Exclusive : Producer Bekkam Venugopal Interview

Bekkam Venugopal is a familiar face in the industry circles. He is associated with small budget films and mid range movies. The strongest point about this producer is his hunger for learning and updating knowledge of films and his persistence to judge and deliver stories that will connect to the audience. To put it in a nutshell, he understands the pulse of the people well. For the first time, he is producing an action movie and says with a gut feeling that it will be noticed, appreciated and immensely enjoyed by the people of all segments. He tells Klapboardpost.com, “I am involved with the film right from the scripting stage to the promotions. I also have the ability, be it a blessing or an instinct to predict if a particular film will do well at the box office or not; I analyse if the teaser, trailer or first look is capable of attracting the audience, scrap it or re work on it to make it interesting for the movie buffs. To me, the story should be interesting and I see if it will be liked by all, i.e I listen to the stories from the audience’s point of view. Sometimes all stories are good, but I don’t see it translating as a hit film on screen. I tell the person concerned that the story is nice and excuse myself telling him that I wouldn’t be able to execute it well.”

The producer was able to make successful films so far because he donned many hats, that of a production manager, camera assistant, distributor. He adds, “I was a manager and actor Sivaji (as editor) were colleagues in Gemini TV. We were employees when the channel began. When he became a hero, I travelled and learned things from him and in the process could get judgement of the film right. When my predictions turned out to be right, I began gaining confidence and around 85 percent of my analysis was correct. Right from the first film I produced I would make sure which film would work in class areas and mass areas. My judgement of a fim helped me in this angle too.”

Why are films not having a long run at the theatres? Bekkam Venugopal strongly feels that if collections are not good, then it is because of bad content. He quips, “There are very minute cases of content being good and not running. I saw Kamal Hassan film VIkram’s trailer and wanted to buy an area. I sought time till the next day but my friends stopped me from buying. I gave into them but what made me happy was that I could judge the cinema would run very well, I deeply wished it should be a big hit. These days, if the distributor support isn’t there …then we are in a soup. Kamal’s film had record collections despite his previous films not doing well. Gargi? It is an OTT film and I would see Sai Pallavi in theatres for romantic and entertainment stories. I am demarcating films, there are certain cinemas that run in OTT and certain in theatres. Action, family entertainers do well in theatres like F2, Sarkaruvari Pata, KGF etc. It is also easy to know the box office figures unlike the previous days. Even in the first three days, the producers please the star hero by giving him wrong info, you can’t do that afterwards. By Monday noon, they will have internal info…of the film fate. From the last one year, the pressure of the fans on the producer is reducing.”

Ours is a hero centric film industry and despite stories running around the fair sex ocasionally, every film is different and special. Entertainment and action stories always have an audience. Geeta Govindam, Fida etc..such films when connected with the crowd, shall gather big collections. Bekkam Venugopal concurs it is in hands if he has to produce a film. If he gives into the hero or technician’s unreasonable demands, it is my fault. The authority to stop a film is always with a producer. Why are we hiking the budgets? Is it because we are scared and we don’t get dates of a hero? The producer says it is all an individual choice. “There is no respect for producers these days. About budgets, every individual producer should reduce his efficiency and talent. We can’t control producers as a group, there should be individual discipline. As a group we decided to say no to hoardings and we are coming to an understanding on release of films on the OTT. Our collective effort is to reduce budgets and bring down cost overheads,” he avers.

Alluri is directed by debutant Pradeep Verma. Sree Vishnu heard the story and gave his consent. The producer had actually introduced Sree Vishnu in Prema Ishq and Kadal. Bekkam Veugopal and Sri Vishnu knew the budget would exceed the limit but went ahead and they have no regrets. The producer says, “I have never done full action, emotional biopic films. I have worked only on romantic and family entertainers so far. This has the life stories and some great moments of great people and that too the 24 to 32 years journey of a police officer. It is a sincere cop story, it appears as emotional but in the climax it looks like a thriller. I didn’t expect Major would come at the same time but can say for sure that despite it being the same genre, it has a different plot. The shooting began last year and we kept doing it slowly. The title Alluri exudes integrity, revolution and the protagonist’s father named him Alluri Sitararamaraju. This police story is not fictional, the director has written the story, he had many stories with him and I picked this up. He had his dialogues and script ready in no time.

Sree Vishnu hasn’t done such a full length realistic action and emotional film before. As far as the director Pradeep Verma is concerned, the producer says Pradeep Verema is super confident and he knows what he is doing. He adds, “I introduced new directors earlier but he is better, more experienced and handled 24 crafts well and came up with a good output. The heroine Kayadu Lohar is from Kerala. We shot 82 days, the interval fight itself took 10 days to get completed. The entire shoot happened in Hyderabad except for two songs that were shot in Azerbaijan. This will be released in the theatres and will add value to Sri Vishnu’s repertoire.”

Finally the producer states that the cinema is seen by the middle class and lower middle class section. These people don’t go on vacations, visit hotels but don’t think twice about spending on cinema. Their first source of entertainment is cinema…as long as we give it, they take it. They watch films 100 percent and the primary audience is youth and mass audience. The lull is going to disappear for sure and soon says the producer and looks at August with hope when most of the festival releases are due. Also South films have become mostly Pan Indian and after a few weeks being streamed online. So there is encouragement and confidence for our filmmakers. ….Y.Sunita Chowdhary

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