Amidst the ceaseless stream of commercial cinema, there come a few magnificent native works that boast of the potential to go down as path-breaking films. Powered by sincere and dedicated efforts, these films are often relatable and genuinely capable of evoking heartfelt emotions in the viewers. Co Kancharapalem is one such gleaming testimony in Telugu cinema in recent times. Shot entirely in the Kancharapalem area of Vizag, the film features close to 80 debut actors, with most of them being from the city. As the film continues to mesmerise the audience, Teja Kovvali interacts with five of the lead characters to know about their transformations, journeys and more.
Be it for turning immensely popular just with the trailer or for being called as “hero” nowadays, Subba Rao’s life has hit a new high in the past few months.
The man plays the all-important role of Raju in Co Kancharapalem. Suggested by his friend, Kishore, Subba Rao made a strong impression on Maha, who was on the lookout for someone to play Raju. A successful screen test and audition meant that he was all set to make his acting debut.
Settled in Kancharapalem since 1979, Rao had an inherent love for acting. “I used to act in many dramas in our locality. Being offered a film role was a big thing for me and I accepted the opportunity with glee,” the actor shares.
A former employee at a GVMC office in Vizag, Rao was told that the movie was being made to be showcased at film festivals. However, contrary to his expectations that it wouldn’t make big, Co Kancharapalem, with Raju at its heart, has been receiving a tremendous response.
Fun Fact: Once he got the offer to play the lead in Co Kancharapalem, Subba Rao quit his job as he felt that it wasn’t reaping him much.
“I was in disbelief when I first saw Raju on the screen. I became hugely popular among my office colleagues, who started calling me a hero”. He further adds that people recognise him wherever he goes now and has even been obliging for a selfie or two. Now that he’s got an opportunity in films, Rao says he would do more roles and make a name for himself.
Hailed by Rana Daggubati as the most beautiful thing in the movie, Nithya Shree essays the chirpy character of Sunitha in Co Kancharapalem. A vivacious soul in reality as well, this 13-year-old was suggested to the film’s director, Maha Venkatesh, by her cousins Kishan and Kishore. Nithya’s acting and singing talents made a strong first impression on the director who didn’t take long to cast her in the film.
The youngest member of the whole squad, Nithya soon adjusted herself to the filming schedules. Participating in the shoot with enthusiasm and sporting her role with comfort, she left many members of the crew in admiration. “The entire shooting process was a delight. We became a closely-knit group and the time spent on sets was truly enjoyable,” she says while sharing her experience.
Fun Fact: While testing Nithya for the role, Maha made her sing from different corners of the room to get an idea of her ability to pull off a major scene in the film.
Post the film’s release, Nithya has been receiving overwhelming applause from different quarters. In addition to her friends and teachers at school, several film personalities too are in awe of her expressions and vouch that she’d surely make a big star in the coming days. The family members, who had no expectations at the beginning, now feel elated to watch their little one on the big screen.
Quiet, humble and affectionate, Radha Bessey portrays the famous ‘Radha madam’ in the film.
Born and brought up in Assam, Radha spent a considerable amount of time in Berhampur. After marriage, destiny brought her to Vizag, where she had endured umpteen hardships and is currently working at a corporate hospital.
Back in 2016, Radha was introduced to Maha through her daughter, Sravani, who also worked for the film. However, little did she know that the aspiring director would later persuade her to play one of the lead characters in his film. “When I was first offered the chance, I was sceptical as I literally knew nothing about acting. Maha told that I would be trained for the role and somehow, convinced me to do the character,” she says.
After taking the acting workshop, Radha, whilst still doubting her abilities, started participating in the shoot. As the days passed by, she gained confidence and began to enjoy her time on the set. “A few days into the shoot, Maha came home and showed a few rushes of the film in his laptop. I was thrilled to watch myself on the screen,” Radha shares.
Fun Fact: While shooting for a scene at the beach in Vizag, Radha collapsed after she was hit by a giant wave from the sea and had to be helped by her crew members.
A good two years later, the film has hit the screens and vanquishing all fears, is fetching her recognition. In fact, prior to the film’s release, the trailer too caught the eyeballs of her colleagues, who were taken aback to see her perform. Radha, who is currently back to her normal life, says she would work for a film again, provided Maha directs it.
Initially, Kesava had no interest in films. Oddly enough, his school too did not allow its students to watch movies. As luck would have it, the then-15-year-old was first spotted by Maha Venkatesh at a playground while playing cricket. Eventually, things fell in place when the director convinced Kesava’s parents and soon cast him in Co Kancharapalem.
Shy and not-so-talkative, the youngster from Vizag plays the role of Sundaram, who falls head over heels for his classmate, Sunitha. Recalling his experience, Kesava says, “At first, I felt that we were shooting for a short film. But, when I saw myself on celluloid, the experience was inexplicable.”
Fun Fact: Co Kancharapalem was shot with sync sound technology. This meant that sometimes, the actors had to redo the scenes to avoid disturbances from the background. Frustrated by this, Kesava would often be caught on record cursing and grumbling.
Sundaram’s character involves emoting multiple feelings of love, gratitude, outrage, and regret. With no experience prior to the film, Kesava certainly had his task cut out portraying the role. However, he put forth a commendable effort and has been receiving accolades from all over. The second-year Polytechnic student feels grateful that he was born in Kancharapalem and says he would love taking up newer chances in films.
A classical dancer, model, and a huge admirer of Kamal Hassan, Praneeta Patnaik dons the charming role of Bhargavi in Co Kancharapalem.
It was Google in Praneeta’s case that helped her get the breakthrough. “When Maha searched for dance schools in Vizag on Google, my institute popped up first in the search results. He, along with two assistant directors, then visited our school at Pedda Waltair, where they saw me dancing. With the motivation of my guru, I auditioned for the role, and was okayed for it,” she shares.
Talking about her experience, Praneeta says, “At the outset, I wondered how people were living in those narrow lanes. But then, owing to our budget constraints, we would eat, sleep and stay in any of the houses in the neighbourhood. The people were affectionate and there was warmth in their reception. Thanks to this film, I now have an extended family that includes my cast and the residents of Kancharapalem.”
Fun Fact: Praneeta was the finalist at a Miss Vizag pageant. She was even honoured with the ‘Miss Beautiful Eyes’ award at the event.
Sharing similarities with the role she played, depicting Bhargavi on screen wasn’t too big a challenge for Praneeta. Now, a daughter of proud parents and the recipient of numerous plaudits, she aspires to make wise decisions in future and play impactful roles that cater importance to women.