Evo… konni gurtukostunnayi’ is a gripping memoir of maverick director Vamsy
Circa 1982: A film shoot is in progress at a textile showroom in Abids, Hyderabad. The film’s hero and heroine are ready to face the camera and awaiting the director’s nod. Meanwhile, at the entrance of the shop, a young man is arguing with the watchman to let him in as the burly man keeps pushing him away saying not to disturb the shoot inside. Vemuri Satyam, executive producer of the film had to intervene and inform the watchman that the young man was Vamsy, the director of the film being shot.
Many such anecdotes dot Evo… konni gurtukostunnayi Vamsy’s recollection of his journey through the making of his films. Becoming a director at the age of 22 had its share of challenges for Vamsy who debuted with Chiranjeevi-Suhasini starrer Manchupallaki in 1982. The unplanned foray into films, starting as a director took off steadily and to date, he directed 25 films that help carve him a niche as one of the most formidable directors in the Telugu film industry.
The 400-page volume features 11 of his films. On the last page of this book, he signs off with Aipoledinkaa (Not over yet), and shares that he plans to write about the remaining films in a second part.
This wackiness and an effortless, lucid narrative make this book appealing. His observations and the conversations he had in his film career that started around 40 years ago appear verbatim in the book, a remarkable feat. “I have this ability to remember what people say for years together,” laughs Vamsy while talking over the phone. “ Vaastavam kanna gnaapakaalu mukhyam (memories are more significant than reality),” he adds.
Listicle of memories
The book, with a foreword by music director Keeravani, starts with Vamsy’s first film Manchupallaki and moves through Sitara, Anveshana, Preminchu Pelladu, Aalapana, Ladies Tailor, Lawyer Suhasini, Maharshi, Sri Kanakamahalakshmi Recording Dance Troupe, Chettu Kindha Pleader and Swarakalpana.
The volume goes beyond Vamsy recording anecdotes. The narrative of the day-to-day workflow of the entire film unit gives a layperson an insight into the filmmaking process — story session, selecting directors, music directors, recce of locations, art directors’ inputs, zeroing in on the cast and finalising the shooting schedules – a kind of textbook on filmmaking. Vamsy’s subtle irreverence and occasional forthright statements reflect the maverick’s style of functioning,
The search for locations to shoot Manchupallaki’ in 3RT houses in SR Nagar, Begumpet, Secunderabad and a mention of a bus stop on the empty stretch of road near Punjagutta graveyard gives a fascinating glimpse into the Hyderabad of 40 years ago. Vamsy’s locations shifted to the picturesque locales of Andhra Pradesh for his later films. Starting with the song ‘Kinnersaani Vachindamma Vennela Paitesi’ in Sitara, Vamsy shot all his films, barring a few, in and around the Godavari region, which reflected the core of Andhra’s native charm in Pasalapudi, Rajahmundry and Kakinada.
Bonding for life
Though music directors Rajan-Nagendra composed music for his first film Manchpallaki, it was Ilayaraja who gave music for the rest of Vamsy’s films beginning with Sitara, making the native charm of his films richer. Vamsy describes their relationship as “very special”. He writes, “Till Sitakoka chilaka, he (Ilayaraja) used to sport hippie haircut and bell-bottom pants and shirt but I was surprised to see a total transformation in his attire. I stared at him unblinking. Only when a smiling IIaayaraja said, katha emi? cheppu, the spell was broken.
Apart from giving a break to Bhanupriya in Sitara, Vamsy cast her in successive films, putting her among the top league of heroine. Cinematographers Hari Anumolu and Raghu MV with his friend Vemuri Satyam, who were constants in his films find a parallel mention to his narrative.
Writer turns director
His anthology of short stories titled Maa Pasalapudi Kathalu is a bestseller and perhaps one of its kind, portraying real-life characters of this nondescript Pasalapudi village in the then East Godavari district. A native of Pasalapudi, Vamsy grew up savouring the scenic beauty surrounding the Godavari and reading books in the village library. The writings of Chalam, Latha and Buchibabu were his early influences in life and writings.
At the age of 16, he wrote his first story, incidentally titled Manchupallaki, which was published as a serial in the Telugu weekly Andhra Jyothi. Years later, Yandamoori Veerendranath, a dialogue writer for the film Manchupallaki, picked the same title for Vamsy’s directorial debut, though the stories were different. Vamsy wrote his second novel Karma Sakshi and soon after, on his well-wishers’ advice travelled to Chennai but continued to cherish his role as a writer.
Meeting V Madhusudhan Rao was a turning point in his life. The veteran director who spotted his talent, made the youngster an assistant director (AD) for his films. Vamsy continued as his AD and later worked with Bharatiraja till he was offered the directorship for Manchupallaki. The second film he directed was Sitara, based on his novel Mahallo Kokila. The film won the National Award for Best Film in 1985. “My transition from writer to filmmaker was never planned. I am a writer basically,” he says. This episode where Vemuri Satyam asked him to direct Manchupallaki makes for a gripping read. “It was a surreal moment for me,” recalls Vamsy who writes that he felt he was not ready and wanted to watch a lot of world cinema before taking up direction.
Vamsy is known to have made films in the shortest time; Sri Kanakamahalakshmi …. was made in just 22 days. At that rate, one would have expected him to make at least 100 films, but his total stands at 25. “I like to work at my pace and on my terms,” he says but assures there is a film on the anvil this year. “It will be A to Z near Godavari and Tella Dibbalu… a typical Vamsy film.”
Meanwhile, Vamsy waits for feedback on this book before he embarks on the second part.
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