In a recent interview with Sneha Menon Desai for this website, Danish Sait admitted he's the kind of South Indian who doesn't understand anything above Bombay. Sait is not alone. South Indians cannot grasp the cultural hullabaloo of the North. And North Indians, in turn, are clueless about the South.
However, since Bollywood is projected as the big daddy of Indian cinema, it's natural for movie stars from the South to aspire to cross-over. The latest in this list is Vijay Deverakonda with Liger. This list, therefore, strictly concentrates on male stars who have successfully — and unsuccessfully — headlined Hindi films, and excludes the likes of Prakash Raj and Nassar, as they continue to mesmerise as character actors.
Rajinikanth could have easily starred in a slew of Bollywood films and acquired a different kind of stardom, but his eye was always on Tamil cinema. Although he appeared in Hindi films as lead till the mid-90s, he did not shift base to Bombay. He's a legit pan-Indian superstar based out of Chennai, and he doesn't need the shade of Bollywood in his autumnal years.
Hindi Films: Andha Kanoon, Insaaf Kaun Karega, Wafadaar.
Rumours say that many popular 80s Bollywood stars were afraid of Kamal Haasan. They were under the impression that Haasan would take over and become the brightest star of all. And their fears were not based on hearsay. While he was known as the Tamil film actor there, he also won three Nandi awards for his stellar performances in three Telugu films. Plus, there was Ek Duuje Ke Liye. Can you actually blame them now?
Hindi Films: Sadma, Saagar.
Dhanush has had an impeccable career graph so far. He has not only delivered a blockbuster in Hindi — Raanjhanaa — he has also crossed the oceans and starred in an English movie, The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir. But he hasn't been way too enthusiastic about becoming a full-time Hindi film actor and has carefully chosen only a handful of projects.
Hindi Films: Raanjhanaa, Shamitabh, Atrangi Re (Upcoming)
Who can forget Siddharth's Bollywood debut Rang De Basanti? It was a sensation across the country and he instantly became the talk of the town. But Hindi movies were just an occasional turn for him, and he continued to showcase his craft in Telugu and Tamil.
Hindi Films: Striker, Chashme Baddoor
Chiranjeevi didn't gamble with his image in Bollywood and managed to stick to the tried-and-tested method of fronting action dramas. Unlike his contemporaries Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth, he didn't star in films that required him to build his persona from scratch. He was happy to play the angry young man.
Hindi Films: Pratibandh, Aaj Ka Goonda Raaj, The Gentleman.
Ram Charan tried his hand at a Hindi-Telugu bilingual with Zanjeer (Thoofan in Telugu) and met with the older cousin of disappointment — disaster. After that fiasco, however, he has stayed away from the B-world. Even if he says yes to acting in Hindi films in the future, he'll proceed with caution.
Of course, Vijay Deverakonda is the man of the season. Nobody in the Telugu states and the Hindi-speaking cities ever thought there would be a movie titled Liger. But here we are! The original Arjun Reddy is all set to make his larger-than-life Bollywood debut, which is being backed by none other than Karan Johar.
When Baahubali was announced around eight years ago, Prabhas was a regular star with a regular amount of fandom. But when it hit theatres and created box office records, he became some sort of a statue for the cinemas of South India. Though Saaho bit the dust, there's still hope as he's working on Radhe Shyam and Adipurush.
Vishnuvardhan never seriously attempted to catch the pulse of the Hindi heartland. Though his fame was always on the rise in Karnataka, he didn't step into the neighbouring state with an intention to make Bollywood his second home. Like Chiranjeevi, he also dipped his feet in B-waters just a couple of times in his three-and-a-half-decade career.
Hindi Films: Inspector Dhanush, Zaalim.
Experimentation hasn't hurt Sudeep's technique of picking films. While he hasn't flown away from his home base of Kannada films to fetch extra-recognition from other industries, it's remarkable that he has struck a fine balance. His willingness to play the quintessential baddie in Telugu, Tamil, and Hindi films earns him brownie points.
Hindi Films: Phoonk, Rann.
The early part of Anant Nag's career consists largely of parallel cinema. And even when he switched to Hindi, he collaborated with filmmakers such as Shyam Benegal and MS Sathyu. As a result, those movies won a lot of awards, and Nag became another realistic actor, à la Naseeruddin Shah.
Hindi Films: Ankur, Nishant, Manthan.
Girish Karnad was not just an actor, he was also a playwright and a writer-director. He never gave up his love to make and star in top-class art-house movies. Hence, his career sounds more or less like Anant Nag's. Both these actors, however, didn't quarrel for the same pie.
Hindi Films: Swami, Ratnadeep
Prithviraj's face is loved by all billboards in Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Though he has extensively starred in Malayalam movies, his Tamil ventures have also garnered appreciation. Likewise, his few odd performances in Hindi have had him play various roles — from the hunky hero in Aiyyaa to the prime antagonist in Naam Shabana.
2018 was, perhaps, a special year for Dulquer Salmaan, for he made his debut in Telugu with Mahanati, and in Hindi with Karwaan, where he starred alongside Irrfan and Mithila Palkar. He then appeared in the underwhelming The Zoya Factor. But there has been no talk of any new Bollywood mission in the last few months, as he's been busy with a bunch of Tamil and Malayalam dramas.
Roshan Mathew waltzed into Bollywood with the Netflix film Choked, directed by Anurag Kashyap. It would have been a dream debut had it received more love from critics and home viewers. Nevertheless, he's still unstoppable as he has been signing projects in Tamil, Malayalam, and Hindi, without missing a beat.
Ram Gopal Varma gave Mohanlal a splendid role in Company and then made him a sitting duck in Aag. It's funny that he got to see both shades of the filmmaker, even though it came at a heavy price. And like his senior, Mammootty, he also hasn't had great success in Hindi.