Director Pawan Kumar and actor Rahul Vijay hold forth on their Telugu web series ‘Kudi Yedamaithe’
Two of the most defining films in director Pawan Kumar’s career so far, the Kannada projects Lucia (2013) and U-Turn (2016; he later remade U-Turn in Tamil and Telugu) have been thrillers. He describes his next Kannada film Dvitva, starring Puneet Rajkumar, as a family drama-thriller. His new Telugu web series Kudi Yedamaithe, which is scheduled to premiere on Aha on July 16, is a science fiction thriller starring Amala Paul and Rahul Vijay. “I choose stories, not the genre. But yes, I seem to be in the thriller space. I am trying to make Dvitva more of a family drama than a thriller. The silent short film [Asmite] I did during lockdown is a family drama,” he says, during the course of this interview.
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The story of Kudi Yedamaithe (If right becomes left) was written by Ram Vignesh and the streaming platform Aha approached Pawan through his friend and filmmaker Nandini Reddy. “I liked the story and how certain events repeat themselves on a time loop,” says Pawan. The broad storyline involves two characters — Amala Paul as a cop and Rahul Vijay as a delivery agent working for a company called ‘Repeat’ — caught in a series of repetitive events. “Rahul is also an aspiring actor; he and Amala try to find their way out of the loop,” adds Pawan.Lockdown initiatives
- On his YouTube channel, Pawan put forth a series of podcasts and videos on filmmaking in 2020. He also initiated the Filmmakers United Club (www.thefuc.in) to help aspirants interact with filmmakers and potential mentors from the industry. “I overworked myself during lockdown,” he says with a laugh, adding that when he was an aspiring director 15 years ago, he had wanted to connect with industry insiders to know more about filmmaking and navigating the distribution system. “The method of communication changed during lockdown, with filmmakers having time on their hands and the audience eager to engage with content,” he adds.
- Pawan discloses that it was a running joke within film circles that writers and directors weren’t new to a state of lockdown: “We have been trained to live the lockdown life. We wait for weeks and months to get a project rolling.”
He got on board the project late August 2020 and the next two months were spent in finalising the script, followed by online reading sessions with Amala Paul and Rahul Vijay. After a three-week pre-production schedule in November, the team filmed four hours of content within 48 days: “Usually it takes 100 to 120 days to film content for a two-hour feature. We were dealing with a lot more content. In normal practice, a director has no easy access to all the content filmed until the editing stage. I didn’t want to wait that long,” he says.
Pawan designed an app to streamline the workflow with the help of a friend who is adept in coding. Key unit members had access to this app on which footage was updated every day. This helped to keep track of scenes that were part of the time loop.
In 2017, speaking during a TEDx event, Pawan had emphasised on not falling into a comfort zone. An engineering dropout, he ventured into theatre and then cinema. Remaking U-Turn in both Tamil and Telugu was also his way of testing new frontiers. That experience came in handy while filming Kudi Yedamaithe. Pawan reveals, “My mother hails from Andhra [Pradesh] and I had grown up watching Telugu films. I can understand the language though I cannot speak fluently. I find Telugu easier to follow than Tamil. It also helped to have assistants and a co-director who know Telugu well.”
Pawan reveals that Season 1 of Kudi Yedamaithe will have eight episodes of around 30-minute duration each and gauging the response, the team will embark on further seasons.
Rahul Vijay: ‘I went in like a blank piece of paper’
Rahul Vijay | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement
A selfie taken on his mobile phone helped Rahul Vijay clinch his part in Kudi Yedamaithe. Director Pawan Kumar was browsing through profiles of actors who were in consideration for the character. He spotted a photograph of Rahul and felt he would be apt. He then learnt that Rahul had played the lead in the Telugu films Ee Maya Peremito (2018) and Suryakantham (2019). “I wasn’t sure if someone who had played the lead in feature films would want to take up a web series,” Pawan remembers.
Rahul, on the other hand, had been wanting to work with Pawan ever since he had seen Lucia as a college student. “I was studying mass communication and journalism at St. Mary’s College (Hyderabad) when I watched the film; it was mind blowing. I told my friends that I would love to work with a director like him. Years later, it was a dream come true to get the opportunity,” says Rahul.
Rahul flew down to Bengaluru to meet Pawan and once he was finalised, he submitted himself to do whatever was required: “I went in like a blank piece of paper and tried to absorb everything that I could. It took me four to five days to get used to Pawan’s style of work. He was never idle on set; he would always be trying something or the other and I learnt so much about cinema through him.”
As a delivery agent and an aspiring actor in the series, Rahul says he got the scope to push himself to try something new: “I can’t reveal much, but those scenes where I am enacting other film sequences during auditions are to watch out for.”
The time loop sequences posed a fresh challenge: “The day would be different, but the events were repeating themselves. This meant I had to enact the same scene and emote similarly each time. It was a learning experience and I think I grew as an actor.”
Rahul grew up visiting film sets and watching his father, stunt master Vijay, at work. “I always knew I wanted to be in the movies. At a cinema hall, we might be seated next to strangers but we are bound by the emotions with which we react to what is happening on screen. We laugh and cry together. In India, I think that can happen only with cricket and cinema,” he says.
At the insistence of his mother, he took up a graduation course and also prepped to be an actor. He enrolled in an acting course at the training institute helmed by the late Devadas Kanakala and his wife Lakshmi in Hyderabad, and also trained at Satyanand Acting Institute in Vizag. Growing up as a stunt master’s son, he also learnt karate and kickboxing. In addition, he trained in Kuchipudi for four years: “I did everything I thought was necessary to prepare myself to be an actor. Since I was a chubby child, all this physical activity helped me up my fitness level.”
Rahul will be seen next in the feature film Panchatanthram directed by debutant Harsha Pulipaka. In the meantime, he hopes that Kudi Yedamaithe will open new doors for him.
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