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Flashback 2016 Telugu Cinema

An year which saw big production houses launch debutant directors and starless cast; where women took charge of the film and carried it on their shoulders, and one where even dubbing movies had a dece

Published: 31st December 2016 12:09 AM  |   Last Updated: 31st December 2016 07:04 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

An year which saw big production houses launch debutant directors and starless cast; where women took charge of the film and carried it on their shoulders, and one where even dubbing movies had a decent run

2016 Has been a decisive year for the Telugu film industry. It has been a year where filmmakers have not shied away from pushing forward content-based films in the commercial space. It has been a year in which women have had much more to do than dance around in skimpy clothes. It has been a year where the industry’s biggest production houses – Suresh Productions and PVP Cinemas – backed debutante directors with a starless cast, but a strong subject. But most importantly, it was a year where Tollywood’s biggest stars have decided to look beyond the ‘image’ fans have created of them and have attempted to shift out of the ‘template’ set for superstars in mainstream commercial cinema.

Sankranthi Box-Office battle: Nag shows why he’s still king
As is the case every year, the Sankranthi festival window witnessed one of the biggest clashes at the box-office with four big releases. These included NTR’s Nannaku Prematho, Nandamuri Balakrishna’s Dictator, Akkineni Nagarjuna’s Soggade Chinni Nayana and Sharwanand’s Express Raja. While most of the hype ahead of this mega festival film spree was about the Nandamuri clash between Babai and Abbai, it was Nagarjuna who emerged as the King of the box-office, with Soggade Chinni Nayana going on to be one of the biggest hits at the box-office this year.  

It was also refreshing to see NTR come out of his comfort zone and make a film where he had to give a more subtle, restrained performance. The success of Nannaku Prematho emboldened NTR to play roles which interest him, as opposed to what his fans expect him to do. He later played an environmental activist in Janatha Garage, another film where he shifted away from his ‘template’ and gave one of his best performances. In a way, 2016 is an year where NTR has come of age as an actor. With the actor indicating that he would continue in the same vein going forward, exciting times lie ahead.

Another interesting aspect of the Sankranthi window was the success of Sharwanand-starrer Express Raja. Nobody gave this film a chance considering it was clashing with some of the industry’s biggies, but with an interesting script packed with humour, Express Raja was a runaway success. It also showed that a good film will win the audience over, regardless of the star involved. Despite lesser screens and a lack of hype, Express Raja was a huge success. An emboldened Sharwanand has once again decided to release his film on Sankranthi 2017, and this time he will clash with Megastar Chiranjeevi’s Khaidi No.150 and Nandamuri Balakrishna’s 100th film, Gautamiputra Satakarni. But the precedent has already been set this year, and Sharwanand is confident as ever.

The Duds
This year, two of Tollywood’s biggest superstars – Mahesh Babu and Pawan Kalyan – delivered their biggest flops. Both releasing in the summer, turned out to be box-office duds, and even the star power of Mahesh and Pawan couldn’t save them. Brahmotsavam will go down as one of the biggest flops in Mahesh Babu’s career, while the failure of Sardaar Gabbar Singh has raised questions about Pawan Kalyan’s choice of films. Both films were subject to endless trolls and ridicule on social media. It remains to be seen how these two superstars bounce back in 2017.
 
Surprise of the Year
Who would’ve thought that the best Telugu film of 2016 would be made by a debutante director with new, young actors. Tharun Bhascker’s Pellichoopulu completely changed the game. Less is more, is a phrase we can never use for Tollywood, but this youthful love story changed that. It was minimalistic, subtle, inventive and intelligent. The dialogues, humour and plot struck a chord with both younger and older generations and in a way, represented what today’s urban India is all about. It had a strong female character. No, she did not dance around wearing ‘glamorous’ clothes. She’s instead an MBA graduate, who comes up with a business model for a successful startup. The audience loved her and the film and Pellichoopulu is among the year’s biggest hits. Directors who feel the only role women play in commercial cinema is to show their skin, will take lessons from Pellichoopulu.

Thrill Chills
Good thrillers have seldom been attempted in an industry where directors are reluctant to move away from the fights-songs-emotions template. However, some were bold enough to attempt edge-of-the-seat stuff, and were lapped up by the audience. Debutante director Ravikanth Perepu’s Kshanam is among the best films of the year. The film opened up the Telugu audience to a different genre altogether, and was thoroughly entertaining - with a crisp run-time of just two hours. The film broke stereotypes in more ways than one. Satyam Rajesh, who’s known for his comic roles, was given a serious role with shades of grey. And Anasuya Bharadwaj, the glamorous Telugu anchor, made her debut in this film as an intense police officer.  Another thriller which struck all the right notes was Nani’s Gentleman. While Nani is often associated with humourous roles, the actor was bold enough to try something different and the gamble paid off big time. Nani and Srinivas Avasarala stole the show and Gentleman is a thriller which will stay long in our memory.

Remake Run
Remakes have become the norm in Tollywood. Whether it’s a lack of new ideas or an urge to try out a successful film in Telugu, filmmakers have often been tempted to make remakes, especially with big stars. This year will be remembered for three successful remakes. Most notable is Oopiri, featuring Nagarjuna, Karthi and Tamannaah. A remake of French classic The Intouchables, the film struck a chord instantly with the audience. What was most refreshing to see is that the director Vamshi Paidipally resisted the urge to glorify Superstar Nagarjuna and instead stuck to the original plot and kept him wheel-chair bound throughout the film.  The film also established Karthi in the Telugu industry. The actor dubbed his own voice and the audience loved him for it. It was also the first time Tamannaah dubbed her own voice in Telugu and it was a highly successful experiment.
One of the most-hyped remakes of the year was Ram Charan-starrer Dhruva, which is a remake of Tamil blockbuster Thani Oruvan.  Playing an intelligence officer, Charan veered away from his ‘mass hero’ image to play a more serious, restrained role. The film also marked the return of Aravind Swamy to Telugu cinema after over two decades. Needless to say, Dhruva turned out to be a huge success, and much needed for Charan, who was reeling under the disappointment of Bruce Lee: The Fighter.  
Another high-profile remake this year was Premam, featuring Naga Chaitanya. A remake of the Malayalam blockbuster of the same name, it featured Shruti Haasan as one of the female leads, while Anupama Parameshwaran and Madonna Sebastian reprised their roles from the original. While comparisons with the original are inevitable, Chaitanya and co managed to hold their ground, and Premam was a memorable success for the actor.
Naruda Donoruda, Telugu remake of Vicky Donor, was one of the disappointing remakes of the year.

Other Classy ones
Some of the other success stories this year includes Nikhil Siddharth-starrer horror-comedy Ekkadiki Pothavu Chinnavada, which turned out to be a hit despite releasing just after demonetisation. Allu Arjun’s Sarrainodu showed that mass, commercial films still hold sway over the audience and the right amount of punch dialogues and fist fights can deliver a guaranteed blockbuster. Srinivas Avasarala’s Jyo Achyutananda won over the audience’s hearts. So did  Trivikram’s A..Aa, riding on Samantha’s brilliant performance.
 
Top films: Pellichoopulu, Kshanam, Oopiri, Gentleman, Dhruva
Top Box-office hits: Soggade Chinni Nayana, Sarrainodu, Nannaku Prematho, Pellichoopulu, Dhruva



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