ZEE5 Original Gods Of Dharmapuri is a fictional show that is set in the backdrop of Rayalaseema during the ’60s and ’70s. The story pans through two generations in its 10-episodes and traces the journey of the Reddy family, from nothing to everything battle of power. The show has been loved by viewers and critics alike. We chatted with the director, Anish Kuruvilla, to learn about his thoughts with the success shenanigans and what we can expect next. Read the edited excerpts below.
Watch the show here:
Q. Your character, Mr. Rao really took me back to the journalism classroom…
A. Thank you so much! A journalism student has validated the character of an editor. I didn’t do a lot of research on how editors speak. We just kept the character as a control freak, a person who wants to have a say in what the world needs to see. I’m really happy to know it connected with journalism students.
Q. How does the constant audience response on social media make you feel?
A. It’s a sense of collective validation, something that I share with the whole of my team – my producer, my direction team, the costume designer, the writers, the production designers, everyone. It has all come together so well. I feel grateful and excited too. Because this gives us an opportunity now. The audiences are asking for better, bolder and finer stories. So, let’s keep that in mind and let’s give them that. There were things which I thought that I didn’t pull off very well. But those are the ones that have worked for them.
Q. The response has been positive and plenty. Did you expect that?
A. Honestly, I expected a good response. But I didn’t expect such an overwhelming response. I had enough confidence in our product and I knew it would be received well. But the magnitude of response is not something that I had prepared myself for.
Q. The show has really crossed boundaries. Despite the language and the backdrop, everyone has enjoyed it equally…
A. I am a Mallu who grew up in Hyderabad. Neither did I learn Malayalam nor do I know Telugu. I was the guy who only spoke in English and Hindi, that was my neighbourhood. Walking into the industry, I could barely speak the language. Over the two decades, I learnt the language now. However, I am still not proficient. Cinema for me is very universal. Languages can be unifying. That’s why it was exciting about ZEE5 that it will reach a wider audience in their language. That’s another motivation.
Q. What is the one thing that people have going on talking about?
A. Well, I think it’s the episode with the farmer and his wife. The conversation between the couple and the electoral officer. The fact that she somehow manages to find her name on it. I wasn’t confident if I pulled it off but it seems to have resonated with the viewers. That’s a relief.
Q. What has been the biggest critique that GOD received?
A. Some of the criticism has been about the language. It didn’t go down too well with some people. I understand that. It’s not a family-friendly show, it has an 18+ certificate. The feedback has been about the harshness of the language.
Q. There are people defending the harshness of the language to the people criticising it. They also seem to be the ones from that land…
A. From the story’s point of view, I think it is completely justified. With the universe that you have created, you have to portray your characters accurately. One of the things we did while screenwriting is, we intentionally left a few things unanswered – like some motivations of the character – for example, the sequence of Saroja’s baby being aborted without her knowledge or consent – we purposely left it like that.
Q. What was the idea behind leaving a few things unsaid?
A. What I liked about those was the fact that it sparked a discussion. That is good but it also left a few folks confused. We didn’t want to spoon feed every plot detail and emotion. You figure it out, you imagine. I wanted the audiences to fill in the blanks and knit your own story ahead. There’s no right or wrong. It’s fun when they get that.
Q. How has the team dealt with this overwhelming response?
A. Once you put your work out, it does not hit you like a bolt. It takes days and several messages to get it. We have our own little WhatsApp group where we constantly share the response. Everyone is really grateful and happy. The most wonderful thing about the feedback is that it’s well summed up. It does say that the show worked because of one thing. They’re all talking about the music, actors, costume, favourite character. I think every department has every reason to feel very proud. Such moments are rare in our careers.
Q. You have been kindly replying to every response that’s coming your way…
A. I think it’s my duty to respond to everyone who has been writing to me. If someone has taken take even two minutes to tell us that they’ve enjoyed or loved the show, it’s not for me to double-tap or add an emoji. I can’t have a detailed conversation with them but I have to thank that person. Honestly, the show has been reviewed by major publications, no interviews or regular promotions. In those terms, it is mostly the word of mouth that has been propelling this success. That is just beautiful to see.
Q. Regional content has probably never witnessed a massive outpour of love like G.O.D…
A. You know, once you put out your product, you want it to be a success – for the client, for the producers. It has a commercial value too. Because Radhika and ZEE5 have believed in us, put money in our efforts. For us, it is a wonderful feeling to hear that ZEE5 has had a jump in numbers and that they’re all happy. The guys at ZEE5 have put so much effort in making it big, now people from the other tiers have a reason to discover OTT. I am happy that the show and the platform have risen together.
Q. After G.O.D, a lot of aspiring filmmakers are waiting for an opportunity to work with you…
A. We’re always on the hunt for new talent. But then there is a crew, we think of ourselves to be a band… They are very critical to my process. Within our departments, there is always room to accommodate new talents. But you can’t accommodate every request, it is not feasible. The one thing about this industry is that talent can never be ignored. My doors are open all the time.
Q. Last and most importantly… when is season 2 coming out?
A. Hahaha… Honestly, I don’t know the exact answer. But there will come a time, in the next few weeks or months when we all sit down and figure out what direction to take it ahead in. I’m excited about it, my team is brimming with new ideas. Most of the messages end with the same question. (Jokingly) Arey yaar! We took almost a year to make this show. Please don’t talk about work right now, I’m trying to go on a vacation. But this sense of excitement is great. They are getting used to the format of a season after season.
Q. Final thoughts?
A. It has been only a few weeks since the show released. There are people who are yet to discover it, in the next few weeks and months even. And of course, there is the huge overseas market, who are constantly waiting to watch it. We’re excited and nervous also because now we have an expectation to live up to.
Watch Gods Of Dharmapuri now, if you haven’t already. Stay tuned to watch the upcoming ZEE5 Original Hawala on November 21.