When Brahmanandam was roped in by Kamal Haasan to be a part of his film Sabash Naidu, everyone was baffled. It was a similar scenario when Mohanlal and Unni Mukundan were cast for key roles in NTR’s Janatha Garage. But that’s not it, Fahadh Faasil has been roped in to play an important role in a Kollywood film alongside Vijay Sethupathi in a film directed by Thiagaran Kumararaja.
Apart from this, NTR went ahead and crooned Geleya Geleya for Kannada star Puneeth Rajkumar’s Chakravyuha. But this happened way after Karthi decided to star in Telugu film Oopiri (which was also simultaneously made in Tamil as Thozha). And even today, we have Shiva Rajkumar set to venture into Tollywood with Gautamiputra Satakarni while Sarathkumar is set to be seen in Bellamkonda Sreenivas’ next with Boyapati Srinu. Jagapathi Babu too is making waves in K’town. All these happen when Mahesh Babu and Allu Arjun are set to make their Tamil debuts soon.
Well, this is the latest trend across the South Indian film industry, which is witnessing an interesting bonhomie like never before. While actresses have been doing this for long, the rest of the industry is following them now. Breaking linguistic barriers, crossing over borders and daring to take a risk, actors are willing to take various routes to experiment with new markets. Even technicians are slowly embracing the necessity for juggling between industries. While Gopi Sundar and Ghibran have become names to be reckon with in T-town, Anirudh Ravichander is set to debut in Tollywood whose very own Anup Rubens has composed for a film in Kannada while Thaman has always been a favourite across the industries.
“We might be different industries, but our sensibilities are alike and music doesn’t really have language, does it?” asks Thaman. Interestingly, he has been instrumental in making NTR sing in Kannada, while he roped in Dhanush for a Telugu song. “First of all, they sing well, we can’t question that. And that’s why along with being an asset, the presence of stars can be a value addition to the popularity of a song,” he explains.
While we understand that music has no language, acting sure does and most of the time, directors tend to pick actors who do not understand the language at all too! Elaborating on why he picked Mohanlal, despite his limitations in Telugu, for Janatha Garage, director Koratala Siva says, “As a director, my aim is to bring freshness to my work. And I feel that a new name not only makes the character intriguing but also adds value to the product.”
But are there benefits of this kind of exchange? “Yes, as an actor who’s forever craving for good work, the chance to move to a new arena is always exciting. Every industry has its own subtleties, right,” says actor Ravi Varma, who is set to debut in Tamil soon with the remake of Kshanam where he reprises his role from the original.
Ravi Varma’s colleagues from the Telugu industry Kalakeya Prabhakar, Vamsi Krishna and Charandeep Surneni are just a few among the ones who’ve found opportunities in the neighbouring industry. Another actor reveals, “People always have a liking for imports. That’s why in Telugu, people don’t give us the value we could get. But when we go to other industries, the kind of roles offered is brilliant. Moreover, here we have too many big films indirectly leading us into getting menial roles. I’d rather play an important and full-fledged role in a small film than settling with a small role. That’s how other industries work well for me.”
While several people ask why take all the effort when films can be dubbed and reproduced, actor Mohanlal puts it very interestingly. “It’s important to consider the costs involved in such processes. We may dub a Malayalam film in Telugu but the local audiences will find the nativity missing. Moreover, each region’s cinema has its own flavour. The increasing exchange of talent gives a chance to experience other industries,” he says.
Cinematographer Tirru, who ventured into Telugu cinema with Janatha Garage, shares, “In a creative field, one always craves to try new things because for us every single day is a part of the learning process. At the end of the day, the difference in the industries doesn’t really matter because our work doesn’t really change and it’s the people we are working with and the language that differs.”
A leading producer points out, “If you notice, very slowly but steadily, the borders in films are becoming lighter. Yes, there are local favourites, no doubt, but then again, the audience has always been open to new names and ideas. But at this juncture, they are being very supportive. We may soon have a South Cinema as opposed to regional cinema.” As Henry Ford said, “Coming together is the beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” Touché.