Interviewed by: Hemanth
Sukumar – “Infatuation is pure; Love is calculation”
Two years after Arya-2, Sukumar’s next film 100% Love is soon in offing. He’s a relaxed man these days and we met him while he was overseeing the final touchups on the film which is all set for release on May 6. Bunny Vas is producing the film on Geetha Arts banner and it stars Naga Chaitanya and Tamannaah in lead roles. Sukumar is as reluctant as ever to speak about his film ahead of its release. Instead, he opens up about a lot of various things in this exclusive chat with 123telugu.com. Here’s a rare insight into the world of Sukumar, who has quite a reputation of being media-shy and calm. He isn’t shy by any measure and a conversation with him ends up resembling a Q & A session between a professor and his student as the professor tries to explain everything through examples. No kidding! Read on…
You have been saying that 100% Love is a simple love story. Having seen your previous films, ‘simple’ is not the term one would associate with your films. So what’s the plug this time? Are you trying to explore a new point in love?
It’s definitely not a new point. I don’t know how one would define ‘variety’ or ‘simple’, but the way I see it there are two ways in which you can narrate a story. I believe a story can be either based completely on logic or you can narrate the story based on your life experiences. 100% Love is inspired from my life experience. In my previous films, I tried to narrate story adding logic to my real life experiences to make it more engrossing; however 100% Love in completely based on my real life experiences.
Love has been one of the themes which have been done to death in our films. In three of the four films you have directed so far, love has been the central theme. In 100% Love, there’s a song on Infatuation. Is that the core theme of the film? What’s the infatuation with this genre?
It was all just a co-incidence. When I chose a love story for my first film (Arya), it was a little easier to convince people when compared to any other genre. Then Jagadam was about violence. When it came to Arya-2, we ended up making a love story since it was termed as a sequel and people would be eager to see the film because of the success of Arya. For 100% Love, I was hell bent on convincing Allu Aravind to make this film as I believed in the story. Like I said, it was all a co-incidence. It is okay if I get stereotyped for making love stories, I am prepared for that. Not that I don’t want to fiddle with other genres.
Coming back to 100% Love, infatuation is just a part of this love story. It’s the purest form of emotion. For example, when a guy sees a girl, the first emotion he has is something like – “Woah, this girl is beautiful.” That’s infatuation. And then he tries to find out more about the girl i.e what she does, where she works, her educational qualification and so on. And then people fall in love. In a way, love is a calculation, because you consider so many pros and cons before you fall in love.
Doesn’t that happen usually with marriages? I am not sure if people would agree that love too is a calculation.
But it is! However, the society loves stability and has termed infatuation as a bad thing and love is a good thing. When you hear about instances where people elope and end up having all sorts of issues, it’s blamed on that emotion called ‘infatuation’. Isn’t it why they are so calculative about everything to ensure a happy life? But then, there’s no guarantee that one’s life would be happy even after love or for that matter infatuation happens. It’s all pretty subjective.
When we talk about ‘Love’, in the past, there were few films which tried to present a totally new perspective. However, there was a mixed reaction from the audience. Does it mean that filmmakers will continue to make the same sort of films with slight alterations to the human drama?
Oh…no! It all boils down to the screenplay. You can make an engrossing film even out of a shoddy storyline, if you have a good screenplay. As a filmmaker, I have to understand where to hit a high or a low in terms of the emotional graph. It’s vital for the success of any film, perhaps that’s what I lacked when I made Jagadam. Take Thoorpu Padamara, an old Telugu film, for example – mother falls in love with the son and father falls in love with the daughter. The film was a huge hit, because it was narrated in a convincing manner.
So, have you mastered this art of how to convince people?
Human emotions keep fluctuating all the time. You might have a great point which you would love to narrate through your films, but that has to match with the frequency of the audience. If that matches, then there’s a good chance that you may make a hit film. It’s probably easy to become an IAS officer if you struggle hard, but understanding what people want is an extremely difficult task.
Yeah, I can relate to what you are saying. But where does your inspiration come from when you write or direct a film?
I have always been interested in making films. That’s my driving force. Before Arya, all I could think of was to direct a film. When Arya ended up as a huge hit, I had to live up to the expectations and make sure that the next film will also be a hit. And when Jagadam flopped, I had to bounce back with a hit. Sometimes, the driving force is to make a good film and at times it’s all about ensuring the success of a film. It’s like a thread which binds the flowers in a garland. In my case, that thread is making films.
As a director, I might have all sorts of ideas which can be made into films. But we choose to develop only some subjects but not others because of the lack of driving force to work on that subject. To quote an example – When you go to a sweet shop, you only pick one type of sweet despite everything on the menu being sweet. Ultimately, it’s all about ‘choice’.
You started off more than 10 years ago to become a director and then in the past eight years you directed four films. Is the hunger to direct still persistent as ever or are you a completely different person now?
