Southern flavour in Bollywood

A slew of actresses from the South are bagging big projects in Hindi films

Gone are the days where an actress’s performance was lauded in just one territory. With cinema going beyond regional boundaries and new-age audiences consuming good content, actors are getting great opportunities to step into emerging markets.

While several actresses from the south have debuted and created a splash in Hindi earlier, there has never been a time like now when so many Southern actresses have bagged happening projects in Bollywood.

Samantha Akkineni on the sets of The Family Man 2

Having done exceptionally well in the South, actors like Samantha Akkineni, Rashmika Mandanna, Pranitha Subhash, Raashii Khanna and Nithya Menen have now taken the Bollywood plunge. And they have been sought after.

Mission south

Bollywood films have for a long time been remade in Tollywood and vice versa. Now, Telugu actresses are increasingly landing interesting projects in Hindi. After Nithya Menen picked up Breathe into the Shadow last year, which starred Abhishek Bachchan, several South actresses followed suit.

Rashmika Mandanna signed two back-to-back Bollywood films, Mission Majnu and Goodbye, while Pranitha Subhash will be seen in Bhuj: The Pride of India and Hungama 2. Then there’s Raashii Khanna, who’s paired opposite Shahid Kapoor in an untitled web series, while Samantha was cast in a meaty role in the recently released and much applauded, The Family Man Season 2.

Pranitha Subhash with Ajay Devgn on the sets of Bhuj: The Pride of India

Audiences are welcoming

It might be right to say that the upward trend started with Baahubali. The film’s super success also paved way for filmmakers in the industry to cast more actors from other regions. Simultaneously, the emergence of OTTs and web series has made available a lot of content, which has even made actresses visible to not only audiences but also filmmakers.

Raashii Khanna who has been cast opposite Shahid Kapoor in a Hindi project speaks of the mutual migration of actors into other regions, says, “Audiences have become more open to actors from either side. Several B-wood actors are doing south films too, so there’s a great movement that’s happening and I am thankful to be part of the transition. We can actually call it the Indian film industry now. What’s more, there’s better content than ever before. And actors and filmmakers have exciting opportunities.”

Raashii Khanna and Shahid Kapoor

Multilingual films

Another southern actress to have signed back-to-back Hindi films is Rashmika Mandanna. While the actress reveals that she loves experimenting with roles, she is equally ambitious and curious to test waters in Hindi. Moreover, now that multilingual films seem to be the order of the day, even filmmakers have been finding opportunities to look comfortably beyond Mumbai while casting actresses.

Rashmika Mandanna and Sidharth Malhotra

For instance, filmmaker Shantanu Baagchi had chanced upon Rashmika after seeing her impressive performance in her multilingual film, Dear Comrade. He’d then felt she had the right mixture of innocence and beauty required to play the part in his film Mission Majnu.

Similarly, Raj and DK too cast Samantha, yet another South actress, in an unforgettable role as Raji in the second season of The Family Man. It had marked her debut in the OTT space, apart from being her first Hindi outing.

Nithya Menen and Abhishek Bachchan

Raj tells us that their casting call over the years has been directly proportional to the roles written. Describing casting as an ‘organic process’, he adds that instead of looking for actors from whom you had to extract performance, he and his filmmaking partner felt it better to cast someone who could deliver naturally.

“We’d seen Samantha’s performances in Rangasthalam and Super Deluxe, and they were truly amazing. Moreover, she plays as Tamilian in The Family Man, a role that demanded a lot of physical effort. As Samantha hasn’t done anything like that earlier, we believed she’d bring a new dimension to the role,” Raj explains.


With emerging market and related opportunities, it is equally important that actresses make the right choice with the kind of films. While Pranitha Subhash has been showered with several offers in Hindi earlier, she signed two back-to-back Bollywood films last year because of the diversity in the film offers.
Ajay Devgn’s Bhuj: The Pride of India is an action-war drama, Hungama 2 is a comic caper.

Pranitha also points out how today there are so many more genres in films, with diverse content. “When you debut in Bollywood you have to make the right choice. And what could be better than landing a film with an actor like Ajay sir? I could not have asked for a better debut,” she says, adding that having played the girl-next-door often, she was excited with the new portrayals she has in her upcoming Bollywood films.

Abhishek Nama

North looking to south

While leading Tollywood actresses have been bagging happening projects in B-Town, Bollywood actresses who have no great projects currently, have been moving to South films. The latest news we hear is that of Sonakshi Sinha acting in a Telugu film.

Till not very long ago, if a Bollywood actress took up a Telugu film, it was seen as a climb down. Which is why perhaps even Shraddha Kapoor, as widely reported then, took a while before she agreed to act in the Prabhas-starrer Sahoo, after top actresses turned down the offer for various reasons.

Taran Adarsh

When producer Abhishek Nama cast Pooja Hegde as one of the leading ladies in one of his earlier films, Sakshayam, there were no takers for Pooja in Hindi back then. But Abhishek says he roped her in his film for a fresh perspective. “When you want to make Telugu or a multilingual film, we have very less options for leading ladies. We cannot keep on repeating Tamannaah and Kajal for all films so we need actresses who lend a fresh appeal. We felt Pooja was a better choice,” explains Abhishek.

“Earlier too several actresses from South have excelled across various time periods. But I think post Baahubali, Bollywood filmmakers have been increasingly looking southward. Earlier, it was difficult for directors to know about actresses from a specific region, but the emerging digital platforms and OTTs have added a lot of knowledge to the filmmakers," says trade analyst Taran Adarsh.

Next Story