Tollywood turns holy?
Deccan Chronicle| BVS Prakash
Many new-age directors in Telugu cinema are thinking out of the box are redesigning devotional movies into social fantasies
Pawan Kalyan from Gopala Gopala
Young actor Sree Vishnu is seen in the get-up of Lord Krishna in his upcoming film Raja Raja Chora, while poster Mishan Impossible has Lord Shiva, Krishna and Hanuman in their respective child forms, holding a gun in addition to their usual traditional weapons and motifs such as snake, flute and mace, respectively. (Incidentally, though the poster spoke of it as a fun-filled movie loaded with laughter, it had to be withdrawn by the makers after it drew flak from some quarters.)
Among other upcoming ‘godly’ films is actor Viswak Sen, who will be interacting with God in human form to resolve his marital issues in the Telugu remake of the 2020-Tamil blockbuster Oh My Kadavule.
Director Dolly had tasted a success by casting Pawan Kalyan as Lord Krishna in the 2015-hit Gopala Gopala and set a trend of sorts in T-town. He is convinced that young directors are in the process of genre-bending and incorporating Gods in social dramas to connect with new generation audiences especially because making typical devotional films as in the past may not work for them.
"I wanted a smiling Lord Krishna in a suit and a trendy bike and Pawan pulled off the role with ease,. He just ate bananas, almonds and milk to retain the aura onscreen," explains Dolly. However, the filmmaker cautions makers to be careful while handling sensitive subjects such as gods.
"Filmmakers have to make such films with more responsibility, instead of indulging in mocking. We should never hurt the sentiments of believers and followers of our culture," he states, adding that otherwise, activists will come hard at the filmmakers.
A tradition of narrating holy tales
Mixing tradition with modernity, young Tamil director Aswath Marimuthu, the director of Oh My Kadavule, who is also remaking the film in Telugu, tells us that his film is a modern take on God.
"Human beings pour out their woes before Almighty and seek his help to resolve their woes. So, we brought in God (played by Vijay Sethupathi in Tamil version) to resolve his marital issues, which otherwise would have been sorted out if the couples had avoided impulsive decision," Aswath says.
Incidentally, Aswath believes yesteryears’ devotional films will find relevance even today if made properly. "The triumph of good over evil will always be celebrated, but it all depends on a good script. In fact, I loved the 1995-devotional Telugu film Ammoru. I remember I was scared as a child while watching the evil ‘Chanda’ in the movie," he explains.
Gods helping good win over evil aside, leading producer Vivek Kachibotla, who is making the Telugu film Raja Raja Chora with Sree Vishnu, describes his film as fun-centric and not a God-centric movie.
"Although our poster with Sree Vishnu in the get up of Lord Krishna is trending, he appears in this form in just one part of the film. The film is a laugh-riot and is loaded with fun moments. Less to do with God or Godliness," he cuts shorts.
Poorna is another recent actress who played the role of a goddess in the 2017-horror-comedy Telugu film Avantika. She then went on to describe to us the challenges she faced while playing the role.
"My film had a God-aspect in it, but I never dared to play a full-fledged Goddess on screen and went on to reject a bunch of offers," she says, adding that she, however, did a lot of devotional performances on stage, including Mohiniyattam in Kerala.