The origin story of Vi Anand's fascination with cinema is quite interesting. It's this personal experience that helped the filmmaker develop a screenplay sense. “My father, a document writer, used to meet with theatre managers in our hometown and I would accompany him along with my brothers. As we would often enter the theatre only after the screening had begun or leave early, we would come home and imagine the multiple ways in which the story progressed until then or after we left. We would discuss the various directions the story could have travelled in; in other words, we tried to fill in the blanks of the narrative. And as we watched the full film for the second time after all these discussions, it would be a different experience. Sometimes, the director would surpass our expectations, and sometimes our theories used to be more imaginative than the choices in the film.”
Anand grew up in Erode, a town in Tamil Nadu, and his association with filmmakers like Prathap Pothen and AR Murugadoss led him to the Telugu film industry. But as someone who grew up with a staple diet of Tamil cinema, how did the transition from Tamil to Telugu feel like? Acknowledging that there's a difference in the way the Tamil and Telugu audiences process a movie, Anand elaborates, "Take, for instance, if we are showing a police station in a scene, Telugu audiences are purely interested in the story and travelling with the hero. They want to believe that it's a police station. In contrast, Tamil audiences might start raising questions such as, ‘Is this what a police station looks like? Is this authentic?’ Telugu audiences are not as critical as Tamil audiences. When you visit a theatre in Hyderabad, you see that Telugu audiences come with a mindset to enjoy.”
The filmmaker made a mark for himself with films like Tiger (2015), Ekkadiki Pothav Chinnavada (2016), Okka Kshanam (2017) and Disco Raja (2020), and there is an element of supernatural or fantasy in most of the films. His next, Ooru Peru Bhairavakona, which marks his reunion with his Tiger star Sundeep Kishan, is also a fantasy thriller. For someone who bases his films on unique concepts, is it getting harder to stay original with each passing day? "Only Adam can write an original story," Anand says, firmly. "No one can come up with something entirely original. Even if you try to be completely original, you are not going to achieve it. Someone in some part of the world is likely to come up with the same idea as you."
What's important, Anand says, is how exciting the idea is. "It is the ‘what if’ that drives me. 'What if a meteor is set to hit a village and its residents only have 10 days to live?; it results in Appuchi Gramam (2014). What if a dead body was frozen and brought back to life?; you get a Disco Raja (2020). The biggest fear I have is 'what if that 'what if' questions in my mind fade away one day?'."
Speaking about Ooru Peru Bhairavakona, which he describes as a “work of magical realism interwoven with a love story” Anand says, "I always strive to create a world in my films that the audiences get absorbed into by escaping reality for some time." Adding on the process of creating Bhairavakona, a mysterious town for the film, the filmmaker shares, "We, as a team, did not simply locate a village and make it appear mysterious. Instead, we designed the set works with the story in mind, resulting in the creation of an entirely new village.” And the filmmaker being an architect himself helps, he admits. “I often choose to take up the responsibility for the production design of my films to ensure they are unique and original. I can assure you that the visual treatment and story of the film will provide audiences with a fresh and memorable experience."