Hello, folks! In this week’s #BlabWithSandy, I have with me a multi-talented woman, who has travelled her cinematic journey in ways that can only give us confidence and grit. Aparna Malladi it is, and she is here to blab with me all about her career, her films, and her most awaited project ‘Pellikuturu Party’. Let us wait no further and dive into the exciting blab I had with her:
Sandy: Hello, Aparna ji! Hope you are doing as well as your upcoming film? 😊
Aparna: Hi, Sandy. Ha-ha-ha! Indeed, yes.
Sandy: Could you throw some light on your background?
Aparna: My dad was in the Army. We had travelled a lot due to that reason. I did my Engineering in Chemistry from Osmania University. Then, I’d moved to the USA to pursue my master’s in molecular biology at the University of Tennessee.
Those where the days wherein Silicon Valley was booming with the emergence of IT companies. I got a job out there in Biotech and I’d lived in the Bay Area. I got into filmmaking and that’s when I knew, I had to live and die behind the camera.
Sandy: Sounds interesting! How and when did you get your first break?
Aparna: New directors were being offered grants and I had made one short film called ‘Nupur’. It was screened at around 25-30 International film festivals. During my initial years as a filmmaker itself, I went to festivals, my film won accolades, and this showed that I had an artistic voice which had takers all over the world.
I was later invited to India to present my debut film titled “Mitsein”. “Anushree Experiment” was shot in India. Ram from Mango Media helped me out with the OTT release. My first few projects weren’t that easy to bring onto the screens, but my grit and determination made sure I stayed back in India.
Sandy: What were your next set of projects?
Aparna: Rama garu, the content head from TeluguOne wanted to make something new and that was the time wherein TFI had no web series. We collaborated and I made ‘Posh Poris’ within a budget of 10 lakhs and it became a huge hit. This demonstrated that chic flicks were a viable genre.
Sandy: Talking about your latest movie as a director – “Pellikuturu Party”. It is all set to be released soon. A few anecdotes about this film.
Aparna: I had written “Pellikuturu Party” long ago and it is based on an all-girls’ road trip along with their grandmom. After working on the script, I went to the USA for a vacation. I spent around four months fine tuning the script in Florida.
There was a big producer who showed interest in the subject, but I was small fish for him, and it didn’t materialize as planned. I went around pitching this project, but folks wanted me to cut it into a web series for OTT release, which I was totally against! I wanted ‘Pellikuturu Party’ to be a full-length feature film at the theatres.
Sandy: Oh! So, how did the film materialize then?
Aparna: I was dejected and depressed because I somehow wanted this chic flick to be made at any cost. I packed my bags and moved to Hollywood wherein a producer had given me a writing job. But, as hard work does pay off, I received a call at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020 from producer Mr. AVR Swamy. He was looking for a limited budget project and he liked my script. That’s how ‘Pellikuturu Party’ began!
Sandy: How difficult was it to shoot the film during the pandemic?
Aparna: Sandy, it was tough because we had to shoot the film on a limited budget alongside the Covid-19 restrictions. It was challenging but during the tougher times, we need to look at the advantages too!
As it was a pandemic, we got the hotels, locations, and other resources at a cheaper price. We also have a helicopter scene in the film and luckily, we got that too at a decent rate! 😊
Sandy: You have acted, written, directed, produced your flicks. Which one comes easy, and which one doesn’t?
Aparna: Hahaha! I am good at writing, Sandy. Maybe because I got more opportunities to write during the early stages of my career. In terms of skills, as of now, I feel I am a better writer than a director just because I have written more than I have directed!
And I don’t want to produce unless there is nobody willing to do it, hahaha! I do not want to compromise on my subjects, so I believe writing and directing are the two things that I want to concentrate on currently.
Sandy: What are the audience going to witness while watching “Pellikuturu Party”?
Aparna: It is a chic flick which is filled with romance and comedy (Romcom). It is all about a road trip that goes haywire! Girls say why should boys only go for road trips, can’t girls enjoy that space? There are many lovely layers to the film, Sandy, and I am sure the audience would love the camaraderie between the girls and the grandmom played by Annapurna garu.
The film has cool hunks too and this is an urban chic film that has entertainment and fun glued to it. Sweekar Agasthi has given us some addictive tunes and his music is one of the mainstays for the film. The music has hip hop and jazz, while my personal favorite from the album is “Vennela” song.
Sandy: The film has some fresh cast who have won accolades for their previous works. I have my dear friends being part of it too, so I am excited to watch them onscreen. How did you go about with the casting of this flick?
