September 21, 2009 Y. Sunitha Chowdhary
All those who have seen Sagara Sangamam must be familiar with Chakri Tholeti who worked as a child artiste. He is the same boy who cajoles Balu (Kamal Hassan) to pose for the camera and comes out with 'unique' photographs. He acted in some more films for fun and moved to the US in 1995. A product of a film school from Florida, Chakri set up a few companies with his brother in media entertainment and technology, one amongst that is a visual effects company Mahati.
Ask him if he didn't want to become a full-fledged actor, he says he is far more comfortable behind the camera. His father had written for movies made by Balachander, Bhagyaraj and helped director Jandhyala, Vishwanath to execute some of the films. Chakri comes to Vishakapatnam quite frequently, he has offices, IT company with over 100 employees. But how did 'Eenadu' crop up?
Chakri met Kamal Hassan during a shoot of Dasavatharam, he helped the actor for a project Marmayogi which was later shelved and it was then they discussed options to work together and Eenadu, the remake of 'A Wednesday' happened. Chakri considers every subject to fall in the mainstream format, it didn't matter if it was a remake.
He tells, "The idea is to tell a good story in any language. I was waiting for the right opportunity, there is nothing such as a right subject. Terrorism is a global problem, we wanted to show how it impacts the common man and his day-to-day life. I never wanted to do something that would disturb the soul and character of the film and we preserved every scene from the beginning."
How was it directing the three stalwarts of cinema? Being familiar with Kamal was an advantage. He's more of an actor than a star. Was the most experienced and brilliant. Mohan Lal is a very natural actor, his work is a free flow and Venkatesh very methodical and professional in his approach. Kamal was infact supposed to work with Venkatesh in Marmayogi and since it didn't happen he suggested that Venkatesh would suit the Commissioner's role better. Each of them Chakri says have a unique style of functioning and it would be unfair to draw comparisons.
Tell him after years he had ushered in a multi-starrer that looked near impossible in Telugu cinema, he laughs it off. He adds, "I didn't know till someone pointed it out, I was more focused on the story."
Chakri is now planning a 3D film. But before that he has plenty of promotional work for the film to execute. Meanwhile his unit is fawning, for having a new director whose approach to work is different and refreshing. He doesn't come to the set with any extra baggage, there is no addressing him Sir, no hierarchy and he's one who concentrates on finding a solution rather than mulling over the problem in a crisis situation. His corporate background has certainly helped!