The question ‘what if?’ can make our imagination run wild and perhaps spark a story worthy of a large screen experience. Vi Anand, writer and director of the Telugu thriller Ooru Peru Bhairavakona, which releases in theatres on February 16, traces the origin of the film’s story idea to his engineering days when he travelled by Yercaud Express from Chennai to Erode, his hometown. “I woke up at night to find that the train had stopped in the middle of nowhere. Everything was dark when I looked out of the window. Then, I spotted faint lights, fireworks and heard the sound of drums from a distance. I gathered that there could be some festivities in a distant village. I was curious about the village, its people and the midnight festivities. I also wondered, what if I get down from the train and visit the place?” In Ooru Peru…, actor Sundeep Kishan plays a character who visits one such village and learns, to his surprise, that the people have been waiting for him.
The film is Anand’s second collaboration with Sundeep Kishan after Tiger, the 2015 Telugu action drama. During this interview at his office in Hyderabad, Anand recalls the ‘what if?’ that triggered Tiger. “I was riding my bike and on that day, I was not carrying my wallet or ID cards. A thought crossed my mind that if I were to meet with an accident, no one would know who I am. I told myself that in such an eventuality, I should quickly blurt out my wife’s phone number so that someone can contact her. It’s a scary thought but it made me write a story.” In Tiger, the phone number revealed by Rahul Ravindran who meets with an accident paves way for the story.
Post Tiger, Anand and Sundeep had become friends and confidantes and often bounced ideas off each other. “He is upfront and tells me when he thinks I have not written well enough. That feedback has always helped,” says Anand.
Not a regular hero
The director shared a few story ideas with Sundeep in 2020. The actor liked Ooru Peru… since he had not been part of a supernatural fantasy drama. “His character, Basavalingam, is not a straightforward hero. He has stolen jewellery and is on the run, there are grey shades to his character,” says Anand. As the story developed and both Anand and Sundeep were keen to make it into a film, their common friend, Rajesh Danda, stated his interest in producing it and launched the production company, Hasya Movies. The film went on floors in February 2022.
The fictional village Bhairavakona is located amid forests and Anand conceptualised it such that it is steeped in mystery and rituals. Some of Anand’s earlier films too have had the fantasy element — Ekkadiki Pothavu Chinnavada, for instance. He recalls being fascinated by concepts of death and afterlife for years. “I believe in past life and have been curious about what happens after death and the journey of the soul to attain salvation or to the next birth. That made me read Garuda Puranam. In this film, we took the creative liberty to weave a story stating that four pages of the book have gone missing and what that can lead to.”
Once Anand writes a story, he shares it with his wife, his older son who is now 14 and close friends who weigh in and offer their feedback. He gauges their reactions to see if his stories interest them. He says Ooru Peru… has elements of magical realism. Having read books such as Many Lives Many Masters on past lives, he also mentions Piranesi as one among his favourites.
Ask Anand how he visualises fantasy dramas for the large screen and he says he goes with the flow and does not overthink once the plot points, conflicts and characters are delineated. “I make things difficult for Basavalingam in this film so that the audience is invested in his journey to see how he rises above all the hurdles. As his endurance is tested, it will be interesting to see how his character evolves.” Anand adds that Ooru Peru… might have a few jumpscares but remains in the entertaining, family-friendly zone.
Ooru Peru… will release only in Telugu and going by its reception, it may be dubbed in Tamil and Hindi. Growing up in Tamil Nadu and later moving to Hyderabad, Anand observes that the aesthetics and grammar of Telugu cinema is different from that of Tamil, even though several dubbed films have found takers in both regions. “The dialogue delivery, scene construction and drama are different. Very few films can be made simultaneously in both languages.” Looking back at his earlier films, he says his experience of working in Tamil (Appuchi Gramam) as well as Telugu made him understand the differences required to engage the audience. “Tiger was significant for me in that sense. Abburi Ravi wrote the dialogues and I understood how he knew the pulse of the Telugu audience. When I directed my first film Hrudayam Ekkadunnadi (2014), I did not know how to write for a Telugu film.”
After the release of Ooru Peru…, Anand will begin working on a film starring Nikhil Siddhartha and there are two more fantasy dramas in the pipeline.