EXCLUSIVE: Producer Radhika Lavu On The Stupendous Success Of ZEE5 Original G.O.D

She talks about the gangster drama being the most viewed regional content in November at the recently-held High-Five With ZEE5 Awards Ceremony

Radhika Lavu

The magic of Gods of Dharmapuri seem to have carved a permanent space in our heart and mind. We witnessed its magic a few months ago but its success stories are still ringing loud and clear. Having spoken to the director, the actors and the costume designer, we added all pieces to the puzzle together. And now, here we are with the final and the most important piece. Recently, we found a few minutes with the woman herself, the producer, Radhika Lavu. The filmmaker has successfully set new standards for regional content in the OTT space. Read what she has to say about the mega-success of G.O.D and it becoming the Most Viewed Regional Series in November at the High-Five with ZEE5 awards ceremony.

Watch the show here:

Q. Congratulations on the mega-success of Gods Of Dharmapuri. How do you feel about it?

A. It’s an overwhelming feeling to see the way our show has been received by the audiences. We had a huge influx of messages, from the audiences across the languages, from all of the cities of Andhra and Telangana. For the team, I think it was ecstatic. We stuck to our vision and we did our best and I think it shows.

Q. Did you expect the kind of response that it has received?

A. Yes. I saw something greater than what’s being made in the market. As a producer, I had to set a benchmark for the team, saying “this is what I expect” of myself and of them. It’s important to remind the team that they are there for a greater cause, every day. Make something that’s much better than what’s in the market. You need to get the story to the people in the best way possible. All of us were in a zone. We had the same vision.

Pratap in GOD
A still from GOD

Q. What made your belief in the story so strong?

A. I think it’s mostly confidence. Motivating oneself each day to get up do the best. Be true to what we’ve promised and tried reaching that. Also, futuristic thinking – if I do this, I know it is going to come out very well. But you are also a bit scared. Because the audience is very volatile. You don’t know how they’re going to receive it. So, it was a combination of confidence and butterflies in the stomach like, “I’ve done my best. Let’s see… what the audiences are going to say.”

Q. From the director to the actors, everyone gives you a lot of credit for the series’ success. What do you have to say about it?

A. I’m humbled. But I think it’s a team effort. Filmmaking is teamwork. As a producer, I need to drive each one of them. Remind myself and the team of why we are here. Are we on the path that we’ve set out? Are we sticking to that? That’s me, I have to do that. But of course, I’ve got a great team. I missed going to the sets once the shoot was done. I tried my best to motivate each person on the set and create a conducive environment for all of my team members to work. Because working should not be painful.

A still from GOD
A still from GOD

Q. Anish (Kuruvilla, the director) mentioned that he rewrote the story that you presented to him. So, what was the original version presented by you and how did you feel about his version of the story?

A. I went to him with a synopsis of a power-struggle. The plot remains the same. As you progress, it’s important to see how you mask the characters without them losing their innate qualities. Those innate qualities are what I had given to him. I wanted a power-struggle, this is what ZEE5 wants us to make. The characters were there; the progression was from how Anish it took the plotline, made it his own and masked it as a cool gangster drama. As a producer, I need to give my director that space – you can grow, experiment but also adhere to the action and logistics. He has done a great job. It’s always a good feeling when somebody joins you, who has the same work ethic and the same thought process. And, when you collaborate something good has to happen.

Q. Most people associated with GOD have already been associated with Ellanar Films. What makes you keep going back to them?

A. Like-minded people. Comfort. We discuss, we have meetings, we chit chat about what we want to make. As storytellers, it is very important to understand what audiences like to watch. I was reading a quote by Vishal Bhardwaj the other day, and he said, “films are all about the events. So, it’s our responsibility to show the events happening in society to the audiences”. I am a mass communications student. Films are a part of the mass media. And it’s a way of putting across what’s happening in the society. I found it very, very similar to my thought process. If you see GOD, it’s a story that you read, you see, it has happened. You know? It’s not that we’ve created an alien land. People work at the mining sites, people are under the zamindar rule, people are stomped. Its like haves and have nots. The inequality of it all.

Stay tuned to know how the actors for GOD were selected, how the story impressed the producer and more in Part 2 of the interview. For now, check out more exclusive interviews here and watch Gods of Dharmapuri on ZEE5.