Jathi Ratnalu, now streaming on Amazon Prime Video, is a Telugu-language comedy about three slacker friends who find themselves embroiled in political controversy. It’s the infusion of good cheer we need right now. Writer-director Anudeep KV and actor Naveen Polishetty talk about the influences on the film and whether its success is a counter to the nepotism debate in the film industry:

Anupama Chopra: From watching the film, you know that this a film made by a person who loves films – You see that love for the movies. When did this love affair with the movies begin?

Anudeep K V: I am very influenced by movies, from Raj Kapoor to Rajkumar Santoshi. I wanted to pay tribute to my favorite filmmakers and my favorite films. So from Madhuri Dixit to Andaaz Apna Apna, this is a homage to my favourite films.

Naveen Polishetty: Every time I was in Bombay, Anudeep would call and be like, ‘Have you met Rajkumar Santoshi?’ And I’d be like ‘Anudeep, that’s not how Bombay works.’ I wasn’t popular enough to get a meeting with Rajkumar Santoshi.

AC: Naveen, you said in a lot of interviews that auditioning in Bombay really breaks you. Was the experience of being here miserable?

NP: Actually, I love Bombay. The miserable part came when I had a corporate IT job, but the Bombay part I really enjoyed – the whole experience, the whole auditioning process. When you give 3 or 4 auditions in a day, you are still playing 3 or 4 characters on camera and that’s how I started looking at it. I really enjoyed it, but it was very challenging. I’ve always said in interviews that it was very challenging from a financial point of view, to keep paying rent, to even just keep up with a basic lifestyle because auditioning doesn’t pay. So the tricky part was to have any kind of day job that pays. I’ve done all kinds of embarrassing things just to pay rent. The art part or the creative part of this is the most fulfilling you will find in the country. It’s a city that brings together so may passionate people and to just be around them is fulfilling for the soul. You wake up and you’re like,’Okay, today we are going to create something.’ That’s how I see my Bombay journey, whether it was all the YouTube videos, whether it was the auditions, everything finally led to Chhichhore. It was tough, but there was never a dull moment.

AC: In the last few years in the Hindi film industry, there have been raging debates about nepotism. The Telugu film industry is run by a few powerful families – do you think your success, the success of Vijay Deverakonda is actually chipping away at this, this kind of legacy film business? Do you think that it  encourages people who are not from film families to come in?

NP: I think this debate is only from a trade or a producer-distributor’s perspective, because once the lights go off and the audience buys the ticket and watches the movie, if it’s a brilliant film, they at no point care where the actor is from. It doesn’t matter to them because they are so involved in the story. If you entertain them, they will watch  the film, they will make it a hit. It’s all about the producer or the distributor placing his bets on a certain talent, whether it’s an outsider, whether it’s an insider. That’s what I’ve learnt.

Before Jathi Ratnalu, I had a film in Telugu called Agent Sai Srinavasa Athreya, which was a detective comedy and. It was very successful, but from a trade perspective, no one came forward to release the film or buy the film. Only when we did a premiere of the show is when we started getting shows and the movie became a hit. This Telugu industry is one in which I know the audience will encourage an outsider for sure. It’s an industry that creates stars out of nobody.

‘Mega Star’ is a name that is fondly given to Chiranjeevi. He is a prime example of someone being a rank outsider and making it to superstardom. So all you need is some producer to bet on you, you just have to be ready. There is a great line in Ben Hur: The metal is ready for the maker’s hand. It’s a combination of all those factors and once that happens, once the right talent meets the right opportunities and the right projects, this whole debate about outsiders, insiders is slowly going to fade away.

AC: What can you tell me about Jathi Ratnalu 2. I believe it is being scripted?

NP: Jathi Ratnalu 1 didn’t have a script, so whenever we all have time, we will just get together and improvise and you will see the sequel.

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