The entry scene of your favourite star is the source of greatest joy for a fan. The bigger the star, the higher the anticipation and celebration around his entry. Telugu filmmakers have mastered the art of a great introduction scene, and every Telugu star’s filmography features introduction scenes that are the stuff of dreams for their fans. And it goes unsaid that a celebrated star like Pawan Kalyan has had numerous such scenes in his filmography, ranging from simple and classy ones like Thammudu (1999), Jalsa (2008) and Bheemla Nayak (2022) to out-and-out massy intros in films like Annavaram (2006) and Johnny (2003). Barring a couple of duds (I’m looking at you, Komaram Puli), Pawan Kalyan’s intros are a treat. As the actor turns 52 today, we look at 5 times such moments he set screens on fire.
Hear me out. You might not have expected Vakeel Saab to be featured here but let me explain why this scene has every right to be labelled one of Pawan’s best introduction scenes. More than the scene itself, it’s the timing and its parallels with the actor’s real life that lend importance to this entry scene. Pawan’s previous release, Agnyaathavaasi, which carried unprecedented hype and was believed to be the actor’s final film appearance, crashed at the box office in 2018, breaking the hearts of his fans.
On the political front too, Pawan had beheld a major setback in the 2019 general elections. And then, he came back to the big screen with Vakeel Saab, as a washed-up but upright lawyer, Satyadev. His introduction scene features him coming out of the darkness into the light. What triggers him to do that? To fight hooligans forcing residents of a slum to vacate their houses. It’s not just Satyadev stepping out of his house, but Pawan Kalyan coming out of the self-imposed exile from films. Vakeel Saab, despite being a remake of Pink, doesn’t think twice before blurring the lines between Pawan’s real and reel-life persona. Even beyond these parallels, it is a solid scene, capturing the man’s return in one single, wide shot in slow motion, played to Thaman’s rousing background score.
Pawan Kalyan’s second collaboration with A Karunakaran, the filmmaker who gave him his legit blockbuster in the form of Tholi Prema (1998), might have resulted in a mixed bag that was Balu (2005), but it still had many stretches that were a bang for the buck. Even underwhelming films offered memorable moments even in the 2000s.
One such strong and impressionable moment is the entry of our hero, Balu. Most of the heroism here is set up before the entry and the hero’s arrival itself is pretty simple. This is the set-up: a goon in the market terrorises innocent shopkeepers, forcing them to pay him money every day. Anyone who goes against him will be killed, as established in the film’s opening scene. The poor people, unfortunately, cannot fight back. In the words of a homeless man, played by Tanikella Bharani, “A man dies only once, but a coward dies every day. Not even God will come and protect such cowards. Only a courageous man can bring salvation for you people.” And then we hear the sound of a vehicle approaching, the homeless man looks at the road afar, foresees the arrival of our hero, and announces it with his dappu (small hand drum). And Pawan simply arrives sitting on top of a vehicle wearing cool shades, once again, in one single shot. No fast and fancy edits, no VFX, no gimmick, just cool old-school glory, and Mani Sharma doing what he does best—scoring killer background music for mass scenes. The 2000s were wonderful!
While Balu was a great example of old-school mass done right, Pawan’s entry in Panjaa (2011) is the perfect example of a 'classy' mass entry, laced with style. This is the set-up: The enemies of Bhagavan (Jackie Shroff), a dreaded don in Kolkata, scheme to assassinate him, and they seem to have cracked it all, but there is a catch. They have to outdo Bhagavan’s trusted aide Jai (Pawan Kalyan) to get to him. The bad guys round up Bhagavan’s car and open fire. As bullets destroy the car, they believe they have accomplished their mission. When they go and open the car door to check... BOOM. The car explodes, killing the bad guys, and Jai appears in front of the explosion, walking towards the camera as flames burn in the background, filling the screen with fire. Pumping oxygen into this fiery frame is Yuvan Shankar Raja’s electronic music. This 'mass' is a class apart.
One of the most enjoyable traits of big-scale star vehicles in Telugu is that sometimes, they are super self-aware, and break the fourth wall in quirky ways. A fantastic example of this attribute is the on-screen text in Gabbar Singh (2012), in which there is a time-jump post the opening sequence. “Pasivaadu Pawan Kalyan Ayyadu (Konni samvatsarala tarvatha)” the text onscreen text reads, meaning “The kid (the child actor portraying the lead) grew up to be Pawan Kalyan (After a few years)”. We still weren't used to seeing such quirky acknowledgment in masala a film until then, if my memory serves me right. And what happens later? A full-on cowboy-esque chase and action that feels straight out of a Western, thanks to desert-like location and DSP’s music. Pawan Kalyan's love for Westerns needs no introduction and Gabbar Singh is one more exhibition of it.
Pawan Kalyan in Kushi is a breeze. There’s a magnetic charm to his presence that makes his Siddhartha Roy aka Siddhu such a loveable character. His calmness, nonchalance and restrained swag make him a sight to behold. No wonder the film holds up 22 years after its release. That doesn’t just speak about the technical quality of the film but its cool and composed vibe. It’s the same vibe that lends an iconic status to Siddhu’s introduction scene. To be honest, it’s not a scene; it’s a sequence. We first see Siddhu in a low-angle shot, framed against the sky, as he finishes his martial arts training. There's a sense of silence and serenity in this scene that can never be found in a masala movie today.
There’s barely any music, making this stretch the most unique one on this list. Siddhu is then warned by his anxious friend to leave Kolkata since his buddies are being assaulted by goons, who are settling some unfinished business, and he might be next. Siddhu pays no heed to his friend’s words and without uttering a word, goes straight to the goon targeting him and his friends. For the next 10 minutes, there isn’t a single Telugu dialogue. The scene plays out entirely in Hindi, yet another highly unconventional choice. It begins with Siddhu addressing the goon with respect in Hindi, pleading with him to let them go. This ends with Siddhu and his collegemates registering their protest with the politically charged ‘Ye Mera Jahaan’. The entire sequence is a riot. To think such fresh ideas were conceived and executed with such finesse in 2001 is still mind-boggling. We might never get to see a similar stretch again. It's a one-piece.