Abhilash Reddy is an alumnus of the well-known Annapurna College of Films and Media. Having completed his Master’s degree at the college, he tasted success after writing and helming the ZEE5 Original show, Eekadiki Ee Parugu. The crime thriller was a hit and after delivering two seasons, Abhilash is back with a new web series. Titled Loser, the sports-drama, which spans over three decades, deals with three sports personalities belonging to three different sports.
Watch the trailer of Loser here:
Only a couple of days before the release of ZEE5 Original Loser, we had a chat with the director himself. He shared the journey of filming the show in this exclusive interview. Read the edited excerpts here.
Q. What can you tell us about Loser?
A. Loser is all about hope and life. The characters in it are not over the top, they are the ones we see struggling in our surroundings. In any field, people are struggling and even in the show, they face such consequences. Just like our present situation, the characters in the show overcome their challenges. I feel this will give a lot of hope to the people.
Q. Where did the idea come from?
A. It came from my friend who is an air rifle shooter. He wasn’t economically strong, not even to afford his own gun. He failed to enter the nationals. That’s where the basis came from, and the rest of it is fictional. This happened in 2007, just before the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Even today, people do not know about the sport called Air Rifle.
Q. Would you say Suri’s character is like your friend?
A. No, I just took a general point – apart from that, the conflicts and everything else is fictional. There’s nothing picked up from personal life.
Q. How did you manage to get Annapurna Studios on board?
A. They liked the story and came on board. This is their first web series. Annapurna Studios has been willing to enter the digital market for the last year. They had been going through stories, but they didn’t like anything. Luckily, Supriya ma’am (Executive Director Of Annapurna Studios) liked our story along with Prasad Sir (Creative Lead – Telugu at ZEE5). They also liked the way we treated Ekkadiki Ee Parugu. Thereon, it moved ahead.
Q. Your first show was a thriller and Loser is a sports-drama. How do you move between genres?
A. I treasure a moment. If you see the first web series – although it’s a thriller, there is a mother-son sentiment at its core. Even with Loser, the backdrop is sports, but there is a lot of emotion in it. For me, the basic point is drama and emotion, that’s what I believe in. Even if it’s a crime drama, there must be emotion in it. And that’s the thing which connects with the audience.
Q. Does that mean you enjoy emotionally-driven content as a viewer too?
Yes. I love how SS Rajamouli mixes drama and emotion with commercial elements. If you see any film, it is an emotion which drives it. Ninety percent of Hollywood director David Fincher’s films are thrillers but they have emotion to it. I will see the emotion first, and then the genre. I cannot imagine a story without it.
Q. What was the process of casting?
A. The first thing is the story and the characters. This is Sayaji Shinde sir’s first web series. He mentioned that a lot of Hindi shows approached him, but he didn’t agree upon them. With Loser, it was the story because he didn’t even know which banner was backing the project. When I met him, I narrated the story and he liked it. It was the same with Priyadarshi. Air Rifle is a new game and he found the screenplay interesting.
Q. What were the challenges through pre and production stages?
A. Pre-production was was tough because I had very little time to write. We got the actors’ dates in prior. There are two more writers, Sai Bharadwaj and Shravan Madala, and they must get their due credit. The story was mine, but they put it on paper. For the production, the credit must go to the production designers. Because we didn’t have an elaborate budget like feature films. We got a decent budget from ZEE5 and Annapurna Studios.
The challenge was while filming we had to show three different times, one takes place during the monsoon in the ’80s. For most of those scenes, we had to recreate rain. While filming for the ’90s sequences, we had to create the haze effect that we see in winters. And to get that effect, we had to place machines on the actors’ faces.
That was a difficult thing. And, the 2000s story takes place in summer – which meant a lot of lights because we shot that in summer. It took 70 days. We started around August 2019 and completed by December. The post-production took a long time because we wanted quality output.
How and what did you do to make sure that the actors get into the skin of their characters?
It’s a sports-drama, so the first thing we had to work on was fitness. For Priyadarshi’s Air Rifle sport, there is no reference anywhere. There are very few institutions. Despite being one of the busiest actors, Priyadarshi dedicated two months to train.
In cricket, batting is easy and that’s something you can cheat. But bowling isn’t, Shashank had to do it properly. Even he dedicated about two-three months. Another challenge for him was putting on and losing weight since he plays a younger and older Wilson. From growing hair to a paunch, he did it in six months. Annie also took two-three months. They are all too good actors, so we didn’t have to hold workshops.
Q. Did your friend help Priyadarshi in getting into Suri’s zone?
No. Neelakanth is a national player from Gagan Narang’s institute. He is the man who helped us getting every basic right. For badminton, we had another coach named Dev, a national player who teaches in Chetan Anand Badminton Academy. A Ranji player helped us with cricket.
Q. After two seasons of Ekkadiki Ee Parugu and Loser on ZEE5, what has been your experience with this platform?
A. It’s good because a lot of platforms do not give newcomers a chance. But ZEE5, at least in the last year, has produced so many shows by newcomers. ZEE5 is encouraging young talent. And Prasad guru, I feel, is a gem of a person. He’s helped a lot from story discussions to post-productions and takes special care of the product.
Q. Is season two of Loser on the table for you, yet?
A. As of now, no. But we have left the show open ended, without concluding Suri’s story. Maybe if things go well we will think of a season two.
Q. What are you hoping for the audience to take away – especially during these times?
A. After watching this, they will have some hope in life. Loser is all about hope. And maybe it will encourage people to move on in life. It is motivational also.
Q. Any message for people struggling with a writer’s block?
A. Yes, I read a lot of books, observing people in our surroundings is more important. Your characters come from our surroundings. You have to experience the character to write them, by talking to various people. So many writers I feel they read and watch films. Films will teach you about the technicalities. And I feel, writers must get credit. In fact, the dialogues that are trending are written by two writers. So, it’s a team effort.
Q. Any parting thoughts?
A. Yes, I would like to thank Prasad sir from ZEE5 and Maheswar Reddy, a Creative Producer from Annapurna Studios. They are the ones who pushed us through it.
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