As we continue to savor existing content on OTT platforms, it is certain that that cannot fill the void that the lack of new theatrical releases has created. Staying optimistic that the day cinephiles return to theatres is not a millennium away, here are five Telugu films that are worth crossing off calendar dates for. There are a ton of big-ticket films at various stages of production, however, I believe these five films have the potential to substantially bolster the trajectory that the Telugu film industry is headed in. In no particular order:
In an ideal scenario, this film would have completed its theatrical run and hit OTT platforms by now. Originally set for release one day after India’s lockdown began, V is anticipated to be Mohan Krishna Indraganti’s take on the action-thriller genre, a fusion that is scarce in an industry obsessed with ‘full-meal entertainers’. Big-budget catastrophes, like Spyder and Saaho, were intended as action thrillers, only to lack both facets. Sudheer Varma’s Keshava and Ranarangam didn’t make a mark either. There have been a few fine thrillers, such as Aithe, Anasuya, Agent Sai Sreenivas Athreya, and HIT, but they weren’t packed with the essential jaw-breaking and bone-cracking scenes. On the action front, Telugu cinema has its own rules of action, so it’s better left untouched. Instances in which the blend of genres worked well were 1-Nenokkadine and Goodachari, which remain the finest Telugu-language action-thrillers (there was Dhruva, but it’s a remake).
V contrasts every aspect of Krishna’s previous film, Sammohanam, a jaunty family film. With Sammahonam, the filmmaker poked fun at Telugu film industry’s first love, masala films with asinine action, with the protagonist’s mother saying contemporary films are all about loud sound and blood-splashing violence. V is that bloody action film, the only difference is that it seems to make sense. Leading the cast is Nani, who has been synonymous (read: typecast) as the boy-next-door, playing a character that appears to be a blood-thirsty maniac. The filmmaker is no stranger to thrillers, his 2016 film, Gentleman (also starring Nani) is a romance that turns into thriller midway. It would be interesting to witness what the filmmaker – known for his lively, feel-good natured stories – brings to the table with a violent action thriller.
Directed by Krishna Vamsi, who hasn’t tasted success since 2007’s Chandhamama, Ranga Marthanda seems to be the peak in a filmography that consists of Sindhooram and Anthahpuram, whose intense humanistic nature remains unparalleled two decades later. Ranga Marthanda, an official remake of the heartwarming Marathi film Natsamrat, could be the perfect story for Krishna Vamsi to return to his prime, as the filmmaker’s efficient way of stirring human emotions is known. Portraying the titular character (essayed by Nana Patekar in the original) is the filmmaker’s long-term collaborator, Prakash Raj, with Ramya Krishnan playing Medha Manjrekar’s Kaveri Ganpat Belwalkar. Pivoting around the life of a stage-actor, the film talks about the dire state of the dying art, which never found potent exhibition in Telugu films, and has always remained a device to evoke humor (Attarintiki Daredi, Prema Katha Chitram, Savyasaachi). The subject matter contrasts the futile masala films that the director has been churning out in the recent past, seems devoid of dispensable commercial elements, and could be a return to his days of glory. With a cast that boasts of the talent at his disposition, Ranga Marthanda could bring back ‘the’ Krishna Vamsi.
Venu Udugula’s sophomore film stars Rana Daggubati, Sai Pallavi, and Nandita Das. Although little is known about the film, the released posters hint at a love story set against the backdrop of Naxal tensions. If that’s the case, we hope it betters Sindhooram (directed by ahem Krishna Vamsi).
Telugu films have refrained from portraying sensitive concepts like casteism and communalism for years. Although not as actively as in the Tamil film industry, casteism as a plot point has been gaining traction in Telugu cinema of late, with Rangasthalam and Palasa 1978 dealing with the issue, one indirectly and the other indirectly. However, communalism has remained a mechanism for the hero – who always represents the majority – to mouth dialogues regarding communal harmony and garner applause, and a sequence of Hindu-Muslim riots in Aa Naluguru (2004) is the only one that comes to mind when I think of a sensible representation.
Naxalism, on the other hand, has been fairly represented, if 4 films in 25 years count in an industry that produces 200 films a year. Sindhooram (again, sorry!), Encounter (1997), Kubusam (2002), and Virodhi (2011) are the only major films that highlighted the movement, while Jalsa (2007), used the concept to generate laughs. Based on the assumption that the Virata Parvam (which borrows its title from Mahabharata) is based on any of the aforementioned concepts, that’d be a welcome move.
Good Luck Sakhi
13 films and 22 years after his debut, Nagesh Kukunoor is making his first Telugu film, a sports film with Keerthy Suresh, who seems to be predominantly fronting female-driven narratives. The fact that Kukunoor is making a film about his culture, for the audience he grew up with, is sure to bring a sense of ethnography to the product. The filmmaker’s debut, Hyderabad Blues, deeply rooted in the millennial landscape of 1998’s Hyderabad, still remains relatable, thanks to how culturally progressive it was. Although I do not expect Good Luck Sakhi to match the finesse of Hyderabad Blues (which will remain a cult favourite owing to the time it was made), I’m hoping for the film to make strong points regarding the patriarchy, which needs to be addressed at the moment. A crowd-pleaser camouflages the ‘message’ if there is one, and hence the audience gradually imbibes the good spirits which Kukunoor continues to spread through his films. The world will eventually become a lovely place. Films possess the power to do that.
Uma Maheshwara Ugra Roopasya
Let’s face it. We need a massive upheaval in the way masculinity is portrayed in Telugu films and Uma Maheshwara Ugra Roopasya could be a baby step in that direction. Although the term ‘toxic masculinity’, has been beaten to death by bloggers and film critics over the past couple of years, it is celebrated among the masses, and the success of every ‘mass’ Telugu film is a testament to that. Venkatesh Maha is another sophomore director to watch out for. His C/o Kancharapalem, among the best Telugu films of the last decade, redefined masculinity, or the lack of it, and how feeble it could be. This film can further that. An official remake of Dileesh Pothan’s cherished Maheshinte Prathikaaram, Uma Maheshwara… could aid us, the Telugu-speaking audience, to rethink virility, and its portrayal in Telugu films. Frontlined by Sathya Dev, a terrific actor who is yet to receive his due, the film could well be mutually rewarding for the audience and its makers.
Disclaimer: This article has not been written by Film Companion’s editorial team.