Does The Angrez ring a bell; or Hyderabad Nawabs, or FM — Fun Aur Masti? No matter, if you’re not from Hyderabad, you can’t be blamed for that. But just google the titles and you’ll instantly realise how well these names are known. For, they’re a new category of films that have proved immens­ely popular, not just among Hyderabadis in Andhra Pradesh but also among the large diaspora in the Middle-East and the US, thanks to the Internet ­­— and original as well as pirated DVDs — even though these films haven’t been released in theatres abroad.
It’s a somewhat special phenomenon, so not many Hindi film fans would be familiar with Hyderabadi films. But if they’ve enjoyed Mehmood’s roles in films like Gumnaam (1965) in which he plays a Hyderabadi butler (remember the hilarious Mohammad Rafi song — Hum Kaale Hain To Kya Hua Dilwale Hain) or the song Qatoon Ki Qidmat Mein Salaam Apun Ka in Desh Premi, they will probably like these films, packed with typically wacky Hyderabad humour.
Nine Hyderabadi films have been made in just over two years. Three have proved commercially successful. Two ran for 175 days, catapulting their lead actors to dizzy heights of popularity across continents. One more film is on the verge of release, while two are fast nearing completion.
Askari, an old-time Hyderabadi, is sold on the concept. “I’ve watched Angrez and thoroughly enjoyed it! Hearing our own Hyderabadi dialect was a delight, as were the characters, many of whom we might easily come across on a shopping expedition in the city. Also nicely spoofed in the film is the fascination for American materialism, the hype around the IT industry and the lifestyle and culture it has spawned.” He adds, “In The Angrez, the antics of the home-returned NRIs struck a chord with the younger generation of our relatives in the US. They could very well identify themselves with the situation, the bewilderment and fascination of the ‘returned natives’ as they go about rediscovering the city.” The rest of the films such as Hungama in Dubai, Charminar Boys, Kal Ka Nawab, Aadaab Hyderabad, Salaam Hyderabad and Mamu Tension Nai Leneka bombed at the box office. Thriller ­— The Movie was released on November 14 in Hyderabad and Bangalore. The others that are fast nearing completion, such as The Angrez Part II and Half Fry, are expected to rake in the moolah. Aziz Naser, who makes his directorial debut with Thriller, says “The main reason some Hyderabadi films flopped is that their producers, without knowing the basics of filmmaking, simply wanted to make a fast buck. They invested the money, wanting huge returns. In fact, there’s a lot of potential in these films. If corporate houses extend financial support, it can be a lucrative industry.” So, are Hyderabadi films going the Bhojpuri way? Will it become a parallel film industry that thrives on films that highlight Hyderabadi culture, dialect and people? Says RK, who played Mama in The Angrez and produced three films Hyderabad Nawabs, FM and Thriller — The Movie: “When Angrez was made, we didn’t know if there was an audience for such films. Today, we know for sure these films have an audience that extends to the Middle-East and the US. These films are lapped up by Hyderabadis wherever they are, apart from lovers of comedy films. ” But the going is not easy, RK says. “After struggling for two years, I succeeded in making the state government realise that our films are not Hindi films and hence we shouldn’t have to pay 20 per cent tax like Bollywood filmmakers. We are purely local, more local than the Telugu film industry. We are still in the nascent stage. Therefore, need more sops than anyone else. Now we pay only seven per cent tax on the lines of Telugu films.” But there are other hurdles. “Getting theatres for Hyderabadi films has become a tough task as Hindi film distributors block them for Bollywood films,” RK rues. “I wanted to release Thriller in Secunderabad. But a north Indian distributor has blocked all theatres for Golmaal Returns. However, I’m releasing the film in the Nizam area. These distributors don’t want a parallel film industry to flourish as we are superstars in the Nizam territory.When Hyderabad Nawabs was released in Hyderabad simultaneously with Lage Raho Munnabhai, it got 100 per cent openings and ran for 175 days. “On the other hand, though Lage Raho was a hit in India and abroad, it was a dud in the Nizam area,” says RK.
Sanjay Punjabi, director of Aadaab, which ran just four weeks, is busy directing his second, Half Fry. “It’s a multi-starrer with three big stars — Mast Ali, Adnan Saajid and Altaf Hyder,” he says proudly. Punjabi is optimistic about the future of Hyderabadi films. “I believe Hyderabadi films have a bigger market than Bhojpuri. Firstly, they’re technically superior to the latter. And for each of the nine Hyderabadi films made so far, all the 28 shows of the week have been houseful! The fact that our films are getting very good initials in times when big-budget and much-hyped Bollywood films can’t guarantee box office success, goes on to prove my point,” he says with conviction.