As he arrives at his office on a small bike, one can never imagine that this simple man is the director of one of this year’s biggest hits — Seethamma Vakitlo Sirimalle Chettu (SVSC) starring Mahesh Babu and Venkatesh. In fact, Srikanth Addala, who hails from Relangi village, near Tanuku, West Godavari district, comes from a world that is far removed from films. A post graduate in MSc Physics, who discontinued his PhD from IIT Delhi, his entry into showbiz was the result of an innate desire he felt to do something creative.
“Right from my high school days, I was interested in art and literature. I used to go to our village library to read magazines and books on Telugu literature. I watched the cult movie, Sagara Sangamam, several times. I realised that people love stories of human relationships and human values. That’s when it struck me that I can reach out to people with such stories only through cinema,” says Srikanth, who was keen on completing his education before making any risky career move.
After MSc, Srikanth joined IIT Delhi, but his passion for cinema soon brought him to Hyderabad. “I discontinued my course after discussing it with my family, who happened to be very encouraging. I was confident about this move as even if I didn’t make a mark in movies, I always knew I could fall back on my academic background,” he says.
After months of expected struggle, Srikanth finally got his break with an opportunity to assist director VV Vinayak for the Chiranjeevi-starrer Tagore in 2003. Then, through a common friend, he met producer Dil Raju, in what he calls a “turning point” of his career. Srikanth worked as an assistant director in Arya and Bommarillu, both produced by Dil Raju, who was impressed with his skills and asked him to come up with a story of his own.
“That’s when I wrote Kotha Bangaru Lokam, a college story, drawing inspiration from my own real-life incidents,” says Srikanth, whose directorial debut, starring newbies Varun Sandesh and Shwetha Basu Prasad, was very well-received by the Telugu audiences. Next up in his career was a big challenge. SVSC was being termed as the comeback of multi-starrers in Tollywood.
“When I wrote the story, I felt that it would reach out to people only if the movie stars big actors. I first approached Venkatesh, who readily agreed to do the movie. Then, Mahesh Babu too came on board. I told both of them that they are playing two regular people in the film. I saw them as two characters and not stars,” says Srikanth, who reveals that many parts of this movie too were based on real-life instances. “Except Prakash Raj and Anjali’s roles, most of the things shown in the movie either happened to me or around me. I also have a brother and that inspired this story of brothers.
I like to bring an element of reality and human emotions into my stories. SVSC explored the smaller joys of life like the magic of a genuine smile, the love and bonding within a family and more… everyone relates to these basic human emotions,” he says. After the film became a blockbuster, Srikanth headed on a quiet retreat to his village to spend time with his family and start work on his next script. “I always like writing my scripts at home and familiar places nearby. Observing families and real people upclose adds colour to my stories,” he says.
Srikanth still visits the library in the village like before, but more and more people recognise him now. “People from my village and those who have seen me from childhood are very thrilled with what I have made of my life. But they never treat me differently. That’s why, this will always be home,” he says.
Interestingly, Srikanth’s love story in a way, inspired Samantha and Mahesh’s romantic track in the movie. “Just like in the film, I met my wife, who is a distant relative, at a wedding and instantly fell in love with her,” he says. The director later got married in a low-key ceremony in his village after the release of his debut, Kotha Bangaru Lokam. “It was a quiet wedding that happened at the same time NTR Jr got married. That’s why even Dil Raju couldn’t attend my marriage,” says Srikanth.