Exclusive: The Middle Class director

Y. Sunita Chowdhary

Vinod Anantoju is a B.Tech grad and his father worked in a Telugu book publishing industry for many years. There were many books at home and he was obviously bitten by the book bug. He picked cinema as his career later on and ventured into short films while studying and working thereby instinctively learning the craft and its techniques. After directing seven or eight short films, the soft spoken Vinod resolved to make his debut in the Telugu film industry.

He began his trials to get into the film industry three years back and he is indeed lucky to bag his debut directorial this soon. Middle Class Melodies is releasing this week and he sounds supremely confident, having put his all in the project. He has not been to a film school or worked as an assistant director in any production house but made short films and learnt about film making through trial and error. Speaking about the difference between short films and features and the changes he made to his style of writing, he tells Klapboardpost.com, “Short film span is less, the writing structure of characters, the audience patience levels is short too. In a broader sense, the work flow in both types of cinema is similar but other things are different.

This is a process of self-realisation. I would write my stories, direct and edit it and money was mine. I wrote around five stories before I wrote Middle Class Melodies. I understood that my previous stories and the short films are dark and morbid. Good or bad keeping it aside, I had my doubts if the purpose would be served and reach a wider audience. I valued the feedback and thought I should do something more. We can tell a serious subject but to break the barrier and make the audience accept is actually an art. I would narrate what I had on my mind earlier but now I think and look at it differently. I stopped, thought and learnt the craft and in this midst this story was born. Stopped doing short films in 2017. I did have the confusion on what story I should go for my debut feature film but once I decided, I had the confidence that if this subject, only then I can do justice to it.”

On the experience on the sets, he shares, “On paper, we create the story but once we go to the set it is damage control exercise. We imagine a beautiful visual about actors, technicians but encounter a lot of issues at the shoot and so all we are left at that point of time is to do damage control by handling egos and other stuff. Fortunately for me, I had a team with all new people and it was mostly a young team. They had done either half a film or one film except for a couple of senior actors. They all had a passion to be the character and work towards a good output.” On the problems he encountered during the shoot, he says, if they shot 15 days, the other 15 days got lost due to heavy downpour.  His health and that of Anand’s too got spoilt, they shot completely on the roads with secret cameras in guerrilla style and tried doing with synch sound and looked for a Telugu actor for a heroine. He had other issues to handle because of the disturbance being caused on the roads.

Why an English title? “The story came from the title while the title discussions were on, the writer was my classmate from college. He had written the story. While discussing it, he used the word middle class melodies and it stayed with me. It has a great quality and you can narrate as many middle class stories as possible. We were born and brought up in the middle class and the ambience was vivid in our mind. There was so much content, so many experiences and we narrated experiences to each other and got going. So I mentally decided that this would be my first film because everything was so familiar and in our control, having seen and experienced a lot,” he quips.

Isn’t the title lengthy? He replies as a matter of fact, “It isn’t a story which raises curiosity, you just have to sit back comfortably and enjoy the proceedings. We planned a 53 day schedule but we finished it in 55 days albeit ridden by ups and downs. Firstly, I didn’t want known faces. When the audience sees the film, they should look familiar.I didn’t want them to carry the baggage from their previous projects. Simply put, they should look relatable and people next door. Also they need to be good actors because this is a realistic story. We worked very hard to select such people. We went scouting in Andhra to theatre people, hand picked actors and made them do workshops. The lead pair went through the learning of the Guntur slang. In the trailer, there are seven eight prominent characters; the friend and so many other people.”

Location was the next hurdle. Vinod knew the Guntur city well but a significant portion happens in the village and he  wanted it in a single schedule and looked for a location where he would get everything. He finalised Kolakalur and wrapped up the entire film there and what is noteworthy is that there are about twenty to thirty newcomers in the story. Kondala Rao who played the hero’s father and mother Lakshmi Surabhi Prabhavati who worked in Dorasani played important roles. Prema Sagar did a full length role here, he did films earlier but not much I guess. Gopal has a strong character and he is just not a sidekick to the hero, he is sure to get good recognition, reveals Vinod. He further talks about their personality traits, “Anand is straight forward and stubborn. Varsha is a reserved girl who thinks twice before giving out her opinion. They are Raghav and Sandhya and have contrasting qualities. How they change each other and how other things play a catalyst is seen in an arch. They face problems because of their traits and the transformation is interesting. This is not a path breaking story or something that you haven’t seen before. The way they have been treated is different.”

The songs and background score is important and Sweekar Agasthi who worked in C/O Kancharapalem worked on it. This is his second film and he composed all the five songs. The story along with entertainment provides relief and shows what sort of relevance it has to the title and Srikar understood the story and gave the music. RH Vikram from Chennai worked on the background score and it elevated the film. Cinematography is by Sunny Korrapati (of Agent Sai Srinivas Athreya and Dorasani), this is his third film. Kittu Vissapragada (Guntur song) wrote one number and Sanapathi Bharadwaj (Sandhya song on heroine, it is a quirky number) wrote three songs and they all are newcomers. The project is bankrolled by Bhavya Creations.

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