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Producer Manikanta JS Interview – Prasanna Vadanam

Prasanna Vadanam was a film that Suhas had committed to in 2021, but destiny took its course and the shoot commenced only last August. After roping in Sukumar’s associate Arjun Y K on board as the director, the film’s producer JS Manikanta met Suhas through a common friend. Manikanta’s priority was to make it a financially viable project.

“Nearly 99 of 100 producers fail in making a commercially successful film. I wanted to do everything to keep my stakeholders safe and it was only possible through satellite, OTT deals. During the narration, I picked up a test audience comprising viewers of varied tastes and gauged their reaction to the script. It was scrutinised across multiple channels and we earned a nod from everyone.”

When a producer gives a nod to a film, it’s only natural that he would slot it for a particular audience base. “The premise around facial blindness hasn’t been explored in Indian cinema before and its novelty is undeniable. It’s a tightly knit thriller not catered for the intelligentsia alone and has many layers that could find takers in tier 2 and 3 centres too.”

Manikanta wanted the film to be free from the dark, gloomy colour palette that thrillers conventionally boast of. “I don’t really understand why do we need to over-emphasise a dark chapter in a protagonist’s life through colours and the night setting. I wanted it to be a lively film about a protagonist with a rare condition. Even the censor board was surprised with its visual aesthetics.”

It helped him that Arjun was very receptive to criticism throughout the making. “He may have worked under Sukumar but is a very simple man who doesn’t know of the world beyond cinema. Whenever a lyric/tune/scene needed a relook, he never reacted impulsively and worked towards bringing out a better product. As a producer, I was invested in the creative process.”

His primary asset has been his rooted understanding of the distribution sector for several years and it provided him a perspective on how does one sell their film. “The difficult part was dealing with the OTT players and surpassing their various layers, it was daunting. I was lucky that I had approached them earlier and sealed the deal for the right price.”

The producer dismisses the argument that films won’t work in the middle of the election season and IPL. “What about those below 18 then? They would definitely need their friends/family to tag along. Our main issue this season is the absence of supply even when there’s good demand. Even if 2% of audiences in Telugu states watch Prasanna Vadanam, I’ll be safe as a producer.”

His next project will be a fantasy film and is likely to star Suhas in the lead role. “Suhas is a blessing to the film industry. Every second newcomer is at ease imagining him as their protagonist. He has given hope to many and is very easy to work with, arrives on set before time.” Prasanna Vadanam is Suhas’ third release this year after Ambajipeta Marriage Band and Sri Ranga Neethulu.

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