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Emotions are what make 'Dasara' pan-India: Srikanth Odela

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Srikanth Odela's debut movie 'Dasara' hits the cinemas on March 30. Starring Nani and Keerthy Suresh as the lead pair, the period mass action film was shot over a period of 109 working days. In this interview, the debutant director talks about casting choices, budget issues, and more. He adds that he has hardly watched more than ten non-Indian movies all his life. "I learned shot-making and all by watching Indian movies. I haven't read any book on filmmaking skills. I worked as an apprentice on 'Nannaku Prematho'. Since I didn't possess a visa, I couldn't participate in the film's foreign schedules even," says Srikanth, adding that he worked with Sukumar until 'Rangasthalam'. Catch him talk about 'Dasara', which is the most expensive movie in Nani's career.

I have previously worked under Sukumar garu as an assistant. 'Nannaku Prematho' was my first film with him. After 'Rangasthalam', I came out of his team and wrote the story of 'Dasara'. I got in touch with producer Sudhakar Cherukuri after that.

This story was not written for Nani anna. It struck me later that I should approach him upon the producer's suggestion. The story of 'Dasara' is based on an actual incident. Veerlapally, in which the story of this film is set, is close to me because it belongs to a grandparent.

I wanted to cast a new actress for the female lead's role. I hunted for a Telugu girl who possesses the potential to play Vennela authentically. It was not a casual search but a very serious hunt. Nani anna, too, approved it. But I couldn't find a suitable girl. We were running out of time and the project had to be taken to the floors. That's why we opted for Keerthy Suresh. She is sharp-minded and can get a grip on her character quickly. She was effortless both on set and during the dubbing.

There are as many as 58 new artists in the movie. They have been drawn from villages and trained to perform those roles.

Genuinely speaking, I don't understand the term 'pan-India'. I watched 'Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham' (Hindi) as a child. My mother and I cried while watching it. Emotions have to be relatable for a film to reach a wider audience. In the case of 'Dasara', both the hero and the producer felt that it has to be taken to a wider audience. The dubbing process was taken seriously so that the dubbing is as authentic as possible.

To be frank, there is nothing much that I learned by working on 'Rangasthalam'. It would take me hours to prepare the junior artists ready. By then, Sukumar garu would have done with shot planning. What I learned from the director is how confidently he handled things. I learned shot-making and filmmaking during the lockdown.

When the getup of Nani anna was planned, even the first look of 'Pushpa' was yet to be released. Even though comparisons have been made, I don't mind it. For, it is Sukumar garu's film anyways.

The budget did go up during the making. At times, my producer would ask me to bring down the budget. At others, he wouldn't let me bother about the budget.

Dheekshith Shetty (for the friend's character) was chosen because he had worked on 'Meet Cute' and the feedback was positive.

I don't mind spoilers getting revealed (through the recent CBFC report that says that the friend's character gets murdered). They are always going to be revealed by Netizens after the first show. How the plot unfolds dramatically is what is more important than the plot turn itself.

Santhosh Narayanan is the kind of music director who gives a lot of creative space for the director. For 'Dhoom Dhaam', I drew a batch of 'dappulu' players from a village. Although he is a Tamilian, he understood the Telugu authenticity that I wanted to give to the film. Sathyan Sooryan's cinematography is brilliant. He used to guide me whenever I needed his guidance.  

Updated on March 29, 2023