With 2018 coming to an end, it’s heartening to note that Telugu cinema has had a satisfactory year on two counts. First, if the box office returns are anything to go by, it’s interesting to note that both films with big stars and young talent have done better than ever before. The good reception meted out to films powered with refreshing narratives, particularly promises a great future for the industry.
A new wave
With the evolving tastes of audience affirming again that content is king, young actors have shown eagerness in collaborating with new directors. This year saw the directorial debuts of some fine talent. Director Prasanth Varma’s Awe is easily the most interesting film of 2018. The film shifts genre every 15 minutes and is full of unpredictable situations in strange worlds. Addressing dissociative identity disorder, and social problems like child abuse, sexual abuse, and drug abuse, this psychological thriller was something quite new in the annals of Telugu cinema.
Director Ajay Bhupati’s RX 100 was a fresh film too, and strikingly, it had a female lead with a negative trait. The love story loaded with dark humor was a delight to watch, and true to its title, the film raced in collections and turned out to be a blockbuster. It is now being remade in Tamil even as leading Bollywood production houses are fighting over the film’s rights. Several other small-budget releases too moved away from the beaten track and commended much praise.
These include Chalo (Venky Kudumula), Needi Naadi Oke Katha (Venu Udugula), Tholi Prema (Venky Atluri), ChiLaSow (Rahul Ravindran), Goodachari (Sashi Kiran Tikka), and C/O Kancharapalem (Venkatesh Maha). Actor-director Rahul Ravindran’s debut directorial, Chi La Sow, and director Sankalp Reddy’s space-thriller, Antariksham 9000 KMPH, were big talking points in particular.
The year also saw films like Anushka Shetty-starrer Bhaagamathie, Indraganti Mohan Krishna’s Sammohanam, Tharun Bhascker’s buddy-comedy Ee Nagaraniki Emaindi and Hello Guru Prema Kosame, do better than expected.
It was a bad year for Tamil stars Rajinikanth, Kamal Haasan, Suriya, Karthi, Vikram and Vijay Anthony in Telugu cinema. Their dubbed films Kaala and 2.0 (Rajinikanth), Vishwaroopam 2 (Kamal Haasan), Gang (Suriya), Saamy 2 (Vikram), Kaasi and Roshagadu (Vijay Anthony), Pandem Kodi 2 (Vishal) and Chinna Babu (Karthi) all failed at the box office. Lukewarm reception was also meted out to stars like Pawan Kalyan, Kalyan Ram, Ravi Teja, Naga Chaitanya, Nani, Sai Dharam Tej, and Nikhil, all of whom suffered major setbacks this year with their respective releases getting panned.
Director Sukumar hit peak form as a storyteller with a refined sense of visual grammar in his depiction of the story of a small-time village mechanic with a hearing impairment in the period-revenge drama, Rangasthalam. Ram Charan, who played the lead, gave a career-defining performance and the film became the third highest grosser ever in Telugu cinema.
After two duds, Mahesh Babu redeemed himself with Bharat Ane Nenu. His subtle performance in the modern political drama directed by one of the most exciting filmmakers of Telugu cinema, Koratala Siva, won praise from both the audience and critics.
A tribute to the yesteryear stalwart of Telugu cinema, Savitri, director Naga Ashwin’s Mahanati garnered critical acclaim and box office attention. The biopic, which charts a heart-warming story of the legendary actor from cradle to grave, won much praise for Keerthy Suresh who played the titular role.
Jr NTR too impressed with his Aravindha Sametha Veera Raghava, a story of a youngster, who puts an end to the bloodshed between two warring families.
The young brigade
While big stars seem to be taking it slow with just one or two releases a year, the younger crop has been quite busy as they juggle multiple projects. Vijay Deverakonda has been constructing a formidable image and this year can even be said to belong to him, as he has delivered two blockbusters. The first of these, Geetha Govindam, is a simple romance with a fabulous album, and a conflict everyone could relate to. He followed it up with Taxiwaala, a sci-fi thriller that presented the story of a cab-driver who ends up with a ghost for a passenger. Another actor who set a new bar of excellence is Adivi Sesh with the taut-thriller Goodachari.
The ones who missed out
Some of Telugu cinema’s biggest stars such as Chiranjeevi, Venkatesh, Prabhas, and Rakul Preet had no releases this year. On the other hand, senior actors Nagarjuna and Balakrishna had releases in Officer and Jaya Simha, respectively, but unfortunately, these films didn’t quite click.
February 24 left millions heartbroken when the shocking demise of Sridevi Boney Kapoor was announced. The 54-year-old actor passed away in Dubai, where she had gone to attend a wedding. The year also saw the passing of famed novelist and writer Yaddanapudi Sulochana Rani (May 21), playback singer K Rani (July 13), Cine Bheeshma, producer K Raghava Rao (July 31), and actor Nandamuri Harikrishna (August 29).
Ultimately though, while some stars may have had it rough, you still have to say that it’s been a good year for Telugu cinema, especially from the perspective of those who have wanted the industry and its films to evolve. It seems that our industry is in good hands with some exciting new arrivals, this year.
— Murali Krishna CH