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Skylab: Satya Dev, Nithya Menon Starrer is a Fictional Period Comedy Set against the Backdrop of the Skylab Incident, Says Director

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First look poster of Skylab

The first look poster of Skylab, the upcoming Telugu period comedy, starring actors Satya Dev and Nithya Menen in the lead roles, was unveiled by various film personalities, including filmmaker Gautham Vasudev Menon and Tamannaah Bhatia, on Sunday.

Written and directed by debutant filmmaker Vishvak Khanderao, the film is produced by Prithvi Pinnamaraju and co-produced by Menen.

In a conversation with Silverscreen India, Khanderao says that Skylab is a period comedy-drama that is set in a village in Telangana against the backdrop of the Skylab incident.

Skylab was the first US space station launched by NASA in the 70s. When its orbit decayed, Skylab disintegrated in the atmosphere on July 11, 1979, and the debris was scattered across the Indian Ocean and Western Australia.

The film’s poster has been launched on the same date, 42 years later.

Skylab, Khanderao tells us, is primarily about three characters —  Anand (Satya Dev), Gowri (Menen), and Rama Rao (Rahul Ramakrishna). While Satya Dev plays a doctor, Menen essays the role of a journalist. “The film is about people of the village and these three characters. It’s a comical take on how they handle the situation. Just as the Italian film Life Is Beautiful is based on the Holocaust, but is primarily about the father and son, Skylab is about the people in this particular backdrop,” he says.

The village — Banda Lingampalli in Karimnagar district — is real, but the events in the film are fictional. “The story is completely fictional and has nothing to do with the actual village. I chose Banda Lingampalli, my grandmother’s village, for the sole reason that it sounded funny. In addition, banda means stone in Telugu.”

In fact, the film wasn’t even shot at Banda Lingampalli. “The village did not suit the script, so we filmed in areas around Hyderabad, several pockets of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, and Karaikudi in Tamil Nadu,” says the filmmaker, adding that the film’s pre-production started in mid-2018 and shooting began in November 2019. “We are almost done with only a few days of shooting left. The post-production work is taking place in parallel.”

Left: Making of the poster (credits: Byte Features Twitter handle); Right: Screenshot from the title announcement teaser

Speaking about the research undertaken for the film, Khanderao says he collected newspaper clippings of those times, interviewed people living then, talked to his parents about Skylab, how the fear grew among people, and so on.

“People had many stories to offer. In 1979, when NASA announced that Skylab was falling, there was only radio and speculations were rampant that it might fall in South India. No one knew exactly where it would fall. At one point, some people even began celebrating because they thought those were the last few days they had. Some went to Tirupati to be near god, while others wore helmets. There were speculations that people who saw the fragments would go blind. For the film, we have dramatized it all even more,” he adds.

Skylab has two songs, composed by Prashanth Vihari, to aid the narrative, the filmmaker tells us. “There are two kinds of music — one looks at the scene from the characters point of view, while the other is more godlike and sees everything from above. We chose the latter and asked Prashanth to play god while composing music.”

The team plans to release the film in theatres by August-end or September first week, Khanderao reveals. “We are also planning to dub it in other languages, though nothing is finalised yet,” he signs off.

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