It is a 1913 silent film directed by Dadasaheb Phalke.
It was the beginning of full-length cinema in India.’
The first frame of my first full-length feature film SPECIAL FRIEND is of a mobile with a name on its wallpaper - Harischandra.
I always had the passion to create and think something new. Right from my school days, people used to tell that I’ve good creativity and I should improve it. My interpretation about almost any situation that comes around us used to be a lil different, but real. I have acknowledged their ideas about me and I thought, maybe I’ve to share my ideas with them. But what was the medium? In what way can I express my ideas to people, so that I can reach to them? When I was reckoning every possible option, film media came with the maximum points. This happened when I was in my 9th grade.
I’ve started learning leadership and speaking skills from when I was in school. I took part in almost every event that came across me to hone my skills.
I began reading screenplays of English movies and started learning to analyze cinema and its making.
It took a long time to learn story-writing, screenwriting and film-making, because I learned them all on my own.
I’ve written a few screenplays and a short-story for my college annual magazine UNREAL, which was selected for a Short-story writing contest conducted by Writers Bureau, Manchester, England. I worked as an Editor for my college fortnightly magazine for nearly a year.
My idols are Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard, James Watson, Edward Zwick, M.Night Shyamalan, Ram Gopal Varma, Farhan Akhtar, Nagesh Kukunoor, Mani Ratnam, Shankar, K. Viswanath, Sekhar Kammula, Krishnavamsi to name a few.
I didn’t show interest in making short films as I feel that a story cannot be wrapped in less than 10 minutes (that’s just my perspective, there are some people who can do very good films in that short duration). I didn’t want to make an incomplete film. I was waiting for the right time and meanwhile the film-maker in me was in the making.
STORY - SCREENPLAY - CREW
I’ve a friend Hari Shankar in Electrical Dept of my college; by the way, I am an Electronics and Communications Engineer graduate from ANITS College, Visakhapatnam. He’s into short film-making and has made a few very good short films which are soulful and thoughtful. During the screening of his short film PRAYING HANDS ARE BETTER THAN SERVING LIPS, which one an award at the short film festival conducted at IIT-Chennai, an idea triggered in my mind to make a movie with him in the final year of engineering.
We made a deal to make a small movie: story by Hari Shankar and direction by me. While we were discussing about the story-plot of the film, Hari Shankar has given me four stories and I choose one which will be revolving around two very closely bonded friends. It is going to be a slow-paced, thoughtful film. Initially it was planned as a 40 minutes movie, but as the script developed, I decided to make it as a full-length feature film of approximately 100 minutes duration. The title was decided to be SPECIAL FRIEND, and it would be in English.
my production companySUNSPLENDOR Pictures,
which is named after the Sun God.
It took about three months to research for the story and write the first draft of the screenplay, I couldn’t work on it continuously because of my acads. It was given to my English faculty and few of my friends for reviewing it.
I could engage my cousin Satish as the editor and DSN Murthy as the cameraman. Satish is my cousin who is the chief editor of a local TV channel in Visakhapatnam and DSN Murthy is an experienced cameraman who has worked with several TV channels and made many shows for a satellite TV channel. When I explained them about the script, production details and shooting techniques, they were fabulously impressed with the effort that went into the script and pre-planning I had on the shooting. Despite being in their busy schedules, they agreed to work on this project. They could see that something new and big is going to be made by the Visakhapatnam youth and hence they agreed to work for the film.
We decided to film with a High Definition Video Camera as ours was a very low budget movie. We had strong plans to put the lowest possible cost but without a compromise on quality.
The review of the script has been done and a couple of drafts have been made with the inputs the reviewers have given me before making the final draft of the script.
All through the first three years of engineering life, I was in constant touch with the students who were good at management and were faithful to me during the organizing of events. I selected a few of those friends, briefed them about the film and asked them to read the script. They found film to be interested and came forward to work as productions associates. . They include A.Sashikanth, B.Pradeep, B.Kiran Kumar, and G.Sundar Karteek. Karteek has made two short-films with interesting plots.
They were given two PowerPoint presentations on Film-making and its related activities. They helped them to be aware of the techniques and development of a film from start-to-end.
