Recently, we had a chance to interact with talented filmmaker Radhika Lavu. With over 10 years of experience, she promotes a production house under the banner Ellanar Films, which Radhika founded post her successful stint as a freelance filmmaker. Readout what Radhika Lavu has to share about G.O.D, filmmaking, and more.
How did you pursue filmmaking and what was the drive behind it in the initial years?
I was always fascinated with stories and emotions. What fascinated me most as a child in these stories was the portrayal of various emotions, which is the core of any story or ad film. My love for filmmaking started with me watching movies on screen, I wanted to learn how it is all done. It was more about the curiosity. As I grew older, I could understand the various nuances and aspects of filmmaking.
How did filmmaking evolve over time for you?
As a child, you do not see the camera or know what is happening behind the scenes. I was drawn towards understanding how it all works, how a film is made. I grew up in Delhi. We used to go to Pragati Maidan on the weekends, where they used to screen movies in different languages in a theatre set up. I have great memories of visiting along with my friends and watching Spanish, French, German and Italian movies. We were open to watching movies in any genre and any language. One of the movies that I have watched is of Bonsai, when I was young. The filmmaker was someone, whose work I extensively studied. He would use red colour in his films. Initially intrigued, I later understood that red as a colour symbolized love and that was the key reason why he used it so widely in his work. It started with an interest, led to me asking a lot of questions which were gradually answered once I started studying at the film school.
I understand it’s a male-dominated industry and you definitely created your own mark, what were the major roadblocks or challenges that you came across?
I would prefer to call it challenges rather than roadblocks. To begin with, why do we need to study film making? 15 years back, when I wanted to study filmmaking, I think nobody really knew that there is something called filmmaking. Everybody was aware of photography, but only a handful were aware of filmmaking. One summer I visited London with my parents, and I loved the art scenario there. I met short filmmakers there and instantly connected with their vibe. They perceive filmmaking as an art and don’t refer to it as a commercial entity.
I feel when you study filmmaking, you need to perceive it as an art form to strengthen your basics, yet you also need to pay equal amount of attention to the commercial aspect of it, to survive in the competitive space. I had a lot of people come up to me and tell me that I was wasting my time away, but I was blessed with immense support from my family who understood me and my passion for filmmaking.
The second challenges I faced was when I started going to film school. I was the youngest in my batch. I was a young 20-year-old from India, freshly out of under grad college with no experience in film making. We were thrown into a studio with assignments already coming our way. Till that point, I had not seen a camera physically. In the first week itself, we were supposed to shoot a short film, so the first one week I spent in reading the camera manual to understand its functioning. We usually expect the professor to teach us, but my tutor advised me to go to the library and read books. Now when I look back, I glad that I faced these challenges.
Filming documentaries for the Telegu audience has also been a challenge for me. I travelled a lot across the state to get a better perspective, luckily, I understand the language. After a point of time, I realized that while I have made so many documentaries, my audience had no means or commodities to watch them. So, we commenced travelling with a TV having a good sound system. We started showing these documentaries to the rural population on topics like healthcare, sanitation, vaccination to name a few.
Breaking away and transitioning from the mold of being a documentary filmmaker to a commercial filmmaker also posed as a major challenge. While the platforms are completely different, the content, planning, team management and focus remain the same. Personally, it was more exciting as I was going to be working on something different other than documentaries. I wanted to explore more and grow.
Your Documentary filmmaker can you make an ad film?
If you are an ad filmmaker can you make web series,?
You’re a web series filmmaker can you make a future film?
You are a Telugu filmmaker can you make a Hindi film?
I think I have worked towards that and I keep telling the team members that we are not Telugu filmmakers we are filmmakers. We are making a film in a language where there is scope to do more.
How essential do you find to go to a film institute or a university which helps you understand the basics of film making?
Enrolling into a film school is something which is good because teachers who teach in film schools understand the art, cinema, understand the process that needs to be learned. So, there is a sense of discipline which comes with film schools.
I am a guest lecturer at a film school as well. I see that the kids who are enrolling themselves for these courses these days are way smarter. They have more avenues to sharpen their skills and more opportunities to explore their passion. Film schools provide you with a direction. How you carve your path in the industry after your stint at the film school is what matters.
The industry is constantly evolving. After you complete your course and enter the real world, you realize that every two years there is a new technology coming in. It is essential to update and educate yourself with the latest happenings and technology, adapt to the changing dynamics of the industry, walk along with the trends, understanding people is something that will make you stand apart from the crowd. So, whether you educate yourself in a film school or on the set, it is imperative to get training and experience to succeed.
Filmmaking is a collaborative effort, working well with the people on the sets and making the most of the opportunities coming your way helps in making it a success story. We see stories in our daily life, around every corner, in every situation. Tapping into these stories and conveying it to audience is what speaks volumes for itself.
Which one work of yours is closest to your heart or you feel like you achieve something out of it that you always wanted to.
G.O.D would be the closest to my heart because prior to G.O.D, I was an advertising filmmaker. From making over 100+ documentaries and ad films to making a series, as an independent producer which is 400 minutes long without a Godfather in the industry has been an exhilarating journey for me.
I had to do all the groundwork myself and find my own path. I had a lot of eye on me, in terms of whether I can execute the project or not? But the Zee5 team has been very supportive and encouraging in the process. G.O.D was not exactly a genre that fell in my comfort zone but taking up the challenge helped me evolve as a filmmaker. We need to constantly challenge ourselves so that we learn something new out of it. GOD has been a very challenging yet a fantastic and enriching experience. I will like to collaborate with people who have a fire in the belly, looking for a chance or space to tell a story.
How did you pick yourself after low days, how did you keep yourself motivated?
I watch movies, read books, surround myself with like minded people. I watch films by directors who I look up to. The challenges faced by these filmmakers inspire me and make me realize that my problems are very minimal in comparison.
The Revenant, a revenge, crime drama made by a director called Alejandro. Leonardo DiCaprio plays a character called Hugh Glass. He uses his skill to survive in an environment of -20 degrees. It was shot in -20 degrees. It is an extremely well-made film. These are the kind of case studies I have been reading about. You need to have that kind of madness to make a film, you need to have that kind of passion to make a film, yet film making is all about planning, execution, having everything perfectly fall into place.
Tell us about your upcoming film
We have season 2 of G.O.D which is in the pipeline. When I look back I realize that the reason the audience widely appreciated GOD, was because the characters were not larger than life, they were relatable, people who you come across in your daily life. The audience could relate to the emotions depicted by the actors and hence they connected to the show so profoundly.
While the story is being written, the actors for the project are being cast, when the production is underway, you get a deep understanding of the scope, elasticity and evolution of the characters as well as the story as a whole. That instant we knew that we did not want to limit ourselves to season one but create a new universe. I am very excited for season two where we are going to narrate a completely different story set in the backwaters of Andhra, but in the same GOD universe with a female protagonist. The second season will very tactfully take off from where the first season ended. I am also producing a conversation led six-episode web series called ‘Unheard’ happening in Hyderabad in the period from 1900 to 1950. The conversations revolve around the unheard stories of common people.
We completed 1 year of GOD, can you please share something on that.
It’s been a wonderful year. The response received for the first season of GOD has been overwhelming. I attribute the success and popularity of the show to the entire team of GOD who have worked relentlessly to make it a possibility as well as our audience from across India who have not just viewed GOD but taken the time out to appreciate the various nuances of the show. It gave me a lot of encouragement and good vibes from everyone. G.O.D has given me more determination to just do better and something bigger.