Just over a decade after he ventured into film production, Suryadevara Naga Vamsi quickly emerged as a prominent name in the show business, with Sitara Entertainments backing a successful list of films, from Jersey (2019) to this year’s Sir. His line-up too is crowded, featuring films with stars like Mahesh Babu (Guntur Kaaram), Vijay Deverakonda and Nandamuri Balakrishna, to name some.
The producer has also been frequently backing smaller films and continuing the practice, he is now presenting MAD, a youthful entertainer set to release on October 6. In a conversation with Film Companion, Vamsi shared things about the process of accepting a script, plans involved in it, success and failure.
Excerpts from the interview:
There are many sources to learn about filmmaking skills like cinematography and editing. How does one learn about producing a film though?
To be in production, all you need is patience and courage. Nobody teaches you about production. You can achieve anything with those two qualities. You just need to be patient during the whole process. Everyday, every small thing tests our patience. We just have to hold that frustration within us.
You have a biggish film like Sir positioned between Butta Bomma and now MAD? Is there any calculation behind doing medium, small and big budget films in a row?
There are no such calculations according to the budget. We just hear a lot of stories and make them happen. We don’t think about the pattern of releasing them. Coming to MAD, director Kalyan Shankar had a film called Anaganaga Oka Raju with Naveen Polishetty. As it was getting delayed due to some reasons, Kalyan Shankar approached me with the script of a youthful college drama that needs young talent. So I heard the script of MAD, loved it and planned to take it on floors. Sometimes everything falls into place. We don’t plan the line-up with any calculations.
Now you've a bunch of different films coming up next. How do you set your workflow for all of them?
My workflow depends on the schedules planned for every film. The team plans the schedule, budget, everything, and I approve them. I visit the shoots whenever I’ve time and watch the rushes after every schedule. If there is any issue, my team will inform me about sorting them. This plan will be there for every film in our lineup. The pressure for every film will be the same, it all depends on the planning.
Can you explain the process of listening and selecting scripts in both of your production banners, Sitara Entertainments and Haarika Hassinee creations?
When I love a script, I send it to my uncle Radhakrishna garu and Trivikram sir. I ask Trivikram sir for suggestions if I have any doubt regarding any script. We have a writing team who listens to scripts by newcomers and approaches me if it looks exciting. Established filmmakers or who have a script for stars, directly come to me and I’ll take the call. Our writing team handles some scripts when I don’t have time. They forward those scripts only if they are exciting.
You’ve mentioned you know your film’s result even before its release. Are there any instances when a film’s result surprised you?
We definitely know or guess the film’s result in the process or before the release. Many of my films matched my expectations. But it was the result of Swathimuthyam (2022) which differed from my experactions. I expected it to become a good success, and the audience response was also positive but its commercial performance disappointed me to some extent. We were pretty sure about Butta Bomma's result though. As its original version Kappela was released in 2020 and the remake was being released three years later in a different scenario, we predicted its failure. Since we knew it was going to flop, we didn’t sell the film to anyone and opted to release it by ourselves because we didn’t want others to bear that loss.
Is it true that a star’s big budget film has a lot of risk compared to a small film and can you stay safe with the non theatrical business of them?
Non-theatrical earnings won’t keep us safe all the time. It happens very rarely. When we produce a film with a star, the trade is always active, ensuring a smooth business flow and guaranteed openings. Coming to small films with new actors, we have to push everything forward on our own; the marketing and publicity plans will be very different. Sometimes, small or medium budget films have a magical run at the box office, DJ Tillu was one such film for us. And when I heard the script of Mad, I strongly believed that it will work like DJ Tillu.
What was the most challenging instance in your career so far?
We face challenges everyday but Agnyaathavaasi (2018) was the most challenging point for all of us?
How did you all overcome that failure?
Through Aravindha Sametha (smiles). All of us were terribly disappointed, and couldn’t come out of it for nearly two months. It was Aravinda Sametha that gave us relief. Tarak anna supported us a lot by pushing us and instilling confidence. He said, “let us give a success this year only”. We started the shoot of Aravinda Sametha in April and released the film in October.
What's a film that you would have loved to produce?
Recently, after watching the teaser, I felt I wanted to produce a film like Animal. I’ll definitely wait for such scripts.
What do you want to tell about the update culture happening around the audience and fans?
Even I want to give updates but it involves so many people’s time and effort. I tried explaining the same to fans numerous times. That is just about the excitement around a film. They demand us, request us about updates. Coming to Guntur Kaaram, I've given information about upcoming updates every time. Fans were so frustrated when we didn't have an update for Mahesh sir's birthday. But still we try a lot to give updates in time as we know the hype of the film. Many people asked about special posters on festivals, I really didn't give a thought about it until someone pointed it out. I wasn't able to ask Trivikram sir and Mahesh sir for special posters on festivals because I know that they are working day and night to complete the film and release it for Sankranthi.
There are many people who are interested in coming into production. What are the suggestions you give them?
I also see many people who want to step into production with a lot of passion, but it is not an easy task to pull off. You have to know about the financial pain before stepping into film production. As you have to be responsible to the distributors, exhibitors, team, audience and everyone, you have to know about the financial pain involved in the film production.