The retrospective, organised by the cultural organisation Sahiti and the Andhra Association, will screen six works from the total of four films and three documentaries that Rao has made in his 30 years with the camera. “I could have made 50 films but mine are not just any film, they’re social realities meant to grip the audience,” he says. The ordinary Andhraiite is his protagonist, and their pain and humour, struggles and victories form his celluloid.
Every film of his has won either a national or a state award, but after every screening, as the end credits roll, Rao’s eyes are on the audience to gauge their reaction. “After my film is over, people normally don’t speak to one another. They are calm and quiet, immersed in their own thoughts. That’s the real reward,” he says. And he wants them to think on their silent journey back home — about gender bias after watching Dasi, the demands of art in Rangula Kala, class struggle in Maa Bhoomi, agricultural labourers in Matti Manushulu and death in Harivillu (right).
Though his vision is starkly realistic, his childhood ambition was “to become an actor and run behind heroines”. He did a stint before the camera in Rangula Kala, “but subsequently stuck to writing scripts and directing and producing films. I’m no Charlie Chaplin or Raj Kapoor”.
His last film, Harivillu, was in 2003, but the years haven’t been empty. “I am working on a film on a 150-year-old rural theatre troupe called Surabhi,” he says. Another award, perhaps.