For years now, Tollywood has complained of a dearth of homegrown Telugu-speaking actresses. In fact, producers and directors attribute the huge inflow of heroines from other states to the fact that it is not just tough but nearly impossible to find local girls, which in turn, leads to the constant need to look elsewhere for new faces.
However, in an interesting reversal, a slew of Telugu girls are foraying into films. What’s more, they aren’t being relegated to character roles, but are being offered meaty roles by leading filmmakers. While the likes of Eesha Rebba, Anisha Ambrose and Ritu Varma have all been making inroads in recent times with interesting projects and characters being written for them, Shivani Rajasekhar and Priyanka Jaw-alkar are to debut alongside Adivi Sesh and Vijay Devera-konda.
Actress Jeevitha, Shiv-ani’s mother, shares, “I welcome the change and am happy that we are seeing many young Telugu girls foraying into cinema. In other industries, you see local girls being majorly cast and that trend is picking up here too. The change can be attributed to the fact that unlike in the past, there isn’t stigma surrounding cinema as a profession now.”
Even as she praises the emerging trend, filmmaker Indraganti Mohana Krishna opines that this is a sign of “good progress” but not enough. “They are yet to break the glass ceiling. They may be doing a lot of work but none of them have been cast as leads in the coveted A-league stars’ films. I don’t like categories, but it’s a big deal to land a film with the stars as that multiplies an artiste’s visibility,” he explains.
Notably, many leading ladies in the past, from Bhanumathi to Jayaprada, saw Telugu girls taking the mantle in playing the female leads. Savitri, Krishna Kumari, Kanchana, Jamuna, Shaukar Janaki, Vanisri, Jayasudha, Bhanumathi, Rambha, Vijayashanti and Raasi are a few amongst many Telugu girls who were often cast alongside stars.
The filmmaker observes that girls from outside are very welcome because they bring a whole other level of talent with them. Elaborating on the same, he says, “We should rope in girls from outside too, but it’s absolutely necessary that we make substantial space for girls from here because they bring with them an understanding of the language, which is lacking in anyone who learns it. The nuances they understand and the dialects they do with ease cannot be learned.”
The girls themselves are unperturbed. Priyanka, a Marathi girl from Anantapur, who debuts with Geetha Arts’ Taxiwala, says, “I’m happy this space for us has been created by the changing movie trends where understanding the nuances of a language can be a huge asset for an actress. I notice that whenever I meet filmmakers, they seem excited and happy to meet a Telugu girl.”
But Eesha Rebba feels it isn’t enough. “Initially, I felt happy with people’s happiness that I knew Telugu. But I understood that it all wasn’t really translating to good opportunities. It’s been around four years and despite the appreciation I seem to get for my roles, I don’t see a flood of films. Things are surely changing now, but there’s a lot more to desire,” shares the actress, who’s riding high on the success of Awe.
With the choice of Telugu girls increasing by the day, it is to be seen if this will just be a passing trend or there’s more in the offing....