Director Teja Marni-1597237318435
Director Teja Marni. Image Credit:

“When there are many problems to deal with in our country, what’s the point of spending crores on building a statue, questions young director Teja Marni.

Marni is ready with his first feature film, ‘Johaar’ (Salute). The idea of ‘Johaar’ was triggered from news reports of splurging money for building a statue.

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Woven into ‘Johaar’ are the lives of four people — a mother who dearly loves her child; a freedom fighter’s mission whose mission is to build a home for orphans; a young woman seeking escape from her mother’s life as a sex worker and a street circus performer aspiring to become an athlete. The key roles are played by Easwari Rao, Naina Ganguly, Sudhakar and Esther Anil.

Rao plays Gangamma of Uddanam — a belt in Andhra Pradesh known for its high prevalence of kidney related diseases.

A native of Rajamundry and raised in Srikakulam, Marni said that he has seen children and people die due to kidney ailments.

Sudhakar plays Bose, a former freedom fighter and member of Subhash Chandra Bose’s Indian National Army in his young days. Bose’s mission is to build a home for the orphans that he is taking care.

“His efforts to get funds sanctioned since the past ten years has been in vain,” said Marni who made short films before assisting Telugu director Ram Gopal Varma on the sets of ‘Vangavetti.’

Ankith Koya and Esther Anil in Johaar
Ankith Koya and Esther Anil.

Naina Ganguly plays a street performer. Anil plays the daughter of a prostitute.

This is Anil’s Telugu debut in the lead. She was last seen as a child actor in the Telugu remake of the critically-acclaimed Malayalam film, ‘Drishyam.’

“Esther has done a fantastic job as a young woman [just hitting] puberty,” added Marni.

Ankith Koya is paired opposite Anil.

Tamil actress Rohini plays a journalist. Chaitanya Krishna plays a young CM who takes over the legacy of his father.

‘Johaar’ is produced by Marni’s family — his brother and father pooled in funds to see his directorial dreams through.

“My father gave his 25 years of savings that was set aside for constructing a rice mill,” said Marni.

‘Johaar’ was shot in Varanasi, Rajamundry and Vizag.

With a large team of actors, the initial challenge was roping them for their roles.

“We shot in live locations teeming with crowds,” recalled Marni. “Every stumbling block was a learning experience preparing me for my next film.”

Marni wanted to make ‘Johaar’ in Tamil too but it did not work as planned. He hopes to reshoot some scenes and release it in Tamil as a direct film. Jagadeesh Cheekati is the DOP. Priyadarshan has composed music. Vamsi has written the dialogues.

Don’t miss it!

‘Johaar’ streams on Aha from August 14.