The Telugu film industry or Tollywood is one of the biggest contributors to film production in India. Many movie buffs have always associated Tollywood with just masala entertainers with its over-the-top action or larger than life song and dance sequences.
However, some new stories, with relatable content, contemporary treatment have come as a breath of fresh air. New-age filmmakers, writers and actors have brought variety to the front seat. However, does this mean that Telugu cinema has got over its love for grandeur or is the world finally paying more attention to the diverse content the industry has always been offering?
Some films are being shot in real locations, others present flawed, real characters who don’t always define righteousness but fit well with the story. Some films have also ditched elaborate song and dance routines if the story or genre doesn’t require it.
Actor-writer Adivi Sesh is one of the most prominent new-age writers in the film industry. His films like ‘Kshanam’ and ‘Goodachari’ represent new-age storytelling in a contemporary way, which has so far struck a chord with the audience.
Sesh shares with IANS: “I think the change in Telugu cinema is two-fold. What happened is that a ‘Baahubali’ opened the floodgates for people to take chances because it made people realise that so many people even beyond the Telugu-speaking borders were willing to give Telugu films a chance. That encouraged, young, new talent. I believe myself to be part of that wave. We tell stories that aren’t necessarily based on the idea that we have people flying in the air and things like that but rather tell stories rooted in emotions. We have a sensibility that is at the same time appealing to someone in a town, in a cosmopolitan city as well as a remote area somewhere.”
The actor, who will soon be seen in the bilingual film ‘Major’, adds: “The change has always been there. It is more noticed now, it has got more attention now and people respond to it better…So, suddenly a beautiful realistic drama told in Telugu gets the attention of the national audience now.”
Director Srikanth Addala feels that relatable content, which wasn’t always larger than life, existed in Tollywood even in the 1960s.
“In Telugu cinema, if you see, long back in the 1970s and 1960s, there were very nice movies. ‘Mayabazar’ (1957) is still one of the greatest movies. Talented actors are giving good content as part of the new wave now, which is the continuation of the old one. The commercial stream has and will always exist simultaneously.”
As the main man behind investing in the biggest blockbusters in Telugu cinema, producer D. Suresh Babu has seen the industry change over the years in 57 years of his experience.
Sharing his thoughts on changing the style of storytelling in Telugu cinema, he says: “There is more being served to the audience. May be partially because of OTT…So, now we are able to see films of other languages much more easily and they are all starting to adapt to the best format possible…From the ‘Baahubalis’ to the ‘Kancherapalams’, we are able to come up with a wide variety for the audience and we have realised that there are enough people to appreciate different films. As we see more and more appreciation happening, we see a snowballing effect. The newer filmmakers are coming and making new content.”
Bringing a younger perspective to the table, producer Sharath Chandra, co-founder of Hyderabad-based six-year-old entertainment content creation company Chai Bisket, feels that in every decade or so, a new generation brings fresh energy to films.
“Every industry has its own journey. Every 10 to 15 years, generations change and bring in fresh energy in cinema. In one of the films we are doing, the director is a 21-year-old. Obviously, when I hear the script, I don’t understand half the things because my generation has moved on,” says Sharath, who is also the co-producer of the upcoming film ‘Major’.
The producer also highlights how dubbed films are making people more aware of Telugu content.
“In the last 3-4 years, Hindi dubbing has increased. I know of films where the Telugu movie satellite rights were sold at Rs 5 crore but the Hindi dubbed satellite rights were sold at Rs 15 crore…The culmination of all these aspects in different proportions led to the evolution of cinema in all languages and not just Telugu cinema,” says Sharath.