“Pushpa, I hate tears.” Bollywood matini idol of years past Rajesh Khanna’s famous words about his love for the on-screen lady, played by Sharmila Tagore, in the 1972 classic Ammar Prem It’s as much a part of the folklore of the Hindi film industry as it is a symbol of an era when romance was king on both sides of the Vindhyas – although the divide between Southern Bollywood in the world of Hindi cinema was very clear, unfortunately. Romance, action, comedy, time period flicks… all were in vogue in both the Hindi film industry, as embodied in the term “Bollywood”, and the so-called “South Indian films”, as a type of acting by labels such as “Kollywood” ‘, ‘Tollywood’, ‘Mollywood’, etc. And it has taken 49 summers since Rajesh Khanna’s ‘Pushpa’ for another Pushpa of an entirely new kind to highlight the yearning for an unprecedented erasure of the north-south divide in India’s recreational terrain.
Kannada star Yash (Naveen Kumar Jodha), the lead actor in the all-India wild hit KGF: Chapter 2 (2022), summed it up very succinctly by saying, “If I make a movie in Mumbai today, it’s no longer an Indian movie, it’s an Indian movie.”
Bollywood, watch out – the competition is closer than you think!
Film director Sukumar Telugu show Pushpa: height (2021), which featured star Allu Arjun in the lead, was released to a pan-Indian audience in December 2021. So far, the film has grossed Rs 3.65 billion (Dh17.46 million).
This was followed by another Telugu show, $$$$ (2022), directed by legendary director SS Rajamouli and featured a cast that included southern heavyweight Ram Charan Teja and NTR Junior along with Bollywood stars Ajay Devgn and Alia Bhatt. The film went on to bring in a mind-boggling 10 billion rupees. Then came the Kannada movie directed by Prashanth Neil KGF: Chapter 2and starring another group featuring Yash, Srinidhi Shetty and Prakash Raj from Lower South and Bollywood’s biggies Raveena Tandon and Sanjay Dutt. The film is still in theaters, having already earned 8 billion rupees. By the Eid holiday, Aamir Khan Star’s box office collections are expected to cross DangalThe second highest grossing average in Bollywood ever. And as Tamil megastar Rajinikanth said, “Mn! – None of these recent blockbuster films have been Indian “reproductions” of the best South Indian hits. All have been dubbed into multiple languages, including Hindi, and simultaneously released and distributed throughout India.
Why is #DeathOfRemakes trending?
It’s not for nothing that #DeathOfRemakes is trending on Twitter. There was a period of time, not so long ago, when commercially successful films from the Southern Vindhyas were re-released in Hindi, with the cast being repackaged with famous Bollywood titles. The Indian film industry is replete with such examples of a successful “formula”. Then there was this tendency to chord with a very popular name from the Lower South and feature him in a supporting role in a Bollywood ‘remake’. In the process, and quite ironically, the character who was supposed to play Bollywood’s second fiddle, ended up being a more endearing character, and a long-lasting imprint on the viewer’s consciousness, than their Bollywood counterparts. Two examples that immediately come to mind are T. Rama Rao then canon (1983), where the unique Rajinikanth matches sentiment, frame for frame, with the towering on-screen character of Amitabh Bachchan, Ramesh Sibez sagar (1985), in which Kamal Hasan actually robbed several rallies against Rishi Kapoor, the male hero.
In this sense, what we are seeing now is something really unprecedented because all these films that have hit a goldmine in theaters across India, are called Hindi versions of the original Telugu or Kannada shows and are not “reproductions”. In fact, Bollywood filmmaker Ram Gopal Varma has sparked a hornet’s nest by tweeting about this new phenomenon of dubbed hits from the south that is sending cash chests across India. In a tweet, Varma said: “The original Lu Nani jersey From Telugu Dubbed and Released [in Hindi]It would have cost producers only 10 lakhs [Rs1 million]. While the new version in Hindi costs 100 crores [Rs1 billion]A huge loss of money, time, effort and face.”
Longing for dubbed entertainment from the big screens
The obvious question here is: Why now?
To understand this, let’s go back about five years. The trend really started with the release of the wonderful composition of SS Rajamouli Bahubali: The Beginning (2015) and Bahubali: Conclusion (2017), which gave big-screen entertainment a whole new dimension. These were films that offered a story from an unprecedented land that allowed one’s imagination to run wild and see and enjoy life on every square inch of the 70mm silver screen perhaps like no other. The ground of what we see now has been prepared by Rajamouli bahubali The duo that really whetted our appetite for more of the same brand of bigger-than-life artists they demanded to be presented and enjoyed on the big screen.
Breaking the shackles of the epidemic
But then the pandemic came and forced us all to live our lives within the four walls of our homes. The house quickly became an extension of our workspace and soon the living room sofa and TV turned into a window to the world. As the images in prime-time nightly news channels continued to spread the never-ending, frustrating, and sensational saga of the virus wreaking havoc on humanity, we were constantly forced to search more and more indoors for comfort – be it a phone, a laptop, or at best, an LED screen Wall-mounted LCD in the living room or bedroom is our only source of entertainment. Our “worlds” are becoming more and more narrow and tunnel vision is becoming more the rule than the exception. With that said, there was this pent-up hunger for liberation, back again to the comforts of the darkroom and the mysticism of the big screen realm. Hunger grew. The desire to return to normal life grew.
OTT platforms have also played their part in this quagmire of desolation and despair – holding a glimmer of hope in the form of choice and alternatives at a time when going out to see a movie was a sure invitation to do deadly damage. OTT has allowed filmmakers to experience a kind of inversion with a myriad of somewhat revolutionary content. One series that stands out in this regard is Family man season 2 (2021), where both heroines, Samantha Ruth Prabhu and Priyamani, are two well-known names from the South, shrugging off the shoulders with the male hero, played by Manoj Bajpai, a Bollywood star in his own right, over the film’s nine-episode flip-flops. The traditional notion of a spy thriller is turned upside down. With this mixed kind of north and south, Family man season 2 He achieved massive audience reach challenging geography and films in an Indian context, presenting himself as an all-Indian health artist – without carrying the ‘wood’ plastered on him!
An ambush in the Indian film market
In this scenario, the easing of lockdowns and restrictions saw a long-awaited opening. A barrage of some well-designed, well-written and well-acted big screen shows came from the Lower South that showed too much confidence, common sense and business acumen not to go down the “re-industrial” route, but to ambush the Indian film market by immediately unleashing the big entertainment artists on Screens all over India in their dubbed Indian avatars. The pandemic and the spread of OTT platforms have already sowed the seeds of a desire to watch big-budget movies.
That’s why the launch of these big-screen boilers instantly struck a chord with audiences across India, who were just looking for one good enough excuse to get out of their homes and take in the newfound normalcy – any way. For these audiences, it doesn’t really matter whether the movie they paid was shot in Tollywood, Kollywood, Mollywood or Bollywood. All that matters is some wholesome entertainment delivered in an easy-to-understand format. In this sense, all these last blows, whether they are Pushpa, RRR or KGF 2they had one thing in common: they all told a story that found a ready-made resonance with the man in the street and were all honest attempts to entertain artists in the spirit of a country epic – stripped of inclinations, devoid of any needless obsession with “form” and “essence”.
The fact that there were no big budget Bollywood releases helped match these Southern shows around the same time PushpaAnd $$$$ And KGF 2 Flourish.
And yes, there seems to be no room for shredders at the moment. Pushpa, we really hate tears!