Aparna: I am glad that my producer didn’t interfere with the casting and all he wanted me to choose were a few new faces and someone who have done memorable works in the past. For the role of the grandmother, who better than Annapurna amma garu to play that role. We chose Prince to play one of the hunks and he has done a good job.
Aneesha Dama was fab, and I took her by looking at her audition. I didn’t see her filmography and after getting to know that she has done some tremendous work in his first few films, I was even more impressed. She is like the Aurey Hepburn of India for me, and I am sure she is going to go places. So is the case with Bhavana Vazhapandal. She looks beautiful in the film and her role came out so well.
Jaiyetri and Seetha were top notch in the film, and we wanted confident Youtubers to play that part. They played their roles well. Pushpa Bhaskar needs to be credited with the casting as she has been associated with me ever since ‘Posh Poris’. I wanted Telugu speaking girls who could dub on their own and I am happy that I could get the cast that I wanted!
Sandy: Though it is a chic film, the guys in the film have a great camaraderie too, going by the teasers and promos.
Aparna: Yes, indeed! Prince has added the flair that was required for the role, and he is remarkable. Arjun Kalyan plays the second hero, and his juicy looking demeanor has given an edge to him in the film.
Sai Ketan Rao is known for his macho roles but in this film, he plays a good-looking nerd. All the guys did their job well and you’d be seeing their chemistry on the screens.
Sandy: This is a road movie alongside a girl gang. Tollywood hasn’t really seen a film of this sort in the recent past. How confident are you regarding the successful verdict of this film?
Aparna: In fact, I had made ‘Posh Poris’ with fresh faces and it did well. I believe, ‘Pellikuturu Party’ required relatively new faces as the concept of chic flicks is new to Tollywood. I feel safe that I went ahead with this star cast and I am confident that it would work at the box office.
Quick Shot Round:
- Biggest regret: I don’t have regrets! Maybe, I would have liked to start a little earlier but in retrospect, it happened at the right time, and I take it as a life experience
- Close pals in the industry: I would say Paruchuri Gopalakrishna garu. He took me under his wings, and it was through him that I met Vijayendra Prasad garu. These both are like my friendly gurus’ in the industry. ‘Pelli SandaD’ fame director Gowri Ronanki has also been an emotional support for me
- If not a director, you’d been? I would have been a great Sales and Marketing professional. I had a corporate job in the USA. Or I’d be into Fine Arts
- Your worst habit: During shoots I realized that I give people many chances and later, I get burnt. I guess I should stop giving more chances to people
- Film(s) you watched recently and felt like directing it: Anything that Sydney Pollock does! Out of Africa is such a clean film. I love Vishal Bharadwaj’s works
- Your favorite genre of cinema: I like chic flicks. I love Star Wars type of action thrillers. Sometimes, I love to watch very slow films which are artsy in nature
- Actors you’d like to work with: Karthikeya, Nani, Akshara Haasan
- Given a chance to change something in ‘Pellikuturu Party’, what would it be? I would not change anything in front of the camera but behind the camera, for sure! I made some bad crew decisions so If I were given a chance, would change them
- Good and Bad about the film industry: Good is that the industry allows u to tell stories which are as diverse as it can get! The bad thing is that we have only 3% of women directors and the ratio is totally imbalanced. We need to follow the Hollywood way of mentorship, wherein the path leading to becoming a director is well written. More women need to be given chances for we shall see new age cinema coming out from them
Sandy: What is in the pipeline for you in the coming months?
Aparna: After the release of ‘Pellikuturu Party’, I have an interesting romcom coming my way. The scripting is ready, and I am eagerly waiting to kickstart the project.
Sandy: A piece of advice that you’d like to give to the newcomers vying to enter the industry?
Aparna: Think and learn how to write or direct well. Know your craft properly and only then venture into filmmaking. If your foundation is not good, you will burn money and time. Do not be half baked, rather be okay to spend more time on learning the craft. Once you are strong with the basics, you will come up in this industry.
Editor’s note: It was my pleasure in getting to know Aparna Malladi and bringing her story out! She is well versed with her art and thoughts. Not only am I waiting to catch the screening of ‘Pellikuturu Party’, but I am also waiting to collaborate with her on films in the near future. I wish Aparna a fun filled cinematic journey ahead, filled with claps and whistles!
P.S. I am yet to find one Pellikuturu for myself! Until then, I’d be gate crashing this Party of Aparna’s Pellikuturu and have a good time out there! 😊Best wishes to her and the team of ‘Pellikuturu Party’.
Interview by Sandy (Sandeep Rao)
Follow Sandy @blabwithsandy
Follow Aparna @aparnamalladi