Apart from a spate of hits and controversies, fresh ideas and digital cinema also made an impressive entry into Telugu films.

Like two sides to a coin, this past year saw both good and bad happenings in Telugu cinema. The good thing is that it woke up to the 21st century movie magic — digital cinematography. Though a few films had been made earlier in this format, the craze for D5 cameras caught up only this year with the big success of director Maruthi’s debut film Ee Rojullo, as well as Bus Stop and P. Sunil Kumar Reddy’s Oka Romantic Crime Katha.

Reportedly there are about a hundred films in this format under various stages of production; evidence that digital cinema has finally arrived in Telugu films. This cost effective technology also brought to the fore fresh ideas and fresh faces to tinsel town. We will discuss about its ill effects later.

For an average cinegoer, stars still do matter. The Mahesh Babu–Puri Jagannath combo kickstarted the year with a commercial hit, Businessman. Other stars who had their share of hits are — Ramcharan (Racha), Allu Arjun (Julayi), Nitin (Ishq), Sunil (Poolarangadu), Allari Naresh (Sudigadu) and Manchu Vishnu (Denikaina Ready). But the year surely belongs to S.S. Rajamouli (Eega) and Pawan Kalyan (Gabbar Singh directed by Harish Shankar). Rajamouli’s visual effects wonder catapulted him to the national scene while Pawan Kalyan proved that he still matters at the box office. Both their films remained top grossers in U.S. market too, raking in moolah of over a million dollars, with Eega taking the top honours.

When compared to 2011, this year saw more number of Telugu releases — 121 (till December 28 when Sharwanand’s Ko Ante Koti released and has not been taken for evaluation) and even the success ratio is slightly better than 2011. Srinivasa Reddy’s Dhamarukam interestingly made the buyers happy but reportedly did not rake in money for the producer due to various reasons. B. Jaya’s Lovely with Aadi in the lead and Tanish starrer Mem Vayasuku Vacham are among the commercial successes. Over a hundred dubbed films were released, but except for Thuppaki by A.R. Murugadoss which created a few ripples in major centres, none of the other films made an impact. Janardhan Maharshi’s Devasthanam and Thanikella Bharani’s debut film, Mithunam won critical acclaim. Interestingly S.P. Balasubrahmanyam featured in both these films and proved that he is an ace actor too.

The controversies: The Telugu film industry faced controversies from various quarters on different issues on an unprecedented scale. In a first of its kind, a director was penalised by the Producers Council for escalating costs. Lawrence was made to pay the producers of Rebel to the tune of Rs. 2.5 crores. Puri Jagannath had to delete a few scenes in Cameraman Gangatho Rambabu yielding to protests from pro-Telangana activists. G. Nageswara Reddy’s Denikaina Ready faced agitations and court cases as Brahmin Associations felt insulted at the way their community is portrayed in the film.

Two other films – Bus Stop and ‘Oka Romantic Crime Katha, faced objections for their bawdy dialogues. But Sunil Kumar Reddy defends, “I make films for the entire family audience. When you take a contemporary subject and have to show deteriorating morality among the youth, it has to be hard hitting. The movie is a reflection of present day youth’s mindset. But I never indulged in vulgarity.”

The digital boom: Taking a cue from the success of digital films a spate of new entrants are coming with this mode. Most of these filmmakers’ mindset seems to be to get rich quick by churning out lewd movies. Some are entering without any fresh thoughts leave alone in themes but in choosing the title too.

Take this example: Eerojullo Oka Romantic Crime Katha. — a combination of two successful films made under digital format! “When technology is democratised, dilation takes place. There is bound to be both good and bad. Fresh talents have an opportunity to enter. Budgets can be cut drastically. How one uses the technology depends on the mindset of the maker,” opines Sunil Kumar Reddy who was one of the first to go the digital way and made the award winning, Sontha Ooru and Gangaputhrulu in this format. Ultimately, it is the content that matters for the audience. With fresh talents entering the field, there is hope ahead.