Exclusive : Producer Ravi Prakash Bodapati Interview

Ravi Prakash Bodapati appears to be reluctant, unassuming and a person who would coil into a shell when a group of people gather; but don’t be mistaken. Behind this soft and humble looking exterior personality is a steely, gritty and persuasive man who can charm you with his talk and get you to do what he wants without being pushy. He is known to be extremely humane, warm and believes in giving a person a long rope. He has faced many difficulties, has gone on a sabbatical and has bounced back. His never say die attitude is something that one can learn from to live our passion and dreams. Klapboardpost.com talks to this producer who once was in the news with a blockbuster called Mantra and is now back in the reckoning with two of his films ready for viewing. Ravi Prakash shares with us his origins and his journey so far in the film industry.

How did you get into this field?

My parents, like others, believed that this industry offers no security, and this is a place to easily get into bad habits, there will be losses etc. This was what even my well wishers felt. I think I was destined to be here. Since my childhood, I remember my friends liking my story narrations. I would keep them engaged in school, as I directed skits and other stuff in St Andrews in Visakhapatnam. I didn’t even know it was called direction when I took up the job of putting up everything in place. Ms Bennet was an Anglo Indian from Pakistan, settled in the USA. She came here and established an educational institution for economically backward people. That’s where my extra curricular activities began and after passing out and now when we look back, we realise she had a great influence on us; we did quite well, be it speaking English or acquiring good jobs. We searched later on for her on Facebook etc, but it was too late. She passed away in Hyderabad. To limit the strength of the school, the admissions for boys stopped in St Andrews. We were thrown into the company of too many girls. At home too, I had siblings and they all were girls. As a result, I understand the sensitivity and sensibilities of a woman far better.

Something about your family

My father is a good orator. After his job in the evening, he would settle problems, disputes amongst people in the area where we lived and also nearby. He studied law so it came of some use, and unofficially he helped those by counselling at home. My father would settle their problems and my mother would keep making tea continuously for all those who visited our home. She is probably the only woman who made so many cups of tea every day. I grabbed the life skills from my father by silently listening, observing him and the large heartedness of my mother who would always play host to family and friends. Both my parents came from large families and all are well settled but my father was the only one who lived within his means. He wanted to be a politician and when he was offered a corporator’s seat, he was in a dilemma whether to take it up or not. He chose to continue with his job and gave up his ambitions and dreams. It was a grounded upbringing and I from schooling to college too would counsel all those in the peer group who had suicidal thoughts. People would tell me their problems and I would help them come to normalcy by instilling hope and positivity. All these people still are in touch with me and thank me for counselling them.

Your first experience with film making

After B.Tech, I got a job in Hyderabad and moved here for good. Even while working here, I wanted to do something big. Even in this humble background, my father encouraged me to take up music when I was young. I put up a music school and it was a big time success. At Least 600 people got trained with me. I trained people in guitar, Jazz, piano, flute, mouth organ etc. I wanted interaction with people, not exactly music that I thought I was interested in. A guy who would write songs well, another who would sing well.. There was a visually handicapped person who learnt music and also an economically backward youth. I helped all of them. After ten years I realised one person recognised me. I went to the Dosa Place one day, but I still didn’t order Dosa..someone offered me a free dosa, recalling his association with me. I was happy. The lyric writer Anand was an auto driver from Adilabad district; He brought an AD and they introduced me to someone else who would put money into the project. We embarked on film making with zero cinema knowledge and suddenly the investor ( he came from the jail and was interested in becoming a producer) left us in the lurch. He proved to be a fraud. It was a love story, and I somehow managed to pool money. I began the film thinking I would direct it but since the investor left mid way..I took up the responsibility of production and Tulasi Ram (associate director) directed it. We converted the love story to a thriller and it became Mantra. Anand became the music director

What worked for Mantra?

Mantra began in 2006. We were courageous, I think, I went to narrate a story to Charmme. She liked the story and the spirit in us despite having the doubt if we could pull the project off with the limited resources. She only asked us to go and get the approval by narrating the story to MS Raju, Krishna Vamsi etc. It was more of telling them how I would execute the project and I convinced all of them and since then I have become close to Krishna Vamsi too. Looking back, I think I did quite a good job and that too easily. Mantra was made in 2.6 crore and that was taken in loans and we released Nizam area only on our own. We took four crore from Nizam and returned the amount to people who invested 2.6 crore and I still have to give some money to a few understanding people. Charmee was a huge catalyst in the film becoming a success but exactly after the film release in three weeks Bapu’s movie came out in which Charmee was the lead and the film tanked. So I believe it was Charmee but not her presence alone that was the reason for the success. It was the heroine oriented plot that made the difference partly. Anasuya, Arundathi all were made post Mantra. Mantra became a blockbuster. I went on a trip travelling on buses and trains taking feedback and enjoyed it thoroughly. Though the director was there, I took over the post production. To know if I went wrong I went on this tour. I did the story and screenplay and was one of the producers of Mantra.

The reason for such a long gap?

Until the release of Mantra there were so many problems and conflicts but the work never stopped. It took me nearly 14 years to make Butterfly and A Beautiful Girl. Post Mantra I have no reason to explain why I stayed away from cinema making. All the team members of Mantra thought making of Mantra was easy but none knew how much I struggled to put the project together. Every person who worked in Mantra moved on and did other projects. Immediately after Mantra, I narrated a story to Sravanthi Ravikishore and I was asked if it was the same team who would work in the next film. He asked twice. I said yes and I immediately called the director and a producer but all of them had signed another project. I didn’t call Sravanti Ravikishore again. Dil Raju wanted to establish another banner to make small films and offered a film. I didn’t go back to him again. I had many inhibitions and when suddenly the team disappeared I was a bit upset. I had to still return money to a few people and it wasn’t a happy situation or a place to be in. A lot of time got wasted. After Mantra, it was a lull. Veelle was started and stopped due to many reasons. I lost money in the process. It was a great fall but I gathered myself again. Then one more project was aborted and this time I took seven years to recover. I approached the guys I counseled for counseling. I just needed someone to listen to me.

About my soul mate

I met Pushyami, she is now my wife. She was my online friend. She liked my passion for movies and the resilient attitude ..that I always rise and never give up. She is very supportive. During Mantra audio release, my parents came from Vizag. The celebs spoke about the writer and producer of the film whose identity I kept a secret, they were shocked but never said a word. Pushyami’s parents obviously are a worried lot. I slowly began putting the projects of A Beautiful Girl and Butterfly together. The former has been written by me i.e story, screenplay, dialogues and direction. I get these credits. I love writing probably a lot more than direction. In the midst of all this, I was doing small businesses and work and kept the kitchen fires burning. A Beautiful Girl is about a normal boy and a girl. The society doesn’t have a great opinion about them and the girl has problems and the story is about how she overcame all this. A beautiful girl and an ordinary guy by her side draws attention and envy from many but how the duo surmounted all this is the plot. I was really busy all these years, I was writing and continuously working knowing that what all I am doing would be of help some day. I know I sound a bit over confident but that is me and I have the clarity.

My current projects and future plans

I have known Satish Ghanta for more than ten years. After Mantra, I was doing outside jobs and would come in and go out but Satish is an industry guy. He has continuously been involved in this field and Butterfly is his debut direction. Lot of new producers are failing here due to lack of knowledge and inhibitions. I might have the money to produce but if I employ a person or a team to execute it, I should have the knack to judge people and hire the right team. Cinema is like a wedding feast and it happens every day, so it isn’t easy to estimate a film budget on a daily basis. We should know for sure how much a film would cost us and keep a lot of reserve expecting sudden cost overheads. This time we made sure there wouldn’t be any wastage and A Beautiful Girl is an example. We want to make films on the right budget. ..keeping the hero’s market in view. A small film gives an opportunity to new people and to make it possible, we need half of them as seniors in the team. I produce films, have plans to direct a few…meanwhile I am ready to produce new writer’s stories. The post production for A Beautiful Girl is on and Butterfly will be out soon on an OTT platform….Y.Sunita Chowdhary

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