After Baahubali, a handful of films from the South have dominated the Hindi belt and the global market. But for every RRR or Pushpa or KGF, there's a Jai Bhim. Here's how South cinema manages this intricate balance.
Let's go back to 2010. Enthiran (Robot in Hindi), starring Rajinikanth and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, and directed by Shankar, managed to set the screens on fire. Enthiran is probably the first film to attain pan-India success. In 2015, SS Rajamouli's Baahubali: The Beginning made everyone sit up and take notice of regional cinema. Rajamouli followed it up with Baahubali: The Conclusion, which received greater critical acclaim and commercial success.
Today, films from the South have become super hit ventures in the Hindi belt, normally dominated by the Khans, Kumars and Kapoors. Allu Arjun's Pushpa: The Rise, Jr NTR and Ram Charan-starrer RRR and Yash's KGF: Chapter 2, despite being regional cinema, have performed exceptionally well in the North belt. In short, South films have breached northern territory.
The common talking point in all these films is its larger-than-life scale and hypermasculinity. So, is South cinema bringing the 80s back?
IS SOUTH CINEMA BRINGING THE 80s BACK?
To understand that, let us tell you what we mean when we say '80s cinema'. In the 80s, films were mostly about the hero overcoming all odds and emerging as the saviour of the masses. Are films in the 2010s and 2020s following the trend? The answer would be a big no.
Commercial films have always been about superheroic, larger-than-life heroes. Be it Tamil, Telugu, Hindi, Malayalam or Kannada, our heroes are capable of anything and everything. Our heroes survive bomb blasts, bash up 100 people and yet remain unscathed. This trend will never go away as it is ingrained in our blood and minds.
Then, why do films like RRR, Pushpa and KGF work well in the Hindi belt? It is safe to say that Bollywood's recipe for a masala or mass film has been failing for over a decade. None of the commercial films has been able to make a mark beyond a certain point. This is where South films differ.
Directors down South nail the perfect recipe for a mass film. Of course, there are duds. But, commercial films, when done right, will transcend borders. And the recent examples are a testament to the theory. Take for example RRR's interval block, who would have thought that Jr NTR's Komaram Bheem would unleash a bunch of wild animals in his attack against the British. Here, we must give credit to SS Rajamouli's wild imagination. He also executed the scene with the utmost perfection. So much so that it made us jump from our seats.
Similarly, when Yash's Rocky in KGF fires bullets against the villains, you cheer, hoot and whistle for him. That is the magic of commercial cinema. And it takes a lot of imagination, conviction and perseverance to get it right.
SO, IS SOUTH CINEMA JUST THAT? MASSY?
Is South cinema all about mass and commercial films? Again, a resounding no. For every RRR, Baahubali and Pushpa, there are films like Jai Bhim, The Great Indian Kitchen, Kaala and Pariyerum Perumal. In the South, there's a market for every kind of cinema. Be it commercial or art house films, the audience embrace them with the same love.
VERSATILITY IS THE KEY
Malayalam cinema has been spearheading a change in the way films are being conceived and told. Films like Premam, Kumbalangi Nights and Jallikattu have proven the fact that content is king. One can take a simple story, but when it has solid substance, it does wonders at the box office.
Coming to Kollywood, Suriya's Jai Bhim, which skipped theatrical release, moved the audience and created a lasting impact. The film did ruffle a few feathers. But, at its core, Jai Bhim had a solid story. Similarly, filmmakers like Vetri Maaran, Pa Ranjith, Mari Selvaraj and Ram have stayed away from the 'conventional' tropes and developed their own film language.
This is probably one of the main reasons why South films get wider recognition, irrespective of the medium.
Let's go to the Telugu film industry, which was all about commercial cinema once. But, not anymore. There's a wonderful balance there. If films like Pushpa, Akhanda, and Aravinda Sametha are made, there are films like C/O Kancharapalem, Pelli Choopulu and Awe, which are also being given their rightful due.
Who would have thought that KGF: Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 would put Kannada cinema on the global map? But, director Prashanth Neel and actor Yash believed in it. Films like Kirik Party, Rangitharanga and Garuda Gamana Vrishabha Vahana, among others, have highlighted the best of Kannada cinema.
In the South, there's a space for everyone. Be it ideological films or films that highlight left-wing politics, directors can make a film on diverse topics, and with conviction, unapologetically, unabashedly. And, there lies the success.
(Source: India Today)