Twenty-five years ago, JD Chakravarthy had plans to mortgage his house at Barkatpura — toying with the idea of producing a movie along with his new-found friend Krishna Vamsi who later established himself as a first-rate screenwriter and director in the field. It is no wonder that JD is in an ebullient mood to flashback to the time when Gulabi achieved phenomenal box-office success and a cult status.
Gulabi revolves around human trafficking — a topic not much heard in Telugu cinema in the ’90s. “A single-column newspaper story triggered a potential full-length feature for Krishna Vamsi. A burqa-clad girl in her teens was accompanied by an old man in Indian Airlines flight which was about to take off to Dubai. The persistent cry of the girl raised suspicions and, luckily, an airhostess alerted the crew. Subsequently, the men behind the flesh trade were nabbed. That had become the source for Gulabi,” shares JD.
When Ram Gopal Varma heard that the actor was selling off his house to pool money, he immediately chided him and said he would take up the project. “RGV didn’t listen to the script, but he immediately spoke to Amitabh Bachchan and thus ABCL agreed to partner with Gulabi, which was a maiden Telugu production for Amitabh,” he adds.
Initially, the title in JD’s mind was ‘University’. “Since I grew up in a social milieu of complete violence, watching students’ protests in the Osmania University campus, I visualised the story that way. When the Hindi movie Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar was released, I was surprised that our script was on the similar lines,” he shares.
What uniqueness did you find in Krishna Vamsi? “We both had worked under RGV as assistant directors. We used to be in perfect sync with ideas and concepts. Both of us had one thing in common — arrogance. It came out of confidence or maybe with knowledge. Gulabi had changed our career graphs. After that, we parted ways because we fought each other for a girl. Of course, we’re united again now,” laughs JD.
The comedy track with Brahmaji was a massive takeaway for Gulabi. “Though he was a senior to me, the personal relationship fared better for us during the shoot. We have been friends from the movie Siva. The portrayal of characters reflected our relationship which was exactly the same in real life too.”
The single Meghalalo Thelipommannadi was a massive hit. “It was shot in Araku Valley. Krishna Vamsi was angry at me during the shoot. He abandoned us in the middle and I had to shoot all four other shots myself.”
“We didn’t sell the film Gulabi as nobody bought it because they thought it was some run-of-the mill story. But Ramoji Rao believed in us and he released Gulabi through Ushakiran Movies. We made good money out of it.,” he shares.
How producer RGV was different from director RGV? “I didn’t see any difference in him. He never ever behaved like a producer; he is always a director.”
Talking about the female lead Maheshwari, JD says, “The romance track worked out well. I’m unsure whether a movie like Gulabi could’ve been a hit in 2020 but the emotion kept the pace of the movie. The phone conversation between us was well shot. We didn’t have mobile phones back then. I had to import cordless phones from the US.”
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