Vi Anand interview: ‘I’ve always been fascinated by death and afterlife’

The intrigue of uncharted places and the alluring “what if?” has always spurred the human imagination into untamed territories. For filmmaker Vi Anand, this fascination has blossomed into the captivating Telugu thriller ‘Ooru Peru Bhairavakona,’ poised for a theatrical release on February 16. The inception of this mysterious tale finds its roots in Anand’s engineering days while traveling aboard the Yercaud Express en route from Chennai to his hometown, Erode. Amidst a nocturnal backdrop, a sudden halting of the train in desolation triggered Anand’s curiosity. He peered into the darkness, discerning distant lights, firework glimpses, and the cadence of drums, all indicating festivities in a far-off village. The burning question – “What if I stepped off this train and ventured into this unknown celebration?” – sowed the seed for ‘Ooru Peru…’, where actor Sundeep Kishan portrays a character unexpectedly embraced by a village whose residents have long awaited his arrival.

This narrative marks Anand’s sophomore collaboration with Sundeep Kishan following the 2015 Telugu action drama ‘Tiger.’ During an interview in his Hyderabad office, Anand reflects on the genesis of ‘Tiger,’ birthed from another “what if?” scenario during a motorcycle ride sans wallet and identification. The daunting prospect of anonymity in an accident’s wake compelled Anand to muse over the importance of sharing contact information as a lifeline. This manifested in ‘Tiger’ with a pivotal scene where Rahul Ravindran, after an accident, reveals a critical phone number, thus guiding the storyline.

Throughout their partnership post-‘Tiger,’ Anand and Sundeep have developed a peer dynamic rooted in candor and constructive criticism. Anand credits Sundeep’s forthright feedback as pivotal to his scriptwriting refinement. Among several concepts proposed to Sundeep in 2020, ‘Ooru Peru…’ resonated with the actor, offering him an untrodden path in the supernatural fantasy genre. In this film, Sundeep’s Basavalingam is not your archetypical hero, laced with moral complexity and entangled in a web of theft and intrigue. As the story unfurled, and their shared enthusiasm for the project burgeoned, mutual friend and now-producer Rajesh Danda expressed his zeal to shoulder the production under the banner of Hasya Movies, with the wheels set in motion in February 2022.

Crafting the mysterious and enigmatic village of Bhairavakona ensconced amid forests, Anand has conjured a world shrouded in ritual and secrecy. Drawing from a lifelong intrigue with death and the afterlife, his earlier works, such as ‘Ekkadiki Pothavu Chinnavada,’ have also flirted with fantastical themes. Anand, a proponent of past life theories and a seeker of the soul’s post-mortem odyssey, was inspired by texts like the Garuda Puranam. Creative liberties taken in ‘Ooru Peru…’ weave a tantalizing speculation around missing pages of the tome and the ensuing chaos.

The director’s story-crafting process is a collaborative one; he turns to his wife, his teenage son, and a trusted circle of friends for initial impressions and constructive feedback on his narratives. Anand expresses that ‘Ooru Peru…’ encapsulates magical realism and nods to readings that have shaped his concepts of past lives, with ‘Piranesi’ being a favorite.

As for visualizing fantasy dramas, Anand’s approach is to avoid overcomplicating once foundational plot points and character arcs are established. He challenges Basavalingam to embroil the audience in his trials, thus securing their investment in his development. While the film promises moments of suspense, it remains anchored in the realm of family-friendly entertainment.

The release of ‘Ooru Peru…’ is restricted to Telugu initially, with potential dubbing into Tamil and Hindi contingent upon audience reception. With roots in Tamil Nadu and having cut his teeth in the Telugu cinema of Hyderabad, Anand acknowledges stark contrasts in the aesthetics and narrative styles between the regions. His tenure in both industries has honed his insight into tailoring content that resonates with respective audiences, an understanding crystallized during the making of ‘Tiger.’

Upon the release of ‘Ooru Peru…’, Anand intends to venture into a new project featuring Nikhil Siddhartha and has further fantasy dramas queued in his creative pipeline. As the release date nears, anticipation builds for the transportive journey that Anand and Sundeep Kishan promise to deliver through the enigmatic tale of ‘Ooru Peru Bhairavakona’.

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