Meet young and energetic Chaitanya KM who is brimming with confidence. It may not be an exaggeration to say that Chaitanya is one of the young directors in Sandalwood who has a bright future provided he takes direction as a profession. Recently, the film Aa Dinagalu (meaning Those days) based on a series written by Agni Sridhar, a reformed don, brought Chaitanya appreciation from critics and has also completed 100 days of screening.
Chaitanya began his career as a theatre artiste and later graduated to direction. “My father asked me whether I was interested in amateur theatre. Those days, Nataranga, one of the established groups, was conducting auditions for Girish Karnad’s play Thaledanda. I was reluctant but decided to try my luck.” It turns out it was not his interest but a beautiful girl who made him join theatre. “Actually, she was accompanying her sister,” recalls Chaitanya.
Though Chaitanya was given a small part in the play, he gained a lot of experience and had the opportunity to follow the girl with pretty face. “I was given a small part in the play. That was fine, as far as I got to see the girl again. Nataranga was a talented group and I learnt a lot. Soon I was seriously involved in theatre. But I knew that acting was not my calling. I wanted to direct. I wanted to use actors, movement, space and lights to make my audiences laugh, cry and cringe as I pleased,” narrates Chaitanya.
After realising that acting was not his cup of tea, Chaitanya joined Christ College to pursue higher studies. There he met KY Narayanaswamy, a professor, who was popular among students. “My lecturer called me a donkey and asked me to do something big to prove myself,” says Chaitanya. He selected 49 actors and put up mammoth sets to organise Prasanna’s play Dangeya Munchina Dingalu at the college auditorium. “I was nervous and wondered if we could really pull it off. But KYN wasn’t. On the day of audition, nearly 50 students turned up. Many of them were from other states. They wrote Kannada dialogues in Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu and learnt them,” recalls Chaitanya.
That year Christ College swept the state intercollegiate theatre festival, picking up several awards. “The next year once again we dominated the theatre festival. It became a habit. Till then Christ College was only known for its rock bands but now is also known for its theatre,” he adds.
After completing the degree course Chaitanya wrote the entrance exams for admission to Hyderabad Central University’s department of communications. “Students from across the country compete for a limited number of seats. So it gives a sense of achievement to those who finally make it. It was my first taste of hostel life. Sprawled across nearly 2,300 acres, HCU with its woods, hills and ponds, is alluring to students who love adventure. Night outs and camping was almost a weekly affair,” says Chaitanya.
Chaitanya’s thrist for liquor and inclination to cater to the needs of his friends made him even smuggle liquor bottles from Bangalore to Hyderabad when prohibition was in force. “Our teachers were understated but brilliant. We were exposed to a world of theory and ideas. There were heated debates and discussion. And what is intellectual stimulation without a fair dose of alcohol? But the Andhra government had banned alcohol throughout the state. Whenever a student went out of the state, we would plead with him to smuggle some booze. Thrice I stole entire bottles of liquor for my thirsty comrades at the university. I used to keep a decoy bottle of glucose water.
Once cops rummaged through my luggage and found it, but missed the real bottle. That night I felt blessed when I looked at my drunken hostel mates,” Chaitanya recalls.
And what about the girl? “I married her 10 years ago,” he smiles.