Acharya Venu’s first Telugu film as a cinematographer is Balagam (2023) and he hit it out of the park and how! The 2023 release has won over 40 awards in various categories.
Typically, with a blockbuster of this magnitude on his résumé, anyone would expect him to bag a big film or at least a mid-range movie with a saleable actor.
But reality isn’t that straightforward, is it? Venu’s struggle finding his second movie has only just begun. While he is being deluged with offers, filmmakers are approaching him with more small-budget stories like Balagam.
Acharya Venu was working as a second-unit cinematographer for Jersey (2019) when he was introduced by director Pradeep Advaitham to Venu Yeldandi for Balagam.
He had heard 50 stories before selecting Balagam for his debut as a cinematographer. Venu talks of the challenges, “I am lucky that I met all good people. When I first heard the plot, I knew it was for me. It was rooted. The first problem was the budget and my equipment was less.”
Further explaining the issues faced, the cinematographer says, “It was outdoors and the shooting climax took two days. There were a lot of jumps, lighting-wise, and there was frame continuity too that had to be looked after. The location in the climax is a character by itself. The producer put in more money as the film progressed.”
Everything fell into place
Acharya Venu gives 50 percent credit to the universe, “Everything fell into place at the right time. Even mistakes became a plus for us. I felt the film found all the cast and crew. ‘Yuddhani vetthukuntoo aayudhalu thanthata thaane vostundhi dharmam mee vaipu untey (if you follow your work sincerely, the universe will help you).’ This line is from RRR (2022) and we would think of it when things were not going right.”
The film Balagam was shot in 57 days.
Making of #Balagam part 1
— Venu Yeldandi #Balagam (@VenuYeldandi9) April 21, 2023
Finding the right project
As a creative person, Venu wants to break stereotypes, but it seems like he has to wait for a bit longer to bag a story that he is aligned with. History shows that once one does a good film that fetches awards, the technician is always given subjects of similar nature.
He points out, “‘Chinna budget lo authentic ga chesaadu (He made an authentic movie on such a small budget)’ is the talk here and they are coming with tiny budgets and good stories. I have shot three films so far and all have gotten awards. The notion is award-winning films are slow and not commercial. Balagam won 46 awards and I won seven for cinematography.”
Venu further adds, “Earlier, I shot a short film Infected (2012) and then MA.AMA (2018) — shot in Garo language in Meghalaya — and got an award. I am enjoying this phase now, but I want to be a part of action films, thrillers, adventure, and so on.”
Currently, Venu is shooting a lot of ads in Delhi and Mumbai, and is not idle. He is waiting for the right film. Sometimes, he gets good money, but the concept is not okay, or the concept is good but he doesn’t see the film going ahead.
Also read: ‘Waiting to make the leap’, says Sara Arjun
Evolution and revolution
To stay current, we wonder how cinematographers upgrade themselves with the latest technology when they are busy with films all the time.
Acharya Venu says, “I follow a few websites and participate in workshops whenever there is a new camera/equipment in Hyderabad. The biggest research is on Google and YouTube. We do online interviews with famous foreign technicians and ask them questions.”
After Bahubali (2015), visual technology has become more accessible. There are virtual sets these days. As the camera moves, the background moves and the entire film happens on set. Adipurush (2023) was on those lines.
Filmmakers are spending money on that extravaganza. People have become more aware. He adds, “Balagam was screened on LED walls for the villagers under the moonlight and we found the villagers reviewing the film. Earlier, only industry folk would comment on camera and editing, but now villagers are discussing technical issues. It is a revolution.”