Tuesday, March 7, 2017

An Interactive Session With Sankalp Reddy - The Man Behind 'Ghazi'

As part of our efforts to meet successful personalities in various fields in the Arts Management Course, Department of Dance, University of Hyderabad, we met the young director of the super hit movie 'Ghazi', Sankalp Reddy today. We could not have asked for a better person to come because Sankalp started out with a dream just like most of the students have today, and made a huge success of it against many odds. Unassuming to a fault, Sankalp, who is the nephew of one of our students Parijatha Reddy, shared his experiences in making his first film which turned out to be a super hit blockbuster running to packed houses till date and being made and released in three languages - Telugu, Tamil and Hindi.
Sankalp (extreme right), dr. Sivaraju (middle) and I
Sankalp spoke of how he finished his Engineering from CVR College, Ibrahimpatnam, and how he went to Australia to pursue his MBA. Sankalp dropped out of the MBA course and took up film making in the Fine Arts college. A chance stopover at Vizag five years ago had him visiting the submarine museum at the Ramakrishna Beach and he was hooked on to it. He spent a lot of time studying it, understanding the submarines, the history behind the Ghazi and was seized by the idea. Sankalp recalled how one of his Professors said - "You have to be the first or you have to be the best" - and how it stayed with him.
Sankalp - Maker of "Ghazi"
Sankalp decided to be the first in making a submarine film in India. Much research later (he mentioned the curator of the museum Mr. Phani Raj) who gave him many inputs, he had his script. Initially he wanted it to be a YouTube film but one thing led to another. So convinced was he that he invested his own money into building the set. He had thousands of story boards to visualise the shot properly. For sheer preparation and desire to get the project done, I find his tale inspirational. He also shared how he gave up eating non-vegetarian, because he believes that you must give up something to get something. Not only that, he gave up watching films also, so as not to get influenced by them for the last five years. During this period he also got married and had two children but kept his project going like a mission.
Selfie time (L to R) - Tejaswitha, Abanti, Sharath, Sankalp, Me, Dr. Sivaraju, Parijatha, Priyanka, Anju, Saranya 
Sankalp also spoke of how he met Ram and how that led to Rana coming on board. He spoke of how Kay Kay Menon, Atul Kulkarni, Late Om Puri were easy to work with and how they improvised for effect. How he stayed with his vision of not having a single song in the movie or a love angle. How the first version with almost no CG was shown to Karan Johar and he loved the movie and that was when they all felt confident that this movie would work. About how the producers advised him to increase the CG shots from a few to more than 600 to increase the dramatic effect and how it worked. How the last scene was added later for a bigger effect. And much more.

He spoke of his favorite films which include 'Dil Chahta Hai', 'Lakshya', 'Dor', 'Gamyam' and others. His favorite directors included Krish, Farhan Akhthar. He said he had been lucky to get the kind of producers he did which could give him such a  huge audience for the film.
The right pic (L to R) - Saranya, Priyanka, Anju, Parijatha, Me, Dr. Sivaraju, Sankalp, Sharath, Tejaswitha, Jhansi and Abanti
The students - Tejaswitha, Saranya, Priyanka, Anju, Parijatha, Jhansi, Abanti and Sharath - asked several questions. Many of them were around the importance of luck in the journey. They are at a stage in the journey where they feel unsure about the path and its a valid question I guess. Sankalp said that luck plays a part, but only after all the hard work has been done. He spoke of how he lived the project for five years and nothing else and how it took up all his focus. At the end of the session I tried to put in the perspective from the book 'Good to Great' where the first requirement - that of a Level 5 Leader - was a paradoxical combination of extreme personal humility and intense professional focus. These were also leaders who said they owed their success to luck. But Jim Collins and his team did not buy that - no one who gets such success can come out of luck. When they probed deeper they found that these people did not take any credit and were very modest. Sankalp surely falls into that bracket - you cannot have someone living a dream for five years, someone who has invested his money, made thousands of story boards and knew the story, the characters, the submarines and everything else inside out - saying it was luck. Another thing that worked for him in my opinion was that he was always positive about the result - that he would get this film out at any cost.
A selfie with the students (L to R) - Saranya, Jhansi, Parijatha, Anju, Abanti, Sharath, Tejaswitha, Me, Priyanka 
The students were advised that they could achieve success if they could put their focus into their craft in the next five years or ten years. Dr. Sivaraju also said that he did not believe in luck. It's better to go with preparation and that Sankalp had done amply. I recalled the story about how 'Rain Man' was made with similar challenges but how the maker stuck to his vision and it proved right. We wound up the session after some more questions and answers.

Sankalp came across as a refreshingly simple person, unaffected by his success. He warmed up to the class and opened up as the session progressed sharing several stories and answered all their questions patiently and with a smile. He was extremely candid and poked fun at himself, the education system and how we choose careers. We took some pictures at the end and concluded a wonderful session. Here's wishing Sankalp a successful and rewarding career as a film maker who makes movies that he believes in and that will impact audiences in much the way that Ghazi did. Thanks Parijatha for making the session happen.

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