One needs guts and gumption to give up a flourishing career and pursue a future in cinema in the prime of youth. We are discussing PraSankar here who is winding up the last schedule of his debut film tentatively titled Oke Oka Aasa. Ever since childhood, the director, a native of Rajahmundry has been strong in academics; He has done Masters in Physics from Central University and holds a Doctorate in the same subject from Trinity College in Ireland. In a conversation with Y.Sunita Chowdhary from Klapboardpost.com, PraSankar says his focus on studies as well as cinema was on an equal footing. He didn’t have to struggle much to switch gears to cinema and terms it a ‘smooth transition’. He also made sure that his folks back home were financially comfortable before his entry in cinema. The 38 year old director says, “I saw a lot of commercial cinema in childhood but when I was exposed to commercial world cinema in Central University, I realised we could make an attempt this way too. I was reading umpteen film magazines around that time to satiate my curiosity and thirst for cinema. In my hostel, I would interact with fellow batch mates and exchange thoughts and ideas and this way my four years of P.hd in Ireland never went to waste. The analytical skills I acquired from my academics came in handy in cinema.”
PraSankar was simultaneously working as an admin for a website titled Navatarangam which was run by Venkat Siddhareddy, a movie aficionado and a writer working in the UK. PraSankar did a lot of technical writing and administration work, and established a group of friends. How did he spend his time in a place away from home and cinema? He reminisces, “Most of us are in the industry now. I learnt editing and cinematography in foreign university clubs though I didn’t go to a film school. I picked up quite a bit from the films the film students were making and this became my leisure activity in Ireland. I also got to see unlimited cinema every week and it was around this time I met Venkat Siddareddy (one month after he launched Navatarangam). Venkat returned to India and I followed him. I began to teach editing at Ramanaidu Film School. After 2014, we went different ways. I was writing for television initially to improve my speed and read a lot of screenplay books and for practical knowledge worked for a television channel. All the thoughts had to be put into practise and also believe editing is the last stage of writing. For ETV Plus, I did the launching show followed by writing for Radhe Shyam. I also worked on Dear Comrade with my friend Bharath Kamma. Myself and Venkat Siddareddy reedited a lot of films and we knew there was so much storytelling that could be changed in editing”.
The writer was at Arkaa working for Bahubali netflix series and he did a comedy serial and the Parampara series for Hotstar for them as well but since he had to start working on the film, he left the job. Both the projects were shelved but on the positive side, he gained a lot of experience. There were shows for Amazon that he got involved with and was with the writing department of Dear Comrade as mentioned earlier. Sadly here too, the film tanked despite having a great potential. Initially being a two crore project, it escalated to 25 crore. “True, one can scale up the project but not the story. It was an earnest effort by Bharath Kamma. Then in 2017..I left Radhe Shyam team after locking its second half. I had a brief stint with Disney Films and was writing Telugu dialogues, it was a different experience. We had to ensure the script connected to the Telugu audience. The dubbing those days was a bit strange and they wanted to bring about some change. I would see the film first and did bring about a remarkable change and as expected it got us a positive result. It not only had a great reach throughout the world, the popular dialogues I used from certain films was a huge hit.” People enjoyed PraSankar’s dialogues, he avoided the cliched, robotic writing and stuck to the content. The filmmakers too gave him a lot of freedom to bring about creative changes and one will notice the difference between the English and Telugu dialogues, especially in Lion King. PraSankar saw a lot of scope to add drama to the dialogues.
How did give up his job in the UK to take up something in an unorganised and an unpredictable sector? “After returning to India, I came up with a technical studio and we did color grading (DI), corporate video editing etc. Only when I gained confidence that I can survive here, I came into the industry. I never had to wait for work and always was busy with some project or the other. My knowledge in Physics helped me in analysing stories. When someone tells me a story, I can clearly identify what the problem is and I do have my share of arguments with most of the directors. I agree I have worked for a few films that were never released but must say each of them helped me in some way or the other in improving my skills. I worked on Anando Brahma and I can’t even claim credit for it as I worked just for ten days. My associations with people from such projects got me more projects. It wasn’t a cake walk though. Director Radha Krishna gave me a couple of scenes and when he liked my work he roped me in for Radhe Shyam. He didn’t take me right away,” says PraSankar.
PraSankar’s debut script was released in 2016 and yes, he didn’t find it outdated. It has a novel point and has been upgraded. It is a female centric rom com and the girl’s role is very strong. He shares, “We hunted for the right person and found Madhumitha Sircar who did a great job and brought about the many shades in the character. Rakesh Vardhe of Evariki Cheppoddhu is the hero. We are planning a theatre release and it will be either in November or February. Every change I made only made the script better and better. My next film is my favourite story and I had written that too in 2017.” We ask PraSankar if he fits into the industry easily? He responds quite quickly, “I had a doubt initially when I didn’t enter this place but once I came here, I got so busy with work that I had no time to even entertain such thoughts. As long as you work hard nothing should matter to you. I worked on multiple projects and established a network. Patience is my strength and my limitation is that I am destructive by nature which eventually is good for the project. For instance when I develop something and if I don’t like it, I wipe off everything and start it from scratch. You can’t survive here with mediocrity”.
Ask the director if the umpteen aspiring writers and directors who are all waiting will someday find a space in the industry, he sounds very positive. PraSankar states that the talented ghostwriters sure have a great future but they shouldn’t give up mid way. They will get experience which they can keep building. He shares, “There are many writing rooms, sometimes those who come without experience surprise you. We can’t categorise them, there might be a project that will showcase their strength and also some that will show their limitations. You can’t ask those who are weak in rom com to write a script, we have to identify their strengths and that comes out when you keep working. You won’t know what you are good at if you don’t write, one fine day you will get the recognition. We have a lot of writers and directors now and also those writers whose name doesn’t come on screen will find work. There is a constant need for writers and people keep asking if they are available. This is a small industry and when projects are moving, people require talent. You need to work till you get that one hit film and till then keep expanding your circle.” PraSankar reiterates there is a lot of space in the industry. The audience is getting selective and wants to watch good cinema otherwise they are okay watching films on OTT platforms. If the people don’t find the effort from the team, they won’t accept it, which is why the past three films – Bimbisara, Seetaramam, Kartikeya 2 were big hits. Once television was a competition to cinema and now it is OTT. I can see people have become alert, there is respect for writers and directors now.