Allari Naresh: I am on home ground doing comedy

The Aa Okkati Adakku actor talks to CE about the evolution of comedy cinema, his filmmaking aspirations, and more
Allari Naresh: I am on home ground doing comedy

Allari Naresh, popular for his repertoire of comedy films, returns to the genre after 3 years with his latest release Aa Okkati Adakku (AOA). His last few films, namely, NaandhiNaa Saami Ranga, Ugram, and Itlu Maredumilli Prajaneekam, belong to genres running the gamut of action, thriller and social drama. Naresh notes that the gap was purely accidental. "AOA was originally slated to release before Naa Saami Ranga, but our producer Rajiv Chilaka got busy with another project due to some inevitable circumstances, which led to a delay in AOA’s release."

Aa Okkati Adakku makes commentary on how marriage has been turned into a business opportunity by many while also becoming a way to scam people and breach their privacy. Talking about the film’s message, Naresh notes, “Comedies are always remembered more if they have an undercurrent message or emotional element. Even my popular films, like Kithakithalu (2008), had a message. All my father’s films had a message underneath. Here in Aa Okkati Adakku, we have sugar coated the story, but we are showing reality.”

Naresh talks about how the landscape for comedy in Telugu cinema has changed significantly in the past few years, which is why he has been more choosy with his scripts. He says, “Comedies are tougher to crack, since writers have become more aware of not being problematic. Few writers today know how to create comedy from a sensitive place. Comedy cannot be indecent anymore; it has to be more organic. I don’t know if we can make something like Seema Sastri (2007or Kithakithalu anymore.” Naresh recalls talking to a filmgoer who criticised Kithakithalu for glorifying body-shaming. “We have made great advances in technology, but it has also narrowed our minds,” says Naresh. 

Naresh also asserts that the ‘targets’ for a comedy have exponentially changed in recent times, adding, “Back when we made Sudigadu (2012), the writers had a target of delivering one good laugh every two minutes. Then the target became one laugh a minute. Now it’s like we have to make the audience laugh every thirty seconds. Under such circumstances, you cannot build a story around a few comic moments. The story itself should have comedy built within.” Recalling his father EVV Satyanarayana’s working style, Naresh also contemplates how the industry's workings around comedy have changed. He states, “We have fewer writers today. My father had nine writers on the team, so it was more like teamwork. Writers these days prefer to work solo.”

At the same time, Naresh reflects on how recent audience trends have led to a resurgence in demand for comedy films and shows. He explains, “In the last 2-3 years, people have gotten used to watching dark thrillers on OTT. So subconsciously, the audience began to miss comedies, and began to crave more of the latter.” Naresh also observes the trend of people making reels on Instagram as a sign that comedy continues to have its audience. “If the storytelling is strong, a comedy film will still work.”

Recalling his popular spoof movie Sudigadu, Naresh states how he has always been a big fan of the parody movie genre, courtesy of movies like Hot Shots! (1991) and the Scary Movie franchise. “When Thamizh Padam (2010) was released, we thought it would be a great idea for a Telugu remake and bought the rights.” The actor also informs us that, while he has no plans to venture into film direction in the near future, he has begun writing a script for a spiritual sequel to Sudigadu. Further talking about his plans to make Sudigadu 2, Naresh recalls, “When I recently went to Mumbai, I realised many people assume all Telugu movies to be like Sudigadu, which is actually a spoof. So I intend to make the sequel in a pan-Indian sort of way so that it connects with a larger audience.”

When asked about his filmmaking aspirations in the coming few years, Naresh states that he is a big fan of the 1987 Kamal Haasan film Pushpaka Vimana, which was a silent film. The Kitakitalu actor adds, “I would love to do a silent comedy like that, where expressions do all the work. I still wonder sometimes how they pulled it off.” Allari Naresh says he also wants to play a character from Joker from The Dark Knight (2008) where, he elaborates, “The audience should feel afraid of a character while they are laughing.”

The comedy genre has been the actor’s biggest strength over the last 2 decades, where he delivered hits like Thotti Gang (2002), Attili Sattibabu LKG (2010), and Blade Babji (2008), among many others. The actor states that for every serious film he does, he would like to do at least three comedies. On a lighter note, the actor adds that he had a hard time shooting for the action sequences of some of his recent films, stating, “Doing comedy is tough, but it is also my happy space. It feels like I have returned to my home ground with comedy.”

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