The incredible collections of KGF and Pushpa have made the top Bollywood stars sit and take notice. (By Arrangement)
Post the pandemic, three South Indian films have set the cash registers ringing at the ticket window — Pushpa, The Rise, RRR and now KGF: Chapter 2. The blockbuster success of director SS Rajamouli’s magnum opus RRR was perhaps a foregone conclusion — given his earlier record with Baahubali 1 and 2, — , but the blockbuster success of Pushpa and the KGF series has literally knocked Bollywood off its pedestal.
New superstars have emerged. The Khans, Karan Johar, Adi Chopra, Sanjay Leela Bhanshali and the likes in Hindi cinema should step aside to welcome South’s superstars.
Unthinkable few years ago
Earlier Chiranjeevi, Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth films did well at the Hindi box office but none of their films had this magnitude of success. They were not on par with Bollywood’s A-list heroes. Nagarjuna, Venkatesh and even recently Ram Charan Teja (in Zanjeer), top heroes in South, their films were flop shows in Hindi. Till recently Allu Arjun and Mahesh Babu have said on record that they are not interested in doing Bollywood films as they are top stars in their territory and in Bollywood they would have to start as newcomers!
Now the scene has changed.
Taran Adarsh, trade analyst, remembers reviewing yesteryear good-content films starring Chiranjeevi and Kamal Haasan, but states that their films did not have the ‘pan-India appeal.’
While he feels it is unfair to say that South actors never had any appeal in Bollywood, he describes the success of the flurry of south films as the ‘revival of South cinema’.
"Chiranjeevi, Kamal Haasan, Rajinikanth films fared well back then. But suddenly they (South) stopped making or marketing films in Hindi belt. And it was during this phase we have seen a transition where North audiences have been embracing more content from the South," he points out, mentioning that the success of Pushpa, RRR, and KGF are as a result of this transition.
Validation for the south
Looking at the box office numbers of films like Pushpa, KGF, RRR, film analysts comment that South films are finally getting its due. The astonishing collections of these films has turned the spotlight on the North vs South divide over the years, and how the latter never enjoyed this magnitude of success in the Hindi belt.
Yash, who is basking in the glory of KGF Chapter 2 mega success, says that this North-South divide was something we should have realised a long ago. But he admits that as actors everything needs validation (success and the box office numbers).
"North and south; east or West are mere directions to me, and the concept itself is cliché and outdated," he says, adding that we are Indians and that cinema needs to be accepted in totality — Indian film industry.
"As actors, we need success and box office numbers to speak in order to get the confidence to believe in ourselves when it comes to venturing into other territories like Hindi. But the great thing is that the audience always accepted and proved that films never have any discrimination which was why several films in the South earlier received rave reviews in Hindi."
He further adds that our cultural differences are our strength, and not our weakness. Calling a film, a ‘regional one’ is a mindset and clarifies that the audience has moved on from discriminating a film and it’s high time we celebrate Indian cinema.
SS Rajamouli, India’s ace director, too, throws his weight behind his subject-matter.
While he says that South films have always been standing tall, and gave enough emotional high for the film buffs, its reach has invariably been limited to regional markets. "My earlier films like Eega have done well and have been accepted by the Hindi audience. So to me, the game changer is the evolving audience perception of consuming global content. Because the audience has evolved, there is a greater need to make films for broader segments and navigate industries," feels Rajamouli.
What’s their success mantra?
These days the one common question every Bollywood actor is being asked at every press conference is, ‘Why are South films becoming super hits’ at the Hindi box office?
The incredible collections of KGF and Pushpa have made the top Bollywood stars sit and take notice. Salman Khan wondered aloud why Hindi films are becoming duds at the ticket window!
There are several theories about the commercial triumph of these films. And the most persistent explanation is that the South is making films that Hindi cinema has been missing of late — the machismo, heroism and larger than life plot. This is where the likes of Allu Arjun from Pushpa and Yash in KGF have impressed the sundry.
Film critic and trade analyst Komal Nahta says that one of the major reasons these South films are doing well is because they are ‘very Indian and are rooted’. He further comments that Bollywood is living under the ‘mistaken belief’ that moolah lies only with multiplexes and metro markets (aping the West), and as a result, stopped making films that lacked heroism and larger than life plots which the masses lap up.
"The huge advantage the current South actors enjoy is the drastic increase in satellite business (TV). Allu Arjun, Yash, Ram Charan are already familiar faces in Hindi because their films (dubbed version) are being viewed on TV," Komal points out, sharing that when those stars’ films release in theatres, naturally the footfalls are high.
While it is a fact that the films transcending boundaries started with Baahubali, many films that followed suit had smartly scripted swagger, VFX, massive production cost and of course, the larger-than-life universe.