With three to five films releasing every week, Tollywood produces not less than 200 films every year. As a regular cinegoer, how often can one get to describe a film as a masterpiece? For me, the answer is: not even once in the past decade. But things started changing with Pellichoopulu last year. This year we already have Arjun Reddy which fits the ‘masterpiece’ tag in every sense. Another film that joins this list is the true indie mini masterpiece called ‘Vellipomakey’.
Yes, there were some really path breaking Indie films in Tollywood, albeit just a handful. Good examples of successful and quality indie films were, many of Ravi Babu’s films, Maruthi’s Ee rojullo, Ravikanth’s Kshanam. There were some not so successful films like Jonathan’s Prayanikudu, Rama Raju’s Mallela Theeram.
The real problem in describing a film as an Indie lies in the roots of our Industry. Historically, the definition of an Indie film or an independent is a feature film that is produced mostly outside of a major film studio. In India, there were hardly very few film studios. Ninety percent of the films were produced outside the studio system. So, it is obvious that ninety percent of Indian films are Independent films. But apart from the above criteria, there was also a different way to distinguish an Independent film – that is by looking at the personal artistic vision of a film that is easily distinguishable in style and content from the regular films produced week after week.
Ravi Babu is one such director, who has almost pioneered the art of Indie filmmaking in Telugu with his debut film Allari. One can easily notice the distinguishing colour palettes, casting lesser known faces, sticking to a genre – as some of the characteristics of his films. The only problem with Ravi Babu’s style and technique was- it is very evident, or to put it bluntly-it is on your face. But after Ravi Babu, there was no one else who was trying to deliver a film that is stylised to their choice, until Maruthi tried a completely different method – combining technology and content to his convenience and delivering a real Indie film in the form of Ee Rojullo. Another talented director Ravikanth’s debut feature,Kshanam fits into the Indie film tag since he stuck to the genre conventions of a mystery thriller.But the film did not break any ground in terms of style or technique.
Until Vellipomakey, very few films, that really stood out as true Indie features are Pellichoopulu and Arjun Reddy. As a story Pellichoopulu is one of many romantic comedy films produced in Tollywood. What really made it different was Tharun Bhaskar’s vision. The way he used – static camera angles, realistic portrayal of the characters, offbeat music track, casting lesser known actors, offbeat humour, limited budget – these were the positive aspects that worked in favour of his film. Similarly with Arjun Reddy, director Sandeep Reddy’s vision was unique in every sense. Be it his unconventional and bold writing or the extraordinary sound design or his unique directorial skills – Sandeep has shown the true spirit of an Indie Rebel.
Like Tharun and Sandeep, Yakoob Ali of Vellipomakey scores many points on par with the above-mentioned filmmakers due to the clarity of thought that he had for making this film. In an industry, where film grammar is almost non-existent, Ali really puts his foot forward boldly and adapts a film grammar that we have never seen in a Telugu film. Ali puts his personal artistic vision in to use so much, that his debut film is clearly distinguishable in style and content from every other Telugu film produced so far in the past eighty-five years.
So much for making a point about a film! Now, let us move on to what this Vellipomakey is all about and why I call it a mini masterpiece.
Vellipomakey, the debut film of Yakoob Ali, an alumnus of Ramanaidu Film School, is a subtle yet complex love story that is more about loss than love.It is easier to identify with loss than love because we have had so much more experience of it. The story, if we can call it – is so pedestrian, it will hit you so badly -having you think that it might be your own story or the story of someone you know. Made in a tight budget of 17 lakhs, Vellipomakey will really surprise you, and suck you into the world of the protagonist Chandu (deftly portrayed by Dineesh Naidu).
Chandu is a lovelorn youth, working in an animation company. When his two roommates Kishore (Prashant) and Jeevan are happily in love, Chandu is desperately seeking love. When his attempts to woo a newly joined Shruti (naturally portrayed by Supraja) go astray, he finds a companion through Swetha (in a brilliant performance by Nithya Sree Reddy), with whom he connects over social media. The story mainly deals with the she loves me, she loves me not portrayal of relationship between Chandu and Swetha. It almost reaches a surreal stage when the viewer starts questioning the existence of Swetha’s character. At a point in the film, the viewer is almost made to believe that the character of Swetha is just a figment of Chandu’s imagination. I do not want to reveal if Swetha was real or imaginary – but all that I can say is Ali really plays with your senses until the ending of the film. And what best do we need when we have surrendered to the artistic vision of a brilliant director? Isn’t it why we go to watch a film? -To get fooled, cheated and relieved in the end!
It is no wonder that an Indie feature made in less than 20 lakhs was picked up by a producer like Dil Raju for release. Dil Raju who is known for producing some of the best heart touching movies in the past has picked up this film for releasing, apart from helping the team by providing finance to complete the post-production of the film. One wonders what Dil Raju has seen in this small little film ! I truly feel that it is the honest attempt by the director Ali.
Vellipomakey, boasts of a content that is so realistic and high on style- the occasional humour is only satirical and mostly unintended. Another major plus point that would have driven Dil Raju to take over this film is the amazing sound track by Prashant R Vihari. He lifts the film from ordinary to extraordinary with his beats.
Without a great story, strong cast and no humour, you might be wondering what makes this film a masterpiece? The answer lies in the film language used by the director Yakoob. This brings us to the question of – What is the language of our films?
An obvious answer for this question would be “Telugu”; But films have a language of their own, a way of communicating using images which is understood around the globe, perhaps even around the galaxy – how else would we try to communicate with aliens, except by using pictures?
We have been making films from past 85 years and we did celebrate the ‘vajrotsavalu’. But when was the last time a film of ours reached the shores afar? When was it understood, and appreciated beyond the borders of our state? Only in the recent past, Eega, Babubali , Pellichoopulu and Arjun Reddy – used the cinematic visuals better than the past and the recognition they received around the world is very obvious.Apart from these recent films and few films in the past like Siva, Shankrabharanam and few others, were there any Telugu films that really crossed the barriers?
The answers for the above question will not be so welcoming for any Telugu filmmaker. Somewhere down the line we have failed to communicate through images. The picture must speak for itself. If not, then a cinema is nothing but a drama recorded on the film.
This is exactly where Tharun, Sandeep and Yakoob Ali score over other hundreds of filmmakers in Telugu. Their grip on film grammar is what sets them apart. Like a novel or any written form of work is completely attributed to the writer, the auteur theory of cinema holds, that the director- who oversees all audio and visual elements of the motion picture, is to be considered the “author” of the movie.
Auteur directors usually have a body of work that maintains a certain level of tone and style that is easily identifiable to the that of the director’s brand. This theory is true regarding a certain list of film directors like Spielberg, Kieslowski, Hitchcock, Scorsese etc. Their films are very stylized and often have an underlying theme that socially challenges one’s perspective. Everything from mise-en-scene to choice in music or production design is often that of the same, in each director’s inventory of work.
Yakoob Ali, clearly establishes himself as an Auteur in his very first film Vellipomakey and one hopes he continues to repeat the magic again and again.
Vellipomakey is going to release on 2nd Septermber, in a theatre near you. Please don’t miss this mini masterpiece.