Me, my cousin Sundar Swagath and the production associates have decide to put money into the film. Swagath is doing his final year B.E Mechanical, M.Sc Economics dual degree at Bits Goa. He is also passionate about film making and I put him as the Assistant Director of the film as well.
LOCATION SCOUTING - CASTING
Our team went out scouting for locations - indoor and outdoor. We planned to use natural light for outdoor shooting, so we were particular in choosing our locations.
I wanted TWO PRIMARY ACTORS, both male for the roles Akash and Deepak. I wrote the screenplay with my friend Shravanth Kumar in mind for the character Akash, so he was the obvious choice for that role. He instantly accepted to play the male lead.
For Deepak's role, I could find a guy Prashant in another engineering college. He fitted the role pretty much.
For the flashback part of the main actors - Akash and Deepak, there was an audition at nearby schools to find the exact match of the 20+ version of Akash and Deepak. The other actors were also selected through informal talk. Of course, there were a series of discussions which went between the team and the actors before we could finalize them. We could find a good cast who had a good knowledge on cinema, so it was easy for us to engage them. All the actors were unpaid.
As all the actors didn't have any prior acting experience, I had to give good practice to them. They underwent training in acting in different stages, all planned to make them feel acting comfortable, rather than a strange and insecure experience in front of the camera.
The main actors were trained across three months until they were ready for shooting. The others were trained for about two to three months.
The practice was divided into different sessions ranging from easy to hard levels. They rehearsed and enacted select scenes from The Sixth Sense, Stuart Little, Titanic, Unbreakable, You've got Mail and finally Special Friend.
These were the people who made the scenes run comfortably. They assist the actors in delivering dialogues with the proper tone and at right timing. Karteek, Sree Valli and Chandini were our dialogue assistants.
The shooting began on 23rd December, 2007 at Sai Baba Temple near my home at Visakhapatnam.
Crew getting ready for a scene. Assistant Director Swagath (in black shirt) plays a supporting actor - screenname Pradeep, classmate of Akash.
The younger Akash and Deepak - kids performed liked prof. actors
Editing was done across two months. I had to put a pause for editing in view of my end-semester exams. Most of it is completed after the exams. The post-production of the film had many breaks. I was called by an MNC for training and I postponed the completion of film until after training. Now I am working as a Software Engineer in the MNC.
After two months of search, I could find a studio at Hyderabad that suits the budget of my movie. At the studio I could complete the remaining editing, Animation and VFX for the movie. The edit copy of the movie was ready by mid-December '08.
The dubbing started two weeks after the edit copy was ready. We started with Swagath (aka Pradeep) dubbing. And the next weekend, we did the dubbing for Prasanth (Deepak). We dubbed only during suitable weekends when there are holidays for the required people. The combination of dates is very difficult to get.
This phase of Post-production took us months - the difficulty was in gathering actors to do the dubbing, and only during weekends. We had a cast of 9 important characters and about 30 cameos in total who did the dubbing.
There was a break in the continuation of dubbing, as I had to undergo a sudden sinus surgery in May. I started working on the film again from mid-July '09.
Guru (Syril) is the Music Composer of Special Friend. All the main tracks and songs are done. He is working on the other BGM tracks and the re-recording part. His music has brought a new life to the film. More will be told, in the future, about this young budding music composer, who is incredibly talented. The lyrics were written by Sushmitha and Sinduja, who are my school friends.
We recorded two songs and a few vocals as theme humming which are used at select places in the movie. Vocals were provided by Susan and Syril.
The background tracks of the film are being finalized. The movie is now at sound mixing stage.
We plan to release the film in auditoriums of select cities with the help of a marketing agency and sponsors. A concrete plan will be developed after the final copy of the film is made.
We will update the blogspot once we complete the movie. We plan to release the film soon after few good-deals are made with some agencies and corporate agencies.
There are a couple of mini-trailers created to screen them during the college events. We made them during the editing stage, so the music is not original and they are just mini-trailers. The original trailers would come after the final copy is made.
You can watch them on youtube at the following links:
I will keep updating the blogspot. Send in your valuable suggestions and comments.
GSS Santosh Kumar
Flat No 205,
Ramky Repose Apartments,
Shree Bagh Colony,
Hyderabad - 5000084.