Dongala Mutha (English: Gang of Thieves) is a Telugu-language film directed by Ram Gopal Varma. The film stars Ravi Teja, Charmme Kaur, Prakash Raj, Lakshmi Manchu, Bramhanandam, Subbaraju, Supreet and Ajay. This film is the first of its kind in Indian cinema as it was shot with just 7 crew members and in a record of 5 days. Prior to filming, Varma announced that this film has no budget and that the cast and crew will not be taking remunerations until the film hits theaters.
Puri Jagannadh is co-director while director S. Harish Shankar (Mirapakaya fame) is associate director. Music is by Sathyam while the Background Score has been rendered by Amar Mohile of Sarkar Raj fame.
Dongala Mutha was released on 18 March 2011, which was exactly 33 days after the shooting ended. The filmmaking process was revolutionized through Canon 5D cameras, a first of its kind. The film remained an instant hit at the box office.
Normally a film takes between 2-6 to shoot and more than 150 to 200 crew members will be working on it. However, the unique thing about this film is that this 2 hour long feature film was completed in just 5 days from start to finish, with a crew of just 5 people including Ram Gopal Varma. No one in this film was paid. It was made only with those actors and technicians who were excited to be a part of the project. All the people who were working for the film were only be paid after the release, if and only if the film would make profits and those payments would be in accordance with their individual value additions.
There was no generator, no lights, no equipment of any sort including jibs, trolleys etc., as the entire film was shot hand-held and in natural light. The pilot track for the sound was recorded by the cameras themselves.
The innovative challenge of using Canon cameras as opposed to the traditional movie cameras was first technically proved before shooting commenced by making a test print out of a few scenes shot that came out perfectly. Principal photography then started on 9 February 2011 and the entire shooting of Dongala Mutha was completed ahead of schedule. The entire film was shot hand held and in natural light with 5 Canon cameras which were used to capture every shot in 5 different angles simultaneously. No lights or equipment of any sort including jibs, trolleys etc. were used. There was no D.O.P for the film and all the individual operators chose the angles or compositions without the director or anyone guiding or coordinating them.
Canon 5D cameras were used because they give excellent output with naked-eye quality without using any additional lights. It costs around ₹1.5 lakhs to buy each of these cameras. The film was wrapped up in a record four and a half days, earlier than the announced five days and was released on 18 March. Finally, Ram Gopal Varma revealed in a press conference at the Promo Launch that the production cost of the movie is just ₹6,50,000, mostly for renting out a premises and other miscellaneous expenses.
A couple, Sudheer (Ravi Teja) and Rani (Charmme Kaur), is traveling in a car on a deserted road for friend’s marriage. They take a short cut to reach the venue when their car conks out and they end up in an old, dilapidated and a seedy resort. They meet a weird hotel staff member, Subbaraju, who claims that he is The Receptionist. He tells them that the hotel is full. Another guy, who calls himself The Manager (Supreet), tells them that one room is vacant and they are allotted room number 8. Inside the hotel Sudheer and Rani realize that the room has not been cleaned for many days. When they order for lunch, the resort staff bring the menu but they say that nothing is available. Sudheer shouts at the hotel staff and they tell him that he can take their car and drive to a nearby village where he can get a mechanic but they tell him that he cannot take his wife along with him. Sudheer gets irritated and asks them to get out. Soon, both hear some weird sounds from the next room. But to their surprise that adjacent room is locked. Sudheer slowly starts realizing that he and Rani are getting more and more trapped in a do or die situation.
When asked The Receptionist tells them that the source of the sound from the neighboring room is a Ghost. But The Manager says it is not a ghost but a thief. Frightened at their gestures, Sudheer and Rani try to get out of the resort, but the manager, receptionist and a servant (Brahmaji) hold them captive and keep Rani in room number 9 - the same room as the one with the Ghost. However, Sudheer and Rani manage to escape from them but are trapped in the same building. The three men at the resort are actually kidnappers working for a don who calls himself Munna Bhai. They have kidnapped a businessman Narayana Murthy (Brahmanandam) and locked him up in room number 9. To solve the kidnap mystery cops Shiva (Lakshmi Manchu) and Richard (Sunil) arrive at the resort feigning to convey the message that Munna Bhai has been arrested. What ensues now is a game of hide and seek as Sudheer, Rani and Narayana Murthy are now on the run. Finally, Prakash Raj arrives as a cop-on-duty to arrest The Mutha, later revealing himself to be the don Munna Bhai, the mastermind behind the kidnap.Ravi Teja as Sudheer
Charmee Kaur as Rani
Sunil as Richard
Prakash Raj as Munna Bhai
Lakshmi Manchu as Siva
Bramhanandam as The Ghost / Narayana Murthy
Subbaraju as The Hotel Receptionist
Brahmaji as The Hotel Servant
Supreeth as The Hotel Manager
The seven member crew on location consisted of the Director, an Assistant Director and 5 Camera operators and the unit breakup is as follows:
- Total no. of shooting days were just 5 in comparison to any normal film taking anywhere between 60 and 120 days.
- Total no. of shooting crew were just 7 members that is Director, Asst. Director and Five Camera operators in comparison to any film having 150 to 200 members.
- There was no D.O.P for the film because there were no lights used and hence there was no concept of lighting and the composition of shots and the angles were independently chosen by the 5 camera operators by themselves without having any co-ordination with each other and hence there was no need for a supervising D.O.P
- None of the camera operators were ever on a film set before.
- The whole cost of the camera dept. for the film is just Rs.6,50,000 including cameras and operators in comparison to a normal film where with this kind of cast, the cost will be at least between 75 Lakhs to 1.5 Crores.
- The entire editing for the film has been done by 3 editors on a shift basis on 3 Mac computers sitting in two small rooms.
- All the post production work like background score, colour corrections etc. were done in small rooms without going to any studio.
Ram Gopal Varma's main idea for making Dongala Mutha is to explain to the world that a film need not have a whole bunch of technicians taking care of camera work but could be done with just Canon 5D cameras. He has revealed his idea at the end of the film with ‘The Making of Dongala Mutha’ video. How the FX School students have used the hand held cameras and shot the film without using regular cranes and other machinery, how Varma himself has looked after everything instead of making use of assistant directors, associate directors, managers and make-up artistes, light boys and others, etc., forms the plot of the 2 minute 34 seconds video. He has penned the dialogues to the characters and has tried to derive comedy by repeating the same dialogues between the characters. The video also reveals the action choreography to have been handled by Varma himself. Music for the video is by 'Deyyam' fame Sathyam.
Composer Sathyam scored the film's title track, his second collaboration with Ram Gopal Varma after Deyyam. The music video for the song was picturised on the cast which included Ravi Teja, Charmme Kaur, Lakshmi Manchu, Sunil (actor), Subbaraju, Brahmaji, Prakash Raj, Brahmanandam and Supreet by noted director S. Harish Shankar at the deserted Aluminium Factory in Gachibowli, Hyderabad. The song was shot completely on Canon DSLR Camera in one day.