In conversation with Lakshmikanth Chenna
Editorial Team -
Lakshmikanth Chenna has been a filmmaker who has called a spade a spade and is clear about his creative choices. Having directed the pathbreaking Dakhni film Hyderabad Nawabs for a debut, the filmmaker dabbled with a drama, a love story each before placing his bet on a thriller with Run, a web film that’s slated to release on Aha on May 29. The crime thriller features Navdeep, Pujita Ponnada in the lead roles.
What prompted you to direct Run?
It’s a very engaging story, I was on the edge of my seat as I listened to it. Even Allu Aravind garu felt the same after listening to my narration. We initially planned this as a web series because we felt the narrative could keep a viewer completely invested in the proceedings across various episodes. It ended up being an OTT original film nevertheless, where we were confident that it would work equally well over a two-hour narrative. I am glad that it’s the first original film releasing on the platform. Releasing the film at the right time is extremely significant for its reception, be it theatrical or web. We couldn’t have asked for a better time for a release than now, given the number of viewers who’ll be glued to the small screens.
You’ve made this film intending to directly release it on the web. Did it mean more creative freedom in the project over a theatrical release?
Not exactly! I am a regular consumer of web content across various languages and I believe that has helped me understand the nuances of what works for the digital space and what doesn’t. I, however, wouldn’t want to divide audiences into web-viewers and theatre-going crowds. It’s the same people who shift loyalties with their choices as per convenience. The digital medium, however, gives more power to the viewer – he/she is at the liberty of going back, pausing or skipping certain portions of the content at their will. Theatres, meanwhile, are a social experience where a viewer responds to the content in a group, laughing, clapping, whistling their way. Even when a particular sequence isn’t good, they either turn their face aside or keep scrolling down their mobile. The challenge increases for the filmmaker with OTT – to keep a viewer interested and make them immune to the use of the remote or the disturbances caused by any other activity in their homes.
Navdeep’s versatility as an actor and his ability to dabble with roles in various shades are a major advantage for a thriller, given it keeps the mystery element in the story alive. Do you agree?
Navdeep is a good actor in the truest sense – be it a positive role, exhibiting villainy or even doing comedy. He has a terrific range and it’s a distinct advantage for a director to cast him in any given role for a film. Now is a time when every actor is keen to do OTT because of the potential it holds as a medium, but he’s one actor who’s believed in digital content much before anyone else in the industry did.
How important is the platform through which you release a web-film – in this case, Aha?
The biggest advantage of Aha as a platform is its sole focus on Telugu content. It has brought digital content to the households of several families, home-makers and the middle-class segment that prefers to watch content in Telugu, even if it means the dubbed version of an international/Hindi show. Allu Aravind garu’s presence is destined to take Aha much ahead in the future. They have an impressive number of subscribers already and it wouldn’t take long for them to be the number one OTT platform in Telugu.
Popular director Krish has been associated with Run’s production. What’s the value that a producer who’s already been a director, bring to a project?
Associating with a producer like Krish (who’s already an established director) offers immense scope creatively. When we discuss a story with them, the way it’s scripted, visualised or executed, somewhere our thoughts are expected to align. It ensures a much better product at the end of the day. Krish was of great help in giving a direction to Run, especially in the decision to release it as a film and not a series.
You’ve taken significant breaks between all of your films. Does it offer time for reflection or is it a necessity while working on diverse scripts?
I can be very diplomatic about this, but I wouldn’t shy away from admitting that this is an industry where being successful, matters. When a film is successful, it’s natural to be flooded by offers. In case a film fails, a break is imperative to self-evaluate. The filmmaker takes some time to understand their strengths (and weakness) before moving onto the next project. That’s how we progress. It’s easy to give an excuse that the script demanded such a time, but this is the truth. Ten producers made a beeline to offer me a film after the success of Hyderabad Nawabs. It was a film that ran for 175 days and opened the gateways for the existence of the Dakhni film industry. It would have been easy for me to do a Dakhni film and probably become the most sought director in that space. However, I didn’t want to repeat myself. Doing films in different genres has always been my priority.
What do you think decides the outcome of a digital release?
The success of a web-film is decided by the feedback of a regular viewer and of course the number of views the content goes onto have. A regular viewer at best tells if the film is good or bad, unlike the reviewers who are specific about what they liked in the show or what they didn’t. We’ve been successful in creating an anticipation level for the viewer with the trailer of Run – the success of a show lies if it helped add more subscribers to the platform or the existent viewers have been entertained by it. The result creates trust in the filmmaker and the OTT platform alike.