Telugu cinema Movies

Time to reinvent



Here’s looking at the big four — Chiranjeevi, Balakrishna, Nagarjuna and Venkatesh — and their approach to cinema to stay relevant to a younger audience

On Monday, when Chiranjeevi took over as the host from Nagarjuna for a new season of Meelo Evaru Koteeswarudu, it brought him many steps closer to the audience that’s watched him as an actor for 39 years.

The 61-year-old who took a sabbatical, returned after a decade with an unabashed masala flick, Khaidi No.150, showing that he could still draw the audience by doing what he did at the peak of his career — dance, fight any number of opponents and play the son of the soil.

Chiranjeevi’s return filled the vacant spot he had left among his contemporaries Balakrishna, Nagarjuna and Venkatesh. Each of these actors is acutely aware that a lot has changed since their heydays and the younger audience is warming up to new ideas alongside occasional mass masalas.

Venkatesh in ‘Guru’

Venkatesh in ‘Guru’  

Venkatesh, whose Guru is scheduled to release this summer, began steering his career in a new course from Seethamma Vakitlo Sirimalle Chettu in 2013 when he shared the screen with Mahesh Babu. For a long time, writers and directors refrained from casting established actors in multi starrers. They’d have to cater to the images of the respective stars or face the wrath of fans if one of the heroes were to be cast in a role considered less heroic.

The bizarre, over the top Shadow that released the same year vanished without a trace. Venkatesh took the cue and looked for something worthwhile. He was and still remains unperturbed with remakes. He chose Dhrushyam and then teamed up with Pawan Kalyan for Gopala Gopala. Then came the feeble attempt to ride on his Bobbili Raja image through Babu Bangaram, which turned out to be a no show.

Guru, a remake of Saala Khadoos and Irudhi Suttru (Tamil), will see him reprise Madhavan’s role as a boxing coach. During an interaction, when asked if he’s in sync with what his fans want him to do, Venkatesh (56) responded, “I think most of my fans are married and have grown up children. They have other priorities.”

The actor is happy not being in a race for the top slot. Similar is the case with Nagarjuna, who is enjoying this phase of his career.

Box office collections matter to these actors, but that’s not the only thing that governs their choices now.



Take a look at Nagarjuna’s recent films. Om Namo Venkatesaya was a leap of faith, with the team hoping today’s younger audience will embrace the devotional.

Oopiri had Karthi do the live wire, endearing act while Nagarjuna was bound to the wheelchair. That film didn’t make as much money as the more mainstream Soggade Chinni Nayana but showed that Nagarjuna was game to walk an unconventional path.

Soggade banked heavily on Nag’s romantic image. It succeeded and now, the 57 year old will be a part of Bangarraju, a prequel to Soggade. In the meantime, there’s the horror comedy Raju Gari Gadhi 2.

Starry presence

Nandamuri Balakrishna

Nandamuri Balakrishna  

In contrast to Venkatesh and Nagarjuna who now and then do something out of the norm, Chiranjeevi and Balakrishna continue to revel in larger-than-life roles. Gautamiputra Satakarni may not have been formulaic like Legend, Lion or Dictator, but still played to the gallery. Balakrishna (56) did the thigh-slapping routine in war episodes. It was to director Krish’s credit that he leveraged on Balakrishna’s heroic image and strength of delivering lengthy dialogues for the part history, part fictional period film. At the time of Gautamiputra’s release, Balakrishna had stated that he chose the film over other routine scripts since he wanted something unique. With his 100th behind him, his next few films will reveal if he’s also changing tracks. In the pipeline are director Krishnavamsi’s Rythu and a biopic on N.T.Rama Rao. Chiranjeevi’s forthcoming projects will be helmed by Surender Reddy and Boyapati Srinu, both known for mainstream outings. During Khaidi’s release, asked if he’d take up not-so-young roles, he stated, “I’d love to do what Venkatesh is doing in Guru. No one approached me with something unique like that.” Will any writer-director be game?

50 and 60-plus clubs

In Hindi, Aamir Khan and Akshay Kumar (49) have reinvented themselves and how! Today, they can dabble with any genre and turn them into box office hits. In Malayalam, Mohanlal and Mammooty too have done that time and again. In Tamil, Rajinikanth moved beyond the cheesy Linga and played a much older character in Kabali, finally looking at ease. Kamal Haasan has always been unpredictable. In comparison, the popular notion remains that Telugu actors continue to bat in a predictable, mainstream mode.

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Printable version | Mar 24, 2020 8:47:50 PM |

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