The Mumbai film industry has been so insular of late that it has not noticed the Telugu film industry has almost caught up with it. Whether it is the latter’s directors, stars or technicians, the industry looks all set to race ahead of Mumbai in quality. No wonder then that Mumbai actors and producers are chasing Hyderabad directors and actors. Much of the change happened when Baahubali 1 (2015) and Baahubali 2 (2017) became national phenomena with a cumulative box-office collection of over Rs 600 crore. The movie made pan-India stars of Prabhas and director SS Rajamouli. So much so that even Prabhas’ underwhelming Saaho (2019) made Rs 150 crore at the Hindi box office; the actor now charges Rs 100 crore a film.
Bollywood has always looked at the south, especially Tamil and Telugu films, for remakes. But what has changed since the days of Jeetendra is the interest of A-listers. Whether it is Shahid Kapoor or Ranbir Kapoor, the big boys of Mumbai now look at Telugu movies for inspiration.
Shahid Kapoor is remaking Telugu hit Jersey (2019) in Hindi, with the same director Gowtam Tinnanuri.
Sandeep Reddy Vanga, after the amazing success of Arjun Reddy (2017) and Kabir Singh (2019), is making Animal with Ranbir. This means a lot more cross-cultural collaboration. Prabhas’ Radhe Shyam, a romance set in the Europe of the 1970s, stars Pooja Hegde, while his even bigger budget Adipurush has Saif Ali Khan as Ravana and Kriti Sanon as Sita. Rajamouli’s next, RRR, with Ram Charan, stars Alia Bhatt. Hyderabad offers a complete destination perfect for these Covid-19 times for any filmmaker—with studios, technicians and actors as well. Besides, the two states, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, together have 2,800 screens and a vibrant filmwatching culture.
What explains the appeal of Prabhas? In a sea of men-children in Mumbai films, he stands out as a throwback to the ’80s man, all raw and untempered masculinity. His appeal is especially high in states such as Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, not surprising given that Zee Cinema and Star Gold have been showing southern films for at least a decade, making south Indian actors a lot more familiar.
Not So Social
First, it was his phone. Now, Aamir Khan has quit social media, announcing it on Twitter, where his account has since been deleted. Aamir has been feeling for some time that his attention is being divided and he has not been able to do as much reading as he used to. Wife Kiran Rao has also been grumbling about it good-naturedly, calling the phone a “black hole of time”. The negativity he gets on Twitter, most recently when he went to Turkey to pick a locale to complete the last leg of Laal Singh Chaddha, has not helped.
As someone said to me recently, being an artist requires you to have a thin skin so you can feel more, experience more, and yet on social media, the thicker your skin, the better.
Perhaps quitting it altogether is the best option.
Sikandar Kher has been working steadily over the last few years, building an interesting array of characters, from Daulat Singh in Ram Madhvani’s outstanding Aarya to Rama Shetty in Mum Bhai. So, it’s great to see him go global, like his father, with Dev Patel’s directorial debut Monkey Man, which takes inspiration from the legend of Hanuman and updates it for corporate Mumbai. This is the second time Patel is acting opposite a Kher. He played a young waiter in Hotel Mumbai (2018), a chilling recreation of the 26/11 attacks on the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai. Anupam Kher played the much-lauded chef, Hemant Oberoi, in a fine performance. Sikandar, who found the experience of being directed by Patel “really special”, has big shoes to fill.
Did You Know?
One of the roles that set Riz Ahmed on his road to global stardom was in Mira Nair’s adaptation of Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2012). The British-Pakistani actor, nominated for an Oscar for Best Actor for his 2019 film Sound of Metal (where he plays a punk metal drummer who loses his hearing), faced some competition in the audition for the leading role in The Reluctant Fundamentalist. Who was his closest rival? Fawad Khan, who was very keen to do the role and deeply disappointed at losing out. Incidentally, Ahmed is returning to British-Pakistani author Hamid in his next movie, an adaptation of Exit West.