Praneeth Yaron, actor-turned-director, talks about the making of his upcoming film Sita On The Road, touted to be a first of its kind road film in Telugu, and how the journey changed him as a person.
"It took me 14 years to get a teaser of my debut film out," Praneeth Yaron confesses. Having begun his career as a junior artiste, Praneeth dreamt of composing music for films, but fate had other plans for him. His family wanted to send him to the US because they thought the 'movie industry was a hopeless place'. But Praneeth had a plan of his own.
"My family was in a big shock when I told them that I wanted to compose music right after I completed my 12th standard. I wasn't interested in pursuing a course in engineering, so I discontinued my studies after class 12. The only reason why I became an actor first was that I thought my family will be happy if they see me on screen," Praneeth adds.
On the whole, in the past 14 years, he has acted in five films including Orange and Avakai Biriyani before he began toying with the idea of directing films. "I tried directing a couple of films in between. One of them was 50% into production when I had to abandon the project due to financial issues and another film got stalled after 15 days of shoot. The idea to make was born out of frustration to prove myself and keep my dream to direct a film alive," he says.
Sita On The Road narrates the journey of five young women from different walks of life, who go on a road trip to find their freedom; however, Praneeth doesn't like calling it a work of 'fiction'. "The five characters are inspired from several real life incidents and people whom we've come across. It's more of a reflection of how I see the world around me," he says.
One of the characters in the story is inspired from the untoward incident in actor Shweta Basu Prasad's life in 2014, when she was taken into custody by the police on the charges of prostitution. "Everyone made a joke out of her life and I couldn't stand the way she was presented in the media. I remember asking myself and everyone around me - Is this the way you treat a woman? It left me quite disturbed," he recalls, adding, "Another character was born out of the Nirbhaya incident in New Delhi and how people perceive rape victims. I won't go much into the details, but I've tried to bring together characters who have become part of our subconscious."
The idea behind the film was to drive home the point that women, no matter where they hail from, crave for freedom but it continues to elude them for various reasons. "Whatever the circumstances might be, everyone is fighting a battle to find their freedom. In a way, the film is more about breaking free from the shackles which the modern society imposes on women and going far away to find themselves and their freedom. The idea to turn it into a 'road film' was in the story itself," Praneeth says.
The film stars Khatera Hakimi, Kalpika Ganesh, Gayathri Gupta, Nesa Farhadi and Uma Lingaiah in lead roles and it was shot over a span of two years in several locations including coastal Karnataka and Goa.
"It was supposed to be wrapped up in less than six months, but the cast members were from five different places and it was really challenging to co-ordinate everything. Moreover, the shooting of the film itself was a life-changing experience. Usually, when you're making a romantic comedy or an action drama, there is some reference or the other. But I didn't have any such references while making Sita On The Road. Right from the way the film was shot to how each scene should span out, everything was a new experience for me. I feel that I've evolved and grown a lot while making the film. Yes, it got delayed because of date issues and other financial issues, but I suppose good films go through such upheavals in their journey," Praneeth says.
The film's teaser, which was unveiled on New Year's Eve, has got a positive response and several actors from the Telugu film industry have lauded Praneeth and his team for touching upon an untold story. "I'm in talks with few big production houses who have evinced interest in releasing the film on a bigger scale. If all goes well, we might hit the road in March this year," he signs off.