The year set off with actor Venkatesh’s hugely successful F2, sauntered into another blockbuster iSmart Shankar with young actor Ram Pothineni around the middle and ended on a spectacular note with young Sai Tej’s Prathi Roju Pandage, also starring Raashi Khanna.
But even as senior actor Venkatesh tasted huge success, others such as Nagarjuna and Nandamuri Balakrishna were left behind, biting the dust.
The year’s disappointments can be squarely pointed at the two-part biopic, Kathanayakudu and Mahanayakudu, based on late NT Rama Rao’s life. While the first part managed to attract some critical acclaim, the second was a complete washout. Even Balakrishna, who enacted his father’s role, couldn’t save the films from failing miserably.
Sadly for Balakrishna, another of his films, Ruler, which released towards the end of the year, also failed miserably at the BO. Mahesh Babu once again proved his mettle with Maharshi.
Samantha on top
Samantha Akkineni once again topped the charts. She played the lead role in Oh! Baby, which proved to be a huge commercial hit, also bringing her much critical acclaim for her performance. With this film, Samantha also proved that she could single-handedly pull the crowds into the theatre without any big male actors in the film.
Later in the year, she tasted success yet again with Majili, in which she was paired with her real-life husband Naga Chaitanya. In fact, the film got people calling Samantha Chaitanya’s lucky mascot because Majili went on to become Chaitanya’s career-best. Samantha, can undoubtedly be considered the actress of the year.
Actress Pooja Hegde also tasted success with two of her films, Maharshi and Gaddalakonda Ganesh, although she largely appeared only in songs in the first one and played a cameo in the second. Actress Tamannah scored big commercial success with F2 and won critical acclaim for her role in SyeRaa Narasimha Reddy alongside mega star Chiranjeevi.
Bollywood actress Shraddha Kapoor made her debut in Telugu this year with Saaho, which was a huge advantage for the film among its Hindi audience.
A step in the right direction
Coming to directors, Anil Ravipudi has been the most sought-after director after his hit with F2 — his fourth consecutive hit. And though it’s a rare phenomenon for a director to give consecutive hits in Tollywood, Anil Ravipudi managed the feat. Anil proved his mettle as a director and writer.
Next director in line for his commendable work in 2019 is Puri Jagannadh, who made a very strong comeback with iSmart Shankar, bringing him enough success to be able to repay his debts.
Director Shiva Nirvana gave his second continuous success with Majili. Director Goutham Tinnanuri’s Jersey found appreciation not only in Telugu, but also in Bollywood where the film is being remade in Hindi, with Shahid Kapoor playing the lead. Goutham directed the Hindi version too, becoming the second Telugu director in recent times to have remade his own film in Hindi with Shahid in it. Earlier, Sandeep Vanga had done the same, directing Shahid in the film Kabir Singh, a remake of his Telugu film Arjun Reddy.
There were plenty debutant directors this year, too, some greatly appreciated.
2019 was also kind to many of them who had come out with experimental films such as Broche Varevarura, Agent Sai Srinivasa Atreya, Jersey, Evaru and MathuVadalara.
A dismal journey
Apart from the biopic on NTR, there were a few more films based on a few renowned people. One was Yatra, based on the historical marathon walk by late Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy, with Malayalam superstar Mammootty enacting late YSR’s role. Directed by Mahi V. Raghav and made with a budget of Rs 12 crore, the film appeared to be completely biased towards a particular political party. And then, it went on to become a complete disappointment at the box-office, too! But though the collections were not up to the mark, the filmmakers were in ‘safe’ zone with the sale of the film’s digital and satellite rights.
Missing the fire
Another film that had heavy expectations riding on it was George Reddy, based on the life of the late student leader George Reddy. Directed by Jeevan Reddy, the film was hugely hyped before release but showed a dismal performance at the box-office.
The washout stories
Then, our very own Ram Gopal Varma came along with the film, Lakshmi’s NTR, glorifying Lakshmi Parvathi in the film. But after the dust settled, even this biopic had nothing much to show at the box-office.
The film Mallesham, based on the life of Padma Sri Chintakandi Mallesham, who invented the Asu machine, which had helped in reducing the hard labour of Pochampally weavers. Though the film was critically acclaimed, at the box-office, it showed a completely different story.
Allu Arjun, Jr NTR and Nithiin were MIA
Some of the actors who were not at all in contention this year include top actors Allu Arjun and Jr NTR. Allu Arjun’s last film Naa Peru Surya didn’t do well, so the actor completely sat out for most months of 2019.
Jr NTR, had a release last year, after which he only signed Rajamouli’s film; its shooting is ongoing. So, he’s another star with nothing to write home about this year.
After the disastrous Srinivasa Kalyanam, actor Nithiin didn’t sign on any films for long, but we know that he’s now working on three films simultaneously, all of which are apparently planned for release next year. So, Nithiin has a 2020 vision too.
Puri Jagan back on the profit blocks
It had seemed like it was almost the end of the road for director Puri Jagannath as he was rejected by many. He was supposed to direct superstars such as Chiranjeevi, Mahesh Babu, Allu Arjun and Venkatesh and a few other actors, but because of his past failures, the actors didn’t show interest in working with him anymore. Additionally, the director was in debts because of his failures, most of which were produced by him.
But all that was before iSmart Shankar. Starring Ram Pothineni, the film turned out to be a huge blockbuster. Word has it that even the filmmakers didn’t expect the film to collect anything more than what was put into it. Apart from the theatrical revenue, however, the film made high amounts from digital and satellite channel rights.
