From Warangal to Shanghai
Acharya Venu born in a village called Rangaiah Pally in Warangal district of Telangana, always loved cinema. He dreamt of cinema, eventually got trained and the first feature film he workd on as a cinematographer won an award at the Shanghai Film Festival. "I felt euphoric. I actually wanted to speak something in Telugu on that stage, but I couldn't, because I was too nervous. As an Indian I was happy to have received the award," he says. The film MA.AMA (which mean to moan in Garo language) is derived from 'Ma' for mother, while 'Ama' refers to longing. The movie comes from a deeply personal place. Featuring director's own father Philip, the film was set in a village on the border between Meghalaya and Assam, 'Maama' is about an 85-year-old Philip Sangma, who has lived every day of the past 30 years waiting to be reunited with his dead wife, Anna.
As the first film, the challenges were many. "To begin with, it was an unknown territory, a place called Nongthomoi in Meghalaya. The weather was unpredictable and the light was very inconsistent. We were a crew of only 10 members and the budget was low. All the actors were local people, who never had any experience of facing the camera before. My options were limited and I had to create something good with whatever I could get my hands on. Sometimes I used to pray for sunlight to take a shot and the clouds used to open up giving the light I want," shares Venu.
His love for cinema began at a very young age. Venu's mother introduced him to cinema. He shares, "When I was around 5-years-old, she used to take me to the touring talkies in my village, which was a popular thing during the time. My first was Mega Star Chiranjeevi's film and it was a mesmerising experience. During the film, I remember watching an old man from the audience hitting the villain on the screen with a stick to save the hero. I understood that cinema is a very powerful medium and I was fascinated to see what it can do to people. Before I knew it, cinema became a part of my life. Every Sunday I used to take 1 rupee from my mother and used to walk 3 kilometres to the neighbouring village to watch a movie. It became a routine. I used to observe the shadows created on the screen by people walking in front of the projector and the dancing shadows of the papers that are thrown into the air when people saw their favourite hero on the screen. I used to look at the projector every now and then and that really caught my attention. I have met the projectionist of the theatre one day and he took me inside the projector room and that looked like a Disney Land to me. I was so excited and asked him a million questions about everything I saw. The first souvenir of cinema I got was a small piece of the cinema reel from the projection room. I remember holding it like the most precious thing. I took it back home and I used to try projecting it on my wall by reflecting light on to it with a broken mirror. I think those were the moments which installed an interest towards the technical side of cinema."
"Growing up I heard many stories and legends about how everything was created by God. Eventually when I learn movies are made by someone, I wanted to see how it feels to create something. I wanted to experience "The God Thing". I think that is the genesis of my passion, the urge to create," he adds.
Just like love for movies, love for camera to happened to him as a part of growing up. "I think is the most amazing thing that was invented by mankind is the machine, which can freeze a moment of life and makes you literally hold on to that moment in your hand in the form of something called a photograph. Nothing intrigued me more. As a kid I rarely got a chance to get my hands on this magical machine. When I was in my 10th grade, a professional photographer came to my village to capture some temples. I was lucky to meet him that day. I saw a big camera and lens and looked at them like candy. He was nice and he let me try his camera. I still remember the sound of the click. I shared my excitement regarding movies, and he said he was assisting a Cinematographer on a movie. That day, I knew that movies are shot with bigger cameras and that is what we see on the screen. I wanted to be a Cinematographer. I finished my graduation in Fine Arts at JNTU and applied for a Cinematography course at the prestigious Satyajit Ray Film & Television Institute (SRFTI) in Kolkata. I attended an interview and got through," he explains his journey into professional film making space.
Why not a Telugu language movie? He answers, "Why Not? I am more than ready to do a Telugu film. I grew up watching Telugu films and I would love to shoot the same. I have already worked as a second unit Cinematographer for a Telugu film 'Jersey' starring Nani. My first Telugu Film as a cinematographer will be with a debut director Avaneendra, who is an associate of the famous writer Vijayendra Prasad and SS Rajamouli, which will begin later this year. I loved the story and I immediately said yes.