Meet Siva Ananth, Sarjun and Barath Neelakantan, the directors of the short stories in the Telugu web series
‘Morality is a changing goalpost’ is the idea that binds together three short stories written by Siva Ananth for the Telugu web series Addham (mirror), which will première on Aha on October 16. The three-episode series produced by Sujatha Narayanan and E S Devasena has a Chennai-based cast and crew that worked on the project during the lockdown. Meet the three directors of Addham.
Siva Ananth has been associated with director Mani Ratnam since Dil Se, primarily in the direction and production departments. He also directed the Telugu film Chukkallo Chandrudu (2006). “Until a decade or two ago, several Telugu films were being produced from Chennai and we had a large pool of actors and technicians who worked in both Telugu and Tamil. Though my primary work is with Tamil cinema, I’d like to also think of myself as a Telugu film technician since I’ve directed a Telugu film,” he says.
Since Aha was game to look beyond romance and crime capers, Siva wrote hard-hitting stories on morality as the thematic connection. “A theme like this helps us look inwards. There are grey areas; sometimes there’s no demarcation between what’s right and wrong. Each episode is of 20 minutes duration,” he explains.
Siva directs the story titled The Unwhisperable Secret starring Varalaxmi Sarathkumar and Kishore: “Varalaxmi enacts the part of a mature and intelligent woman with an inner turmoil. I’ve been working with Kishore for Mani Ratnam’s next, Ponniyin Selvan, and he was game when I narrated this story.”
After script readings on Zoom and meticulous planning, the team went to shoot in the first week of August. The filming was wrapped up within three days with a small crew. “We planned everything, down to the shot divisions and smallest details, so that we don’t waste time on set,” says Siva.
Sarjun has earned a steady following thanks to his Tamil short films (such as Lakshmi, Maa and Montage) and feature films Airaa and Echcharikkai. Taking up a Telugu short for the first time, he recalls reading the script several times and listening to the dialogues to get familiar with Telugu words. “We had someone on set to guide me and the actors,” he shares.
The story titled The Road That Never Ends stars Rohini and Jayaprakash along with Praveen, a teen actor. “It’s a sensitive story where it’s tough to judge what’s right and wrong. We filmed under constraints during the lockdown and my thoughts were all about wanting to translate the brilliant story I read into a good film,” says Sarjun.
After months of lockdown, the actors were eager to face the camera. However, getting permissions to shoot outdoors wasn’t easy. After several attempts, the team got the go-ahead to shoot in a locality 25kilometres from Chennai. “We shot from 4am to 11pm one day and for 12 hours the following day. Only when editor Sreekar Prasad went through the footage and said we had good material, I was relieved,” says the director.
Sarjun is also in talks to direct a Telugu film for Geetha Arts.
“When I read the story Crossroads written by Siva, I felt it almost had my voice. One of the main reasons I left my corporate career and became a filmmaker is to be able to put out my voice,” says Barath Neelakantan, who directed the Tamil film K-13.
“In the planning stages of Addham, we (the three directors) debated on plot points and what a character is likely to say in a certain situation. In the process, we became greater friends since we shared our personal stories,” he says.
Crossroads stars Prasanna, Abirami Venkatachalam and Pavithrah Marimuthu. “When we talk of Crossroads, most of us talk about career and rarely do we acknowledge it in the context of our personal lives. This story deals with personal life,” says Barath.
Taking up a story written by another writer for the first time, Siva was concerned that he should be able to do justice to the story. “Siva watched the film and was very happy with how it turned out,” he says.
Though it’s his first Telugu project, he says it wasn’t tedious since his wife, a Telugu, was part of one of the script readings. Barath also took the help of friends in Telugu cinema.
(Addham streams on Aha from October 16)