“I feel like I am in the best phase my career” – says Director Pavan Sadineni. He is high on the success of his latest film, an OTT release ‘Senapathi’ that has veteran actor Rajendra Prasad and Naresh Agastya in the lead. The movie produced by Vishnu Prasad and Sushmitha Konidela of Gold Box Entertainment is being well received from the time it released on January 7, a week ahead of Sankranthi.
“I am supremely happy with our team, and with Arvind garu liking the film, and we releasing it on Aha and breaking all the top show records,” exclaims Pavan. He has been in the industry for the last 10 years, and his earlier film ‘Prema Ishq Kaadhal’ was a romantic comedy anthology that introduced a bunch of promising actors to the industry. Despite the success of his debut film, Pavan chose to shift gears with ‘Senapathi’.
The Thrilling Trailer
The success ride for ‘Senapathi’ began with the launch of its trailer befitting the crime thriller genre it belongs to. The trailer piqued the audience’s interest especially for its innovative use of Oggu Katha recital as background score
“We knew what we wanted for the film from the beginning. We wanted Mahabharata’s Krishna’s Story to be the backdrop. Our story has two characters, who have a lot in common – two similar people affected by the system with consequences in life, who have a choice to make a decision, but the different paths that they take, what they represent; and the approach to the finale is what the story is about. While writing the story we had taken a call to draw parallels to mythology in the trailer that we would be making. I have known about the folk arts like Oggu Katha, Burra Katha, and Pichakuntla Kathalu. We wanted the narrative style of Oggu Katha for the trailer. And, so we made the writer of the song Laxman travel with us through the making of the film. The song was specially written for the film.”
RGV Sir – My Inspiration
The film has worked with the audience on many levels. The suspense, narrative style, the charecterisation and action sequences; especially the chase sequences, are very well executed.
“I always loved the chase sequences in RGV sir’s films. He brought the experience for the first time into Indian cinema with ‘Shiva’ where he used different camera angles. His scenes are not just about action, there is emotion attached to them. His cinema strongly affected me. I gained a lot of inspiration from his films,” shares Pavan during an exclusive interview with FridayWall.
Labour of Love
‘Senapathi’s story is an adaptation of Tamil film ‘8 Thotakkal’. He reveals, “When I first saw the film, I liked it for many reasons. I can never make a scene-to-scene remake. I gave the story a complete makeover with my personal touch. The characters are original. We worked a lot on characterization. We discussed, checked, rechecked, We spent a lot of time on each character – the time we had because of lockdown helped us.”
“I am also glad to work with producers who believe in pre-production. We were not hurriedly forced to shoot,” he adds. “Sushmita was quite clear that we had to go through the pre-production properly – only then we could start to shoot. We shot the film for two months, but there was five months of pre-production work that went into it. The technical crew and cast believed in it and had the same vision. Today, we are enjoying the fruits of our labour.”
Meeting the Legend Rajendra Prasad
It was producer Konidela Sushmita, who helped Pavan Sadineni get introduced to Rajendra Prasad. It was a fan boy moment for him. He relates, “Rajendra Prasad garu is a great actor. My day doesn’t end without watching atleast one film of his. I feel I know more about him than his family and friends, and that my journey with him has been more close than them. And it was amazing to meet him.”
“I wanted him to agree to the role in the first meeting itself. I was not sure how a mainstream actor would agree to an OTT film. So, I went to him with a sketch of how I was imagining his role to be. He took one look at the sketch and agreed to act in the film. Till date he has only been happy and is more and more in love with me because of the role and the story.”
The director further shares his experiences of shooting with the legend, “Every day working with him was like going to a film school. There is this hotel scene where he narrates his back story. It is a long 12-page scene. It was originally planned for a 12-hour shoot, which was delayed due to rain and other issues, and we were left with hardly four hours. While I was getting tensed about this, Rajendra Prasad garu came and delivered the scene in a single take. It was brilliant to watch, and now, looking back I cannot imagine anyone else doing it. He isn’t less than an Oscar winning actor.”
What has Worked for the Film?
The beauty of the film is that it is not only a crime thriller, but emotional drama as well. The director shares, “He being dark having a darker path is what you don’t see coming. And, when you know it, the whole movie lifts up.”
Pavan’s win is as much about the clarity in his screenplay despite parallel stories, and back stories being narrated, as it is in the way he has built the characters. Rajendra Prasad and even the young actor Naresh effortlessly rendered these complex beings from the director’s vision in a simple and non-fussy portrayal. There is no disharmony as the thriller moves forward swiftly unravelling the story.
And to a question – What next – Pavan Sadineni does not reveal much, he says, “Currently I am soaking in the success. I have four different scripts in my hand. Will soon be working on one of them.”
Until then, ‘Senapathi’ continues his victory ride into the Sankranthi weekend.