Connecting to roots

Connecting to roots
Highlights

Having grown up watching movies in his grandfather’s cinema hall ‘Shivadurga’, Kakinada and from the town which is crazy about movies, it’s no wonder that Sunder Surya has dreamt of donning director’s hat one day. And as he is days away to catch his maiden feature ‘Ammammagari Illu’ unspool in his own backyard, he admits it has been a long-winded journey. 

Having grown up watching movies in his grandfather’s cinema hall ‘Shivadurga’, Kakinada and from the town which is crazy about movies, it’s no wonder that Sunder Surya has dreamt of donning director’s hat one day. And as he is days away to catch his maiden feature ‘Ammammagari Illu’ unspool in his own backyard, he admits it has been a long-winded journey.

A post-graduate, he was associated with a Bengaluru firm for six months before realising, for once and all, that his true calling was cinema. “I’ve started off with Eenadu network as an assistant director and later, worked with the likes of G Nageswara Reddy, Shankar, Bommarillu Bhasker and Konda Vijay. I’ve been travelling with the script of ‘Ammammagari Illu’ for the past four years. As a matter of fact, I was supposed to turn director four years ago, but the project didn’t materialise,” he informs.

As he began to flesh out the family drama’s idea, the only name that crossed his mind to shoulder it was Naga Shaurya. “He green-lit the script in the first narration itself, saying, ‘It’s an emotional script, let’s work.’ If he didn’t say yes, maybe I would’ve kept the script aside,” Surya, a big fan of Ram Gopal Varma and Krishna Vamsi, points out, adding that the suave actor signed the film even before his recent hit ‘Chalo’. “In fact, he didn’t even suggest (script) changes. On sets, I did guide others on how to go about certain scenes, but he didn’t require any. He is a director’s delight.

“If Shaurya is one pillar of the film, then Sivaji Raja, Rao Ramesh and Hema, with the way they went about improvisations on sets, are the other three pillars.” ‘Ammammagari Illu’ is about a how grandson Santosh (Shaurya), who believes in giving, understands his granny’s (yesteryear actress Sumitra) pain and helps her to resolve an issue which took place 20 years ago. Borrowed slightly from his own life, he adds, “The film is bound to take everyone down the memory lane and will tug at your heartstrings.

Everyone loves their mother and the love towards granny who gave birth to their mom will be more, right? As far as I know, a bad never granny never exists and I don’t think, in the history of Telugu cinema, ever has been a film made on Ammamma title.”

Talking about Sumitra’s casting, he shares, “I was on the lookout for that typical grandma who is lovable, yet vulnerable. I did consider a couple of other names but finally zeroed in on Sumitra garu. She was spot on with her performance and most grandmothers and grandsons will easily connect and relate to her part.”

The film, shot predominantly in a specially re-designed house at Ramoji Film City, with some parts filmed at Annavaram, also marks the return of Shamili to Tollywood. She made her debut with Siddharth-starrer ‘Oye!’ nine years ago. On her choice, Surya notes, “I wanted a performer with Telugu girl looks and after scrutinising other choices felt Shamili was appropriate.

Also, I felt the character’s impact on the audience will be more if it’s a known face. And when I gave her a narration, she said, ‘I’ve heard a lot of scripts of late but nothing got my interest like this.’ She plays Shaurya’s sister-in-law and there’s a cute love angle to them.”

He shares a great bond with ‘Rangasthalam’ director Sukumar. “Although I never got an opportunity to work with him, I share everything with him. He has been my well-wisher for the past six years and I’ve learnt many things from him,” Surya, who watched the evergreen classic ‘Missamma’ close to 2,000 times, signs off.

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