Hyderabad: The Telugu film industry remains the second largest in India after Bollywood. But while the industry continues to grow daily, power and clout are still limited to a small group of well-networked and powerful individuals who control film distribution, releases and even the futures of actors.
The recent Prakash Raj scandal too explains how even the biggest of careers can come to a complete standstill with a single phone call. These are the seven of the top names that control the industry, the quintessential Tollywood power list.
Akkineni Nagarjuna, Mr Clever
Nagarjuna has invested in the media, motor racing, film production and even in hospitality. But it’s Nag's Facebook that’s also spilling. From cricketer M.S. Dhoni to Amitabh Bachchan, Nag counts many bigwigs as close friends. And that whole Hyderabad ambassador role with Modi did kick up the fame quite a bit.
Clout factor: An impeccable acumen for trade and business. Nagarjuna’s Annapoorna studios is the new address for T’wood business and the infrastructure rivals facilities from across the world. Also, Nag is a careful investor. He will not put cash in a venture unless it checks all his boxes even if it involves his own son.
Dasari Narayana Rao, The negotiator
Aka “Guruvugaru”. If you’re a director with no money, chances are Dasari will be of help. Even when a big-budget project faces delays, it is Dasari who usually does the ‘ talking’.
Clout factor: Actor Siddharth is the best example to bring up now. When he was accused of ‘badmouthing’ T’wood, it was Dasari who called up the artistes’ body for a “quick fix”. For a week, Siddharth was unapologetic but in just two days, the actor issued a very public sorry.
Daggubati Suresh Babu, ‘The networker’
Today, one of the top producers of Telugu cinema, Suresh Babu, the elder son of movie Moghul Ramanaidu, has taken up the mantle from his father and has widened the business into Telangana and AP.
He has his own studios in Hyderabad and Visakhapatnam and a lab in Hyderabad. He also owns 70 per cent of the theatres in the state. Suresh Films remains one of the largest distributors in both the states. He also invests capital in others’ films.
Off screen, Suresh Babu enjoys powerful political connections. He has also become the go-to man for B’wood producers when they want to get something done in Tollywood.
Clout factor: They say no film can escape Suresh Babu. He has production labs, distribution networks and cinemas. If there's one name you'll need in the address book, it's Suresh Babu’s.
Murali Mohan, Land and films
He has made crores from a growing real-estate business and there are rumours that Mohan has even branched into the US.
Although he has been away from producing films as he feels industry is currently “not healthy”, Murali Mohan still retains a vice-like grip and has been the president of Movie Artistes Association for the last few years. In the just-concluded polls, he contested with from the Rajahmundry Parliament constituency.
Clout factor: He’s known as the man who disrupted Chennai’s 100 years of Indian cinema celebrations. Mohan was reportedly angry at the way Kollywood was conducting the celebrations and it is claimed that at Mohan’s ‘request’, not a soul from T’wood turned up at ‘Madras’.
C Kalyan, The 'shadow man'
Not many have even met C. Kalyan and that’s thanks to the low profile he keeps. He heads the South Indian Film Chamber of Commerce, which includes all four South industries and has held that post for five terms. Kalyan is also very close to TN CM Jayalalithaa.
Clout factor: In terms of position, Kalyan is the top chair of all things South India. All South cinema matters pass through his desk and due to the political links, Kalyan’s chair is now.
Dil Raju, Face of the new state
Venkateswara Reddy has been called Dil Raju ever since his first production, Dil, became a hit. One of the key persons from the Nizam area, Dil Raju may emerge as one of the key players from the industry in Telangana.
Clout factor: After his ‘misbehaviour’, it would’ve been goodbye Mr Prakash Raj, if it weren’t for Dil Raju’s backing. Also, Sekhar Kammula’s hit, Happy Days, was only possible because of Dil Raju’s publicity drive. Kammula’s Anaamika, meanwhile, didn’t share the same fate at the BO.
Allu Aravind, It runs in the family
What separates Allu Aravind from others is the family tree. Half of Tollywood’s biggest stars, from Chiranjeevi and Allu Arjun to the next-gen, Varun Tej and Sai Dharam Tej is family to him. He is the backbone for Chiranjeevi (helped the actor launch Praja Rajyam) and also maintains an inside group of people that includes a few top directors and producers. Allu Aravind has established in Bollywood too ever since the superhit film Ghajini with Aamir Khan went absolute supernova.
Clout factor: It’s still a rumour, but insiders claim it was Allu Aravind who forced Dil Raju to postpone a Sankranthi release for Ram Charan’s sake. Sankranthi is a valuable period for Tollywood, and it would’ve taken considerable pressure for a person like Dil Raju to say ‘okay’