If the year that ended is any indication, Covid lockdowns and restrictions not withstanding, the Telugu film industry is here to stay. Imagine, no less than 182 Telugu movies had either theatrical or OTT releases in 2021! This despite a Covid pandemic that is yet to be understood or tamed effectively.
And with a string of big-ticket flicks in various stages of completion, and due for release in 2022, Tollywood certainly seems on course for further consolidation. 2022 is set to see several releases and quite a few of the established stars back on the silver screen after a short hiatus.
Megastar Chiranjeevi’s ‘Acharya’ is among the most awaited Telugu movies this year. Coming after his last release ‘Saira Narasimha Reddy’ in 2019, there’s a lot of buzz around ‘Acharya’ which also has Chiranjeevi’s son Ram Charan giving him company on screen. In 2022, the megastar will also be busy with two more productions in the form of ‘Godfather’ and ‘Bhola Shankar’.
This year will also see a slew of cinematic offerings from the Chiranjeevi clan. This includes Pawan Kalyan’s ‘Bheemla Nayak’ which appears to be a stylised remake of Malayalam hit ‘Ayyappanum Koshiyum’. The movie also stars Rana of ‘Baahubali’ fame. And then, there are Chiranjeevi nephew Varun Tej’s ‘Ghani’ and ‘F3’ waiting in the wings, for release this year.
Not to forget, the sequel to ‘Pushpa: The Rise’ will go on the floors from March. The hit movie released in December stars Chiranjeevi’s nephew Allu Arjun.
Actor Nagarjuna, with ‘Bangarraju’ and Mahesh Babu’s ‘Sarkaaru Vaari Paata’ are among the other major releases expected in 2022.
2022 will also see ‘Baahubali’ fame Prabhas’ return to the theatres with ‘Radhe Shyam’. The movie is also set for simultaneous release in multilingual versions. And then, the original Telugu version of ‘Kabir Singh’, actor Vijay Devarakonda is expected to set the silver screen on fire with his mixed martial arts movie ‘Liger’. This movie is also being released in several languages.
What has come as good news for the film industry is the eagerness with which movies were lapped up by audiences in 2021. Despite doomsday predictions and restrictions on theatre screenings, Telugu movie releases in the past year have bolstered industry confidence.
‘Pushpa’ director Sukumar says, “It’s heartening to see people returning to theatres. Movie watching is a communal experience. If not, movie theatres should have disappeared in a country like the US. But see people queuing up to see ‘Spiderman’ in theatres!”
In what seems to be a new trend, Tollywood has started actively looking beyond its traditional areas of influence. Although south Indian movies have made a favourable impact on Hindi-speaking audiences down the decades, they were never able to convert into box-office magic. In a way, it was S.S. Rajamouli’s ‘Baahubali’ series that set the stage for presenting Telugu movies to a pan-Indian audience.
Tasting blood, Rajamouli went in with all guns blazing to create his next big screen project ‘RRR’. Apart from lead billboarding with Jr NTR and Ram Charan, Rajamouli roped in Ajay Devgan and Alia Bhatt for the movie. The movie has created a buzz across the country.
Capitalising upon the new-born fascination among audiences for Telugu films and stars, Tollywood producers are also looking at these markets with new eyes. They are no longer content with settling down for revenues generated by selling their movies’ dubbing rights. The focus is now on straight releases in a whole set of languages.
The stupendous success of Allu Arjun-starrer ‘Pushpa: The Rise’ released in five languages – Telugu, Kannada, Tamil, Malayalam, and Hindi – has underscored the potential for Tollywood releases in non-Telugu markets.
Meanwhile, ‘RRR’ was set to release on January 7, but with Covid rearing its ugly head once again in the form of the Omicron variant, the makers of ‘RRR’ have decided to put off the release for now.
But in a sign of the good times ahead, names like Ram Charan, Jr NTR, Allu Arjun, and Vijay Devarakonda, are no longer unknown beyond the borders of the two Telugu states. In fact, Bollywood seems eager to rub shoulders with their filmy cousins from south of the Vindhyas.
In the face of adversity, the Tollywood industry certainly seems to have hit upon the key to revive itself and build up its fortunes.
–By Narendra Puppala