Anil Ravipudi is no stranger to success, but Bhagavanth Kesari and its success are special, he says. "Box office hits always make me happy but this film brought special applause and respect my way. This film was a much bigger responsibility. I feel relieved looking at the responses," says Anil, as we sit on the terrace of his office, days after the release of Bhagavanth Kesari, his first collaboration with Nandamuri Balakrishna.
Anil shares that he has constantly tried to upgrade himself, without sticking to a pattern, while retaining his brand of humour in all his films. His first three films—Pattas (2015), Supreme (2016) and Raja The Great (2017)—for instance, were action comedies. In 2019, he wrote and directed the comedy, F2: Fun and Frustration. "I have been trying to change my pattern after three films. Now after F2, Sarileru Neekevvaru (2020) and F3 (2022), I tried to break my style and attempted Bhagavanth Kesari."
But there's another reason why he chose to make Bhagavanth Kesari, and it's closely entwined with the criticism some of his previous works were met with. "See, comedy is a very risky genre. It's also a genre that doesn't get much respect. Once you do a comedy film, you are looked down on by people. I faced that issue. One of the reasons why I came out of my comfort zone to make a film like Bhagavanth Kesari is because I was also looked down on as a comedy director at one point. Not everyone is like that but some people are condescending, especially on social media. Yes, people who respect comedy respect me. Even recently, I was at an event and a lady minister told me that she and her family loved F2," the filmmaker says, as he goes on to explain why he believes that there's an audience for pure comedies like F2. "There is a section of audience that comes to films just to laugh and enjoy. So comedies always have the potential to become blockbusters. From Aha Naa Pellanta (1987) and Kshemanga Velli Laabanga Randi (2000) to Pellam Oorelithe (2003) and our F2, some comedy films have created a huge impact in our industry.
Elaborating on his point of why he feels filmmakers who make comedies aren't given enough credit, Anil says, "This criticism has no logic. Social media didn't exist back in the days of the great EVV Satyanarayana garu. I'm sure there were some critics back in the day too, but I don't think they faced what we are dealing with now. I wonder if his films would also be criticised on social media if they were to be released now. On social media, it's an individual's perspective and not a collective opinion. My audience are at the theatres, buying tickets; they might not be active on Twitter. Only those who don't enjoy my films criticise me on social media. I don't take the criticism seriously but I do take valid suggestions into consideration. If I hadn't accepted such constructive suggestions, I wouldn't have attempted Bhagavanth Kesari."
The filmmaker concludes, "Bhagavanth Kesari, for me, was a learning experience. For the first time, I learned that you could enjoy every bit of the filmmaking process when you go to the roots of the world and the characters. Looking back at my films now, I feel should have gone deeper with some of the themes instead of simply touching them on the surface level. I'm sure I'll be carrying forward this responsibility and experience to make more good films."