The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Director branded villain after big-budget film bombs
- Enter, one-year ban

Hyderabad, May 29: Box-office failures have ruined acting careers. They have even prompted producers, like C. Venkat Rao of Narasimhadu, to attempt suicide.

But for the first time, a flop has been blamed on a director, who has been banned from operating in his state for a year.

Maverick filmmaker Teja, who had ruffled feathers by taking on the star system and nepotism in the Telugu film industry, found himself at the receiving end of his producers’ anger after the mega-budget Dhairyam bombed.

“The director made us spend an extra Rs 2 crore to add two more song sequences, which were shot abroad,” said Narayandas Narang, one of the producers of Dhairyam.

“Despite that, the film has flopped. In keeping with our agreement, we asked the director to reimburse the additional expenditure, but he hasn’t.”

The Andhra Pradesh Film Chamber of Commerce agreed to decide the matter only if both Teja and the producers withdrew the police complaints they had lodged against each other.

At its meeting on Friday, the chamber took the issue beyond the individual case of Dhairyam, linking it to the serial flops suffered recently by high-spending Telugu films and the impact this has had on the industry.

The chamber decided that big-budget films have been flouting industry norms and damaging its image, putting the livelihood of thousands of workers in danger.

Financial problems have stalled the release of 37 films, locking up almost Rs 100 crore. Two weeks ago, C. Venkat Rao, producer of the Rs 20-crore Narasimhadu, jumped into the Hussain Sagar after failing to sell the film for more than Rs 8 crore.

“Over Rs 30 crore in payment dues to actors, labs, technicians is held up because of the uncertainty over mega productions. Business activity worth Rs 60 crore is stalled because of it,” said Tammineni Bharadwaj, a director.

The chamber decided to punish the director with the one-year ban for forcing the producers to overspend.

Teja, however, has a friend in Mohanbabu, president of the Movie Artistes’ Association.

“It is the greed of the producers that drives directors to overspend in the race to make their films better than others. If anyone is to blame, it is the producer and not the director,” Mohanbabu said.

Of the 24 crafts associations in the industry, more than half support the director, probably more out of loyalty than for commercial reasons. But industry bigwigs feel the director should share the blame.

Akkineni Nageswar Rao (ANR), D. Rama Naidu and G. Krishna feel that the industry must be protected from “sharks like Teja” who have caused costs to escalate. They also have another reason to dislike the director ' he had taken on these mega stars and broken their hold over the industry.

These veterans would promote only their kin and block others. So, while only the sons of ANR, D. Rama Naidu, Krishna and N.T. Rama Rao were surviving in the Telugu film industry, other newcomers could not gain entry.

During his heyday, N.T. Rama Rao had thwarted the entry or growth of several artistes. A budding star, Kalyan Chakravarty, though he was NTR’s brother’s son, could not succeed in the industry owing to a diktat of the Telugu Desam Party founder.

Talented playback singers, music directors and even character artistes were thrown out of work if the bigwigs vetoed them. “Teja is paying the price for the disorder he created in the industry,” one of the bigwigs said.

The ban will hurt N. Srinivas, producer of Teja’s next project, Vaastadu Na Raju.

“I have spent around Rs 2 crore in advances and in setting up my team, which was supposed to begin shooting from June 1,” the five-film-old producer said. “If Teja cannot work in this state, I shall have to shift the entire schedule to Bangalore or Chennai.”

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