The hunger is always there. It’s like a black hole. If you lose this hunger, it’s difficult to make films. Look at Martin Scorsese. He’s 68 years old and still makes some wonderful films. Personally, if I had done things which I would have liked to, there would have been some sense of accomplishment. Quite frankly, I haven’t. Right now, I am still in a state of infatuation with this girl called cinema. There’s still a long way to go to eventually fall in love, marry and have kids with her! (chuckles)
What are these things that you want to accomplish? And what’s stopping you right now?
There are so many experiences that you go through in your life. I want to make films based on my experiences with people and life in general. I want to tell more personal stories. When you narrate stories of different people, it’s difficult to replicate the emotions which they go through despite all the research that you do. If you want to measure someone’s happiness, even a beggar experiences the same satisfaction when he gets something to eat when compared to an uber rich man earning Rs 1000 crores. Now, it’s difficult to bring that emotion alive on screen unless you have undergone a similar incident personally. Some filmmakers in Hindi film industry are telling such personal stories because of the market created by the rise of multiplexes. But our market is quite small to narrate such personal stories. Someday, I would want to make such stories.
You stay away from all the glitz and glamour of the film industry. What exactly are you here for? Is it fame, money?
(Chuckles) Again to quote an example – I want to ogle at a girl, but will do it secretly. Similarly, I want fame, money and all those things, but I wouldn’t want to show off! I am happy in my own world.
Have you fallen into this trap where you are expected to deliver a hit everytime you make a film? Is there any scope for making films that you want to make or does it all boil down to numbers (profit Vs loss) game?
If I had to make films for my satisfaction, it would be a better option for me to sit at home and write poetry. Making a film involves a lot of effort, time, teamwork and most importantly money. And when money is involved in this equation, it automatically becomes a business. No business should end in a loss and hence the only goal while making a film is to deliver a hit. It’s not right to say that I don’t care about whether a film is a hit or not. I have not fallen into a trap. I was born in this trap of number game and have grown up right here. You have to just accept how the industry and this whole business works and play by the rules.
Coming back to 100% Love, did you write the story keeping Naga Chaitanya and Tamannaah in mind? How did they come onboard?
I may not have written keeping both of them onboard, but given the choices I had they are the best fit for the story. We approached Naga Chaitanya only after concluding that he would be apt for the role. I don’t want to brag just because he has acted in the film, but he has really evolved as an actor. For any actor, it’s very important to have a good memory, especially while doing a long scene. Naga Chaitanya excels in that and I have no doubt that he’s going to be a fantastic actor in future. He’s like this flower who’s blossoming really well. Same is the case with Tamannaah. She has an innocent passion while acting and is extremely dedicated to her work. We didn’t have to remind her about what she had to do and I think she completely believed in the story and the role she was playing. She’ll go a long way in the film industry with that sort of attitude.
The item song in the film, Diyaala Diyaalo has become a huge hit.
Ah…it has become a compulsion of sorts to include an item song in all my films ever since Aah Ante Amalapuram became a huge hit. Maybe it was because we were under the impression that people were eagerly looking forward for such songs in my films. But this time, we didn’t include the song forcibly which was the case in all my films so far. It’s a situation song and adds a little twist in the story.
Alright, is there any other genre which you would like to dabble with?
Thrillers. Hopefully, I will make one in near future.
And we hear that you are doing a film with Mahesh Babu and another with Jr.NTR?
Both the films are under discussions. Nothing has been finalized yet.
We have couple of more questions which people on Twitter wanted me to ask you-
1. You used to teach Maths before you entered film industry. How calculative are you when it comes to films? ~ Arvind
My stint as a Maths lecturer (Aditya Tutorials, Kakinada) has come in quite handy. Back in college, I used to teach Maths which is quite a dry subject. So, I had to come up with several ways to keep the students engrossed in the subject. I think it helped me to judge the levels of understanding of the students and teach accordingly. It’s quite cunning in a way, isn’t it? But then they all used to give great feedback about me to the principal. Right now, I’m doing similar calculations and trying hard to judge how I should narrate the story which would impress people. It’s a huge responsibility, since people who pay to watch a film expect entertainment for those two and a half hours and I have to live up to that.
2. What the hardest decision you had to take in your career and also what’s the biggest moment of joy? ~ Lidia Damer, Germany
Hardest decision – I had to leave my job, where I was getting paid Rs 35,000 and join film industry where I started off with Rs 1400. There was always this pull to go back and do that comfortable job, but I had to drive myself to not think about anything else other than films. Also, my father was of great help. He was 71 years old back then and I convinced him to retire from work since I was earning quite well for the entire family. And when I decided to give up the job, he supported me and said not to worry about me. Even at that age, he didn’t think twice about getting back to work to earn some money for the family. Biggest moment – It took me four years to become a director and I think I had knocked quite a lot of doors before Dil Raju and Allu Arjun okayed the project. That has been the biggest moment of joy. In fact, I don’t remember much about how life passed by after Arya happened!
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