S S Rajamouli
He’s easily the most recognised Telugu film director across India, and internationally, post Baahubali . The scale and the success of the two Baahubali films (2015 and 2017) paved way for a slew of pan-Indian projects. Before that came Eega (2012), an entertaining story of a man being reincarnated as a housefly to have his revenge. Eega became Naan Ee in Tamil and Makkhi in Hindi and did get its audience, but Baahubali is the definitive pan-Indian film from Telugu in recent years. The decade belonged to Rajamouli. He started it with the immensely enjoyable Maryada Ramanna (2010), based on Buster Keaton’s 1923 silent film Our Hospitality . Comedian Sunil was the unlikely hero, caught in the fiery Rayalaseema region, trying to win his lady love.
Former Mathematics and Physics lecturer Sukumar’s films are full of intriguing ideas and characters. The male protagonist (Naga Chaitanya) in 100% Love (2011) was a typical bookworm button-holed in the race to be number one. Sukumar’s experiment with the complex narrative in 1-Nenokkadine (2014) didn’t find takers when the film released, but the Mahesh Babu starrer witnessed a growing fan following eventually. Nannaku Prematho (2016) also had an interesting bunch of ideas thrown in and remarkable performances from NTR and Jagapathi Babu. Rangasthalam (2018) gave Sukumar a much-needed blockbuster and with it, Ram Charan morphed from being just a star to a performer. Samantha, usually cast in urbane roles, soaked in the rustic milieu and even bathed buffaloes!
He’s directed only two films so far and both have been impressive. With Mahanati (2018), he and the team at Vyjayanthi Movies embarked on a tough journey of bringing to screen the life and times of Savitri, from the 1940s to the 80s. The film was an ode to her and through her, to other talented filmmakers and actors of yore. When Keerthy Suresh as Savitri steps into the studios of 1940s wide eyed, the audience too, revelled in the glimpses to the past this film offered. Nag Ashwin’s first film as a director, Yevade Subramanyam (2015) was a poignant tale about a search for identity, on a journey to the mythical Doodh Kashi, away from the numbing corporate work lives.
Mirchi (2013), Srimanthudu (2015), Janatha Garage (2016) and Bharat Ane Nenu (2018). Director Koratala Siva scores high on consistently delivering hits headlined by A-list actors. The runaway hit Mirchi starring Prabhas was writer Koratala Siva’s first film as director. Srimanthudu had Mahesh Babu adopting a village, Janatha ... had NTR talking about eco-consciousness and Mohanlal insisting on social welfare and ‘fixing’ things where it mattered. And Bharat Ane Nenu had Mahesh as the authoritarian young chief minister.
For some reason, romantic comedies aren’t explored enough in Telugu cinema. Nandini Reddy’s first film Ala Modalaindi (2011) came as a breeze and sparked a trend of rom-coms. Her Jabardasth was an embarrassing misstep, a rehash of Band Baaja Baaraat . Nandini had to resurrect herself with the romantic family drama Kalyana Vaibhogame (2016). Her big moment under the sun, so far, has been the Samantha and Lakshmi starrer Oh! Baby (2019).