Vamshi Paidipally’s connection with films had been predestined two months before he was born. Until the early months of 1979, Vamshi’s town did not have a theatre. A couple of months before his birth, his father decided to buy a theatre with a seating capacity of thirty to forty people. Although he went on to do his studies in Hyderabad later, his days back in his hometown were spent in the theatre, knowing the intricacies of films being loaded in the machine room.
He grew up in the middle of grand festivals and celebrations for star films, when he slowly fell in love with many Telugu and Tamil films that had commercial ways of storytelling. “Irrespective of what film was being released, I would leave all my other work and watch the first day's morning show. I was that mad about films,” says Vamshi.
But his father wanted him to pursue software engineering and he did so, before finally realising that filmmaking was his calling. He says, “My father was upset but I don’t think passion is by choice. I know my passion and I decided to explore it. So here we are.” He emphasises that the only way to enter, stay and survive in this film industry is through passion.
Although he has done films with stars, Varisu is only his sixth film in his 16-year run as a filmmaker. Vamshi says that until both the writer and director in him are satisfied, he doesn’t make the film. “I started out as an assistant director and only slowly entered writing rooms. So, I was dependent on my writing. I have worked with Hari and Solomon for the last three films and we contemplate a lot during our discussions.” But what ultimately counts for him is: “When I look back, I don’t have any regrets that I did fewer films. I only feel happy that we have done good films.”
Varisu is loaded with references to Vijay’s film and includes most of his iconic dialogues. For a Telugu director, who grew up in a small town near Hyderabad, how is he familiar with Tamil pop culture? His answer is twofold. “Kamal sir and Rajini sir have given big hits in Telugu. So, right from my childhood days, both industries used to blend well together and I have watched Tamil films as well. A lot of Tamil films have been remade in Telugu, and vice versa. So, there is no difference. The emotions are the same and people receive the emotions the same way. So, I think it is a beautiful interchanging of cultures.”
Secondly, many Kollywood directors have impacted his career and the way he looks at films, Paidipally says. This includes K Balachander, Mahendran, Bharathiraja, Mani Ratnam, Muthu Raman and others. “I like a lot of directors in Tamil cinema. I really love the way KS Ravikumar does the commercial kind of genre. But definitely, Mani Ratnam sir has created a lot of impact because the uniqueness in his films draws me. There is also Shankar sir, who is a showman and I think the way he presents a scene or song is just unbeatable.”
Vamshi might have worked with Vijay for the first time in Varisu, but his love for the actor dates back to the release of Kushi (2000), the first time he watched Vijay on screen. “I was totally blown away. I also told SJ Suryah (director of Kushi) that I can never forget the experience of watching that film. There is no action, the storyline is also thin, but the way they were written, the moments that were created and the performances by Vijay sir and Jyothika ma’am make it purely memorable for me,” he says adding that everyone will have one film or song that will freeze time and take them back and Kushi is that film for him.