The recent Hindi-Telugu-Tamil film Music School is special in many ways. For one, it is a rare family-friendly entertainer in today’s times, which talks about stress on children, a topic alien to mainstream cinema. But what differentiates it from many other films is the man helming it – Papa Rao Biyyala. A first-time filmmaker, he has had a journey very different from other directors, one that saw him work a as a civil servant and officer in United Nations before turning to films.
Papa Rao Biyyala, also known as BVP Rao, is a former member of the Indian Administrative Services from the 1982 batch. A law graduate from Osmania University, he left his PhD dreams when he qualified for IAS. Biyyala worked as an IAS officer in various parts of India and was the Home Secretary in Assam from 1994-97, and later worked as Civil Affairs Officer at the the United Nations Mission in Kosovo in 1999. He was also a policy advisor to Telangana government from 2014-19.
Biyyala’s tryst with filmmaking began in the mid-90s when he was introduced by his friend and actor To Alter to National Award-winning filmmaker Jahnu Barua. He learnt the craft from him and went onto to do a Diploma in Film Making from the New York Film Academy in 1996.
Having made a documentary in the 90s, Papa Rao Biyyala is now venturing into feature films with Music School, which stars Shriya Saran and Sharman Joshi and released in theatres on May 12. Inan exclusive cat with DNA, talking about the film’s theatrical release, he says, “I am a first-time filmmaker. Everyone is saying it’s a big risk but what is there in life without a risk. I think this film should be seen in theatres.”
Music School is the story of how a music teacher helps students navigate stress of exams and also explore their co-curricular interests. Talking about the similarities in administrative work and filmmaking, Biyyala says, “The writing and directorial part is nothing similar to governance and management. But I am a producer too here, and that has brought to use the experience of working in civil services.”
Biyyala maintains that he did not find the task of making a film daunting. He says, “We organised much bigger events and undertakings. To organise things like Prime Minister’s visits or response to any crisis was much more difficult. Shooting a film wasn’t that big a task.” Music School is currently running in theatres nationwide.