Director Venkatesh Maha, who shot to fame with C/o Kancharapalem, on his latest, his life experiences, and why happiness comes with practice. Excerpts.
Despite being nasty, sly and an uncontrollable kid, I grew up in a very good environment. I've seen everything. I grew up amidst different kinds of people. I am from a middle class family. An advantage for any kid who grows up in a middle class family is that you get to see two worlds. You can see a rich mama come home and blabber and you can see a poor babai come home and share his problems. We experience both worlds. When I was 16, I left my house to live independently. When I told my mom that I was going to leave, she asked me to rethink if I was doing the right thing. I was very eager to explore my life, so I just left. I worked in a small company as a sales executive. After two months, I came back home with some gifts; by then, I was missing my house already. So I asked my mom if I could stay back. I told her that I understood life and it was very simple. It's about doing a job and earning a few bucks. My mom told me that it's not about earning money. It's about earning respect from your family. She told me to not lose that respect and asked me to leave the house.
Then, my real life began. There was no money in hand. I was 16 and spent all the money I earned in two days. I used to sleep in bus stands. I used to buy a newspaper every morning, and everyone at my work place used to think that I loved reading the news and thought I was an intelligent person. In reality, I bought it so I could spread it on the floor and sleep so that my clothes did not get dirty. I used to take a bath on the banks of River Krishna. There I met a lot of vagabonds and sadhus. They used to tell me a lot of stories. I met people who could speak in American or British accents but who were actually sadhus. I've learnt a lot of things from there. I have done a lot of odd jobs — from a small sales boy in a milk products shop to a good position in a BPO. I gained a lot of knowledge and observed different people from different walks of life. In this whole process, I understood that you'll never get happiness until you practice to be happy. It's like nirvana. When we practice meditation, we reach a certain point in life, right? Happiness is also similar to nirvana. A smile on your face comes with practice. I used to be very nasty and short-tempered. After seeing all those people, knowing and understanding things, I felt that only through practice can you be happy.
While I was struggling in the film industry before making C/o Kancharapalem, I was not happy. I evolved as a human being while making the film. All the experiences from my jobs and my independent life gave me one kind of learning and making Kancharapalem gave another kind of learning. I found a solution by combining those experiences. They say practice makes a man perfect. I found out that practice makes a man humane. I found it for myself. I'm not preaching this to anyone. You have to practice even your smile. I have seen a lot of people who don't smile. It feels like they never smiled in their lives. So, I started practising being happy.