Here’s all that goes into making a film

Anand Balki, a first-time director in Tamil cinema, is ready with his film Server Sundaram. This much-awaited flick is in the news for many reasons, first among them is that it will mark the debut of Bijesh Nagesh, grandson of legendary comedian Nagesh. Bijesh plays the second lead in the film, also featuring Santhanam and Vaibhavi Shandilya as the lead pair. Secondly, the film has been made on a budget of 12- and-a-half crore. When a producer spends this kind of money on a first-time director, it speaks volumes about Anand Balki’s potential.

Besides, Anand has completed the film well within the budget he specified at the beginning of the project, a rare thing in the industry. “Server Sundaram is a film dedicated to hoteliers. I was into hotel management myself. On the surface, it’s all about the luxury, but what happens behind the scenes is a different story. There is hardship and long hours of work,” says Anand.

Clarifying that it is not his intention to portray any hotel in a bad light, he goes on to say, “Perhaps, it’s because of such hardcore training that I am here today. At one point in time during my hotel management training, my work was in the kitchen. I had to peel 65 to 70 kg of onions every day. From six in the morning to eight in the night, that used to be my job. My eyes would become blood red.”

Elaborating on his intention to enter the filmmaking business, Anand says, ‘‘I’ve always wanted to get into films. So, I thought why not make a film on my experiences and with a little bit of knowledge in writing, I wrote a script and showed it to my wife. She found it interesting and this inspired me to continue further.’’

With the ideating taken care of, how did the director, also a businessman, realise the dream? “I began by forming a team. Cinema may be new to me, but business isn’t. A lot of things that I learnt in business I could apply here. Generally, filmmaking happens in three parts, the first is the creative idea that can be understood in one line. After that, one has to convince the hero. And then, narrate the story to the producer and convince him to invest in your project. Selvakumar, of Kenanya Films is the producer, and he backed me thoroughly,” says Anand.

Getting into the details of the project and how it shaped up, he says,‘‘Server Sundaram is a straightforward film. I wanted someone interesting to play the lead. And, when I finished the script, I had Santhanam in mind. He was doing Nannbenda then. It was past midnight and I’d told him that I would finish the narration in an hour, however, I took 45 minutes more. By the end of it, we shook hands and Santhanam agreed to do the film.”

Though the actor-director duo wanted to begin work immediately, they couldn’t communicate for a while, “I couldn’t get in touch with Santhanam after that, and meanwhile, I began refining my script. Eight months later, I had the chance to talk to Santhanam and he’d found a producer for me. I then met Selva and gave him a budget of 13 crore, and wrapped up the film in 12.5 crore. Despite the gaps, we were able to complete the film. We shot in Dubai, Goa, and in a college as well,’’ says Anand.

Speaking of his decision to launch Bijesh Nagesh, he says, ‘‘Bijesh was one of the biggest assets on set. He plays Rajapandi, a server, in the film. Initially, he wasn’t interested in acting and I was surprised because from what I saw, Bijesh, without any training, was 30 to 40% of Nagesh uncle. We are family friends and when I auditioned him, he just had to say two dialogues and the entire team was okay with having him on board.”

At this point, Bijesh narrates how he came about doing films, “I am a writer. I have been writing for a long time now. I wanted to be an editor in a magazine. I was interested in behind-the-scenes of writing and how the show is managed. This film came out of the blue. The makers were actually looking for my brother, Anand Gajesh, who had done Kalkandu at that time. Anand anna is a family friend and he had come home to discuss the film. He sat me down and talked to me about it. The story and my character appealed to me, that’s when I decided to do the movie.’’

The young actor is all praise for his director, who he says is a role model and a good leader, “You will not find a better example of a leader. He is a first-time director and is remarkable under pressure. He would be like, ‘Everything is fine. Let’s carry on.’ He kept the entire process calm and simple. He had faith in us and wouldn’t come and tell us how to do our jobs. He did not complicate anything. Rather he asked us to take it easy and said, ‘You’ll know how to do the scenes.’

Bijesh further adds, ‘‘He reinforced that we had time even though we were on a tight schedule. That was nice. We were aware of the difficulties he was going through but he would never show it or take his anger out on us. I have never seen anyone with such patience before. The way in which he has made this movie is incredible. It’s hard to believe that it is Anand anna’s first film. Everyone was happy with the way he completed the project and with the class with which he carried himself.

On a concluding note, we ask Anand Balki if this film has a message to offer? He answers, “Server Sundaram is a family drama and it has all the elements that go into making the film a thorough entertainer. It is about an aspiring engineer who ends up becoming a world-class chef. I have come to understand that at any point in time, a person has something unique in them which they don’t discover, aspire to become something else and end up being unhappy. In such cases, only a change in the situation helps one realise one’s talents and strengths. There is a message in my film for the youth, and it’s simple: the talent in you needs to be explored and honed. More importantly, never underestimate yourself.’’

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Here’s all that goes into making a film

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