They have full-time jobs as software engineers in the Silicon Valley, but powered by their creative instincts, they have also begun a parallel career in the movies.
Meet San Francisco Bay Area, Calif.-based Indian American engineer Maruti T. Ravikiran Surikuchi, who has written and directed his debut indie film, “Vasantha Sameeram,” starring Indian American actor/engineer Rakesh Galebhe.
New actress Lakshmi Bharadwaj plays the female lead role in this professional-grade Telugu film. Barring a few post-production members based in India, the majority of the cast and crew members are Indian Americans and are based in the Bay Area.
The film, which premiered recently at Serra Theaters in Milpitas, Calif., tracks the life of Sameer Nanda (Galebhe), a happy-go-lucky IT professional based in California. Girls are charmed by his good looks and intelligence but he is only inclined towards girls hailing from the West. But when he meets Vasantha (Bharadwaj), an aspiring actress, his life takes a turn. The movie is about how these two strangers, who come from totally different worlds, build their own world, uniting as “Vasantha Sameeram.”
Galebhe is not exactly new to the world of acting. Born and raised in Hyderabad, Telangana, he has starred in close to 20 short films, most notable among them are “Prayanam,” “Love Logic Less,” and “Foreign Sambandham.” Some of these short films have close to one million views on YouTube. And “Vasantha Sameeram” just got him one step closer to achieving his dream.
Surikuchi told India-West that he started work on this romantic drama, which is also quite an emotional roller-coaster, as he was looking to add a film to his showreel.
The film was shot over a period of 16 days – only weekends – at about 20 locations in and around the Bay Area. Of course, no Indian film can be complete without a few song and dance sequences. So, this hour-long film, too, features beautifully choreographed romantic numbers. In fact, for one of the songs, the crew rented a minivan to capture the beauty of seven locations, including San Francisco, Sausalito, Livermore, and Half Moon Bay.
Surikuchi said he has tried to create a compelling narrative arc, with an equal time spent on fleshing out each character.
“The story demands its length,” he told India-West. “Every scene in the movie will either will move the plot forward or give more information about a character. There is no irrelevant scene.”
The major challenges, Surikuchi said, included restricting each scene to a set time limit, and making this indie drama look and feel like a mainstream film.
“As part of script design the one thing that I concentrated on was the length of each scene – I wanted to keep it at about three minutes maximum and come up with as many locations as possible to get the feel of a mainstream film,” he explained to India-West. “Lining up the things for each location with limited production crew was the most challenging thing. Then came the post-production challenges, with teams working remotely. We had to keep the budget as low as possible because there is not much return on investment for indie films. Budget was a challenge all along but thankfully many people have helped us with locations, working for absolutely free easing some of the constraints.”
The film is quite the labor of love, and the two are now overjoyed at the response the film has received so far.
“The U.S. premiere turnout was over 200 people and Indian premiere also got about the same number. For us it’s a success,” said Surikuchi proudly. “It means a lot for us. One-hour-long movie completely made in the U.S., with a minuscule budget but high-quality visuals, pleasant music and extremely professional performance is not an easy task. We need this success to showcase our ability to make a full-length film with limited budget in the U.S. and yet provide the same quality that our movie industry expects back home.”
“Vasantha Sameeram” is currently being screened in theaters in the Bay Area and India, with plans to find distributors for other states in the U.S.
Watch the trailer for “Vasantha Sameeram” here: