The Telugu film industry is believed to be the biggest in South India, with audiences ensuring promising footfalls across theatres. Until a few years ago, the industry was characterised by its loud masala films, but with the arrival of the Baahubali movies and path-breaking content-oriented films such as Pellichoopulu and Arjun Reddy, Tollywood's image has acquired a welcome makeover.
2018 began in a disastrous way with Pawan Kalyan and Trivikram's much hyped Sankranthi release Agynaathavaasi bombing at the box-office. Despite its great opening, unanimously poor reports ensured that it crashed on the second day. Its worldwide (WW) share was around 55 CR, which was nowhere close to the expected amount. Trade experts called it a 'double disaster'.
The industry recouped its losses to an extent with Jai Simha (also a Sankranthi release) and Bhaagamathie (a Jan 26th release) turning out to be hits. While Jai Simha was a typical rural mass masala movie, with Balakrishna in the lead role, the Anushka-starrer Bhaagamathie had more to it than the usual horror fare. Jai Simha's WW share was 30 CR, while Bhaagamathie's was 35 CR.
Suriya's Gang (the Telugu-dubbed version of his Thaana Serndha Koottam) accumulated close to 8 CR share in the Telugu states – enough to break even. The success of Padmaavat's Tamil-dubbed version, which grossed more than 20 CR in Tamil Nadu, is well-documented. In the same way, its Telugu dubbed version was also a success.
February was a mixed bag with some noteworthy big flops such as Touch Chesi Chudu and Inttelligent, and highly successful films like Tholi Prema, the WW share of which was 26 CR, and Chalo, which acquired 11 CR share WW. Chalo's recovery ratio made it a 'double blockbuster' in trade parlance. Prasanth Varma's Awe received rave reviews and also joined the list of successful films, comfortably recovering its investment with its theatrical and non-theatrical revenue.
March was largely low-key until the blockbuster Rangasthalam arrived at the end of the month. Right from its opening day, the highly positive initial reports made it clear that this was going to be a hugely successful film. Close to two weeks in the running now, Rangasthalam is nearing the 100 CR WW share mark, which includes 70 CR share in the Telugu states. This Ram Charan, Samantha and Aadhi-starrer, directed by Sukumar, is expected to be the non-Baahubali film that tops the Telugu industry.
Rangasthalam is easily my movie of the year so far. They did a great job in making it look so authentic
Telugu cinema critic C.R. Hemanth also voiced his opinion on the industry's first quarter. "Over the past couple of years, something interesting has been happening in the industry with films such as Pellichoopulu, Arjun Reddy and Fidaa. They were crowd pleasers but also had something new in their storytelling. They were formulaic but not entirely in a tried-and-tested pattern. We thought that this trend would continue into this year but there was a big shock with Agnyaathavaasi. The content was so bad! It was like a reality check for star-driven films."
Hemanth said he liked Bhaagamathie, Tholi Prema and Chalo, calling them "well-made crowd pleasers."
"Awe didn't convince me completely, but was unconventional and had a great idea. Needi Naadi Oke Katha had a lot of potential. The emotional drama in the father-son relationship worked but the film could have been much better in terms of filmmaking. Rangasthalam is easily my movie of the year so far. They did a great job in making it look so authentic. We didn't see it coming from this team and it was such a pleasant surprise. The success of this film has instilled hope in the industry and the audience," he said.