the game are very similar to that of script writing. There is a programmer here and a DoP there. We work with images here and there is a lot of future in game designing. Indian gaming market is increasing a lot. New directors are doing phenomenal jobs and trust has grown. People say Tharun has become a trendsetter with Pelli Chupulu. Ravi Teja Girijala was doing the final edit and we would laugh out loud at Darshi’s comedy and had no clue if people would enjoy it in the theatres. We believed in what we did. When it became a hit, it gave us a lot of confidence that the narrative style we adopted worked finally. Many said Sainma was good and asked Tharun if the vibe has gone missing so he made this.”b.tech

Upendra isn’t just an editor. He had directed a show called B.Tech for Zee5. Ravi Teja Girijala edited his web series. Ask him if all directors narrate the story, he says yes. “If he narrates to all HODs we know what he is doing, we can send the footage to him even as the shoot is on. The editor works on it and it will be helpful because we know if we are missing anything. We can plan and the editor can take a call, he might need one or two close ups and there is scope of small changes. I don’t think there is a definition for editing. You will subconsciously understand how the film should look. If two people are talking, we can take a call on over the shoulder shots of whose images to use. That sensibility editor should have. There is a split-screen scene in Ramula because the character arch is changing and meeting at the same time. We’d want to see what both the characters do in their lives at the same time. Tarun likes the Coen Brothers style of film making and wanted to follow it. The audience won’t get bored this way. Swaroopakka is  getting an opportunity to prove herself and Ramula is going through a downfall and we want to see what’s happening with them together. It is an interesting take. It is pretty much showing the audience exactly what we want to show and that can be done through editing. We use things in a crisp manner, remove redundant stuff, see if the story is going forward and decide if a part is to be shown now or later. We can always change the alignment of the story. Sometimes there will be a different perspective. We should always leave the job to the HoD and you never know what might emerge. He might appreciate that and at the end of the day might be pleased.”lakshmi manchu

In most Hollywood films, there is no interval and Upendra says every region has its own style of telling stories. Hollywood films are crisp and finish in two hours. He adds, “Right now the attention span of humans has reduced. The hook point is on the 20th minute. Earlier it was 35th minute and now it has dropped to the tenth minute. If that hook point doesn’t arrive, the disinterest sets in and then there is a call to do away with the interval. English films stop abruptly and at times it is disturbing. They might not plan at the writing stage. Suddenly the lights are switched on and people go for popcorn. It is not so for Telugu films, curiosity is at its peak before the break. One can always find new ways to engage the audience. If editing is seamless it is a job well done. People should follow the story and the screenplay should be perfect.”

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