Not only did Puri completely repay all his debts, he and his good friend Charmme, also the co-producer of the film, bought a swanky car each using the film’s profits. Now, the director has joined hands with top Hindi director and producer Karan Johar for a pan-India film titled Fighter, starringthe heartthrob actor Vijay Deverakonda.
Big Boss got controversial
After the #MeToo movement made waves across the country, the Telugu reality show Big Boss 3 rattled up a lot of controversy. Even before the show started, the organizers of the show were accused of alleged sexual harassment. Some activists even protested in front of Nagarjuna’s house for a couple of days. But in the end, the show completed the season without any hurdles.
Another controversy around the show revolved actor Nagarjuna (again), who had gone on record saying that he didn’t like the show’s concept. But clearly, that didn’t stop him from turning up as host for the show — he got a fat pay cheque!
Veteran Venkatesh’s charm
With F2, 59-year-old actor Venkatesh has proved that age has only added to his funny bone. The film that also stars Varun Tej and Mehreen, has actress Tamannah paired opposite Venkatesh (who’s twice her age, by the way). But hey! The film was a phenomenal success at the box-office, with its theatrical rights sold out for nearly Rs 35 crores. The film collected close to Rs 82 crores — more than twice the budget-earning even more with its digital and satellite rights, bringing huge profits to the producer, distributor and exhibitor. Undoubtedly, Venkatesh had a key role in the film’s success, surprising everyone with his energies even at this age.
Another of his films,Venky Mama, which released towards the end of the year, also did reasonably well.
Refreshing Ram Pothineni
2019 has been exceptionally kind to Ram Pothinen with iSmart Shankar turning out to be a surprise hit. The film was made with a budget of Rs 15 crore, and the filmmakers sold the film’s theatrical rights for nearly Rs 17 crore. But the film also went on to become a huge blockbuster, collecting Rs 35 crore,twice the amount its theatrical right were sold for. Incidentally, iSmart Shankar was also Ram’s career-best, with his performance considered a big asset in the film. In fact, some fans and critics have been quite certain that the film ran as it did only because of him.
Prabhas beats them all
Rajinikanth has been the south superstar for ages,with his films getting recognition across the globe. Even as actors such as Chiranjeevi, Ajith, Vijay, Pawan Kalyan and Mahesh Babu began emerging as southern stars, a brighter star started showing up in the horizon — Prabhas.
Given that Baahubali, in which he played the lead role, has been credited to many people, Prabhas decided to prove his mettle by himself by doing Saaho.
Here he was competing with the Bollywood stars. While Saaho was not upto the expectations in the south, it did well at the Hindi box-office, with a collection of more than Rs 100 crore, making Prabhas a household name in northern parts of India too.
Guhan turns director
2019 was the year for debutants, and some of them came up with some very innovative ideas while showcasing their talents. Popular cinematographer-turned-director K. V. Guhan displayed his impressive direction skills with the film 118. Young director Swaroop made his debut with Agent Sai Srinivasa Atreya, which turned out to be a good hit, too. Upcoming actor Naveen Polishetty played the lead in the film and proved his talents as an actor.
Vishwak takes a new direction
Actor Vishwak Sen made his directorial debut with Falaknuma Dasal though the film turned out to be an average grosser.
Those who departed
Telugu cinema lost a few popular persons this year: Kodi Ramakrishna, Vijaya Nirmala, Rallapalli, Devdas Kanakala, Venu Madhav Geethanjali, and the multitalented Gollapudi Maruthi Rao.
The disaster men
Nag rocks the boat
Even as daughter-in-law and elder son raked in great successes, father-in-law Nagarjuna continued on his failure trips. Last year, he gave the worst disaster in the Telugu film industry with Officer. This year, he repeated that performance with Manmadhudu 2. The actor, who also produced the film, had spoken highly about it, building up expectations of fans and audiences. However, the film not only tanked at the box-office, but also was criticized for Nagarujuna’s acting skills, the film’s riddled dialogues and its innuendo comedy. Thus, with this disaster film, Nagarjuna became the biggest disaster of the year.
Balakrishna’s Tony Stark failed
NandamuriBalakrishna managed a hat-trick of flops this year. While his two-part biopic didn’t do well, his second project for later in the year, Ruler, too turned out to be a huge disaster. The film, which is directed by senior director K.S. Ravi Kumar, has the actor appearing as a look-alike of Avenger’s Tony Stark, never mind that it wouldn’t work out for him.
To add to his wounds, Balakrishna got severely trolled on social media for the film. And then rubbing salt to the wounds was the fact that the film released with a deficit as the business did not bring in the expected revenues.
Chiranjeevi does not impress us much
Chiranjeevi’s dream-film Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy, directed by Surender Reddy, in which he portrays the role of Narasimha Reddy, was not up to filmgoers’ expectations. Even though the film is reportedly a successful one, its budget and collections tell a different story. For instance, for its Telugu version, the film collected Rs 135 crore, standing in Tollywood Film Industry’s all-time number 3 position. (Baahubali and its sequel, Baahubali 2: The Conclusion, stand in number 1 and 2 positions respectively).
Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy did pretty badly in other languages. Unfortunately for the filmmakers, the film made losses in some Telugu areas such as Krishna, East, West and Ceded Districts as well as in some Karnataka regions.
So, even though the film may be reported as successful, Chiranjeevi is certainly disappointed with his show at the box-office. Surender Reddy, however, earned credit for his directorial skills.