2017 was a glorious year for Telugu cinema with many hits, new stars on the block, and celebrities who made news for all the right and wrong reasons.
2017 couldn’t have been a better year for Telugu cinema with films like Baahubali 2 and Khaidi No 150 setting the cash registers ringing.
From SS Rajamouli’s epic drama to Sekhar Kammula’s pleasantly surprising Fidaa, it was a year which had something for everyone.
Here are 10 things that hogged the limelight this year in the Telugu film industry.
Team Baahubali 2 SS Rajamouli’s magnum opus
Baahubali 2 was the biggest film to have emerged from Tollywood in 2017. It broke the myth that there can’t be a pan-Indian film in contemporary Indian cinema.
From Punjab to Kerala, the film received a unanimous thumbs up from the critics and audiences alike. But more than that, the success turned SS Rajamouli into a national treasure and for once, a Telugu film soared high on a national scale.
The film, starring Prabhas, Anushka, Rana Daggubati, Tamannaah, Ramya Krishna and Sathyaraj, was hailed for its storytelling, visual effects, production design, music. No wonder, it went on to amass a jaw-dropping Rs 1600 crores and more at the box-office.
In Hindi alone, the film crossed Rs 500 crores (nett), a first for any film in Bollywood so far.
Chiranjeevi returns to the arena; Rajasekhar defies all odds
Megastar Chiranjeevi returned to the silver screen for his first full-fledged role in more than nine years with Khaidi No 150. Directed by VV Vinayak, the film was a remake of Kaththi; however, it was the sight of Chiranjeevi dancing to the tunes of ‘Ammadu Let’s Do Kummudu’ which turned into euphoria across cinema halls in January this year.
The film also proved that Chiranjeevi’s mojo hasn’t diminished at all despite the long hiatus from films. On the other hand, 2017 was also a special year for actor Rajasekhar who scored his first hit in more than 15 years or so, thanks to Praveen Sattaru’s PSV Garuda Vega. The film’s success was the answer to all the critics and naysayers who questioned Praveen Sattaru about why he was working with Rajasekhar in first place.
The drug scandal
Tollywood faced the heat from a special investigation team (SIT), which questioned several high-profile celebrities including Ravi Teja, Puri Jagannadh, Navdeep, Mumaith Khan, Subba Raju to name a few.
The events leading up to this interrogation were dramatic to say the least. Soon after news broke out that hundreds of teenagers in some of the most renowned schools of Hyderabad had become victims of drug abuse, a drug dealer is also said to have named several celebrities from the Telugu film industry as his clients.
Days after questioning all these celebs, the SIT didn’t arrest anyone. But it did send a strong signal that drug abuse is a criminal offence.
Balakrishna pulls off a big surprise
His 100th film Gautamiputra Satakarni got everyone talking about the actor’s ability to pull off a historical drama and it went on to become the biggest hit in Balakrishna’s career. But that’s hardly the most surprising news that we heard about the actor in 2017.
In November, when the AP state government announced its Nandi awards for 2014, 2015 and 2016, it came as a huge shock to everyone that Balakrishna was chosen as the Best Actor for his film Legend. Incidentally, the film also won the Nandi Award for Best Feature Film in a year when other films like Manam and Race Gurram too were in contention. Let’s just say, we were as surprised as you are.
Pawan Kalyan’s political run begins
After nearly three years, Pawan Kalyan finally became quite active in the political scenario. Right from meeting students to understand their aspirations to addressing an august gathering at Harvard, 2017 was a busy year for Pawan Kalyan.
The actor-and-politician also outlined the principles of his political party ‘Jana Sena’ and he began an unique recruitment drive, where aspirants were required to clear a written exam to become a member of the party. That’s not all. Pawan Kalyan was quite forthright about his political views, even if it meant standing up to TDP and BJP’s policies at the state and the central level.
Dil Raju’s double hattrick
Dil Raju, one of Telugu cinema’s biggest producers, is on cloud nine and quite rightfully so. He created a sensation by scoring six hits back-to-back in 2017 alone, a unique record in recent times.
No other producer has had such a glorious run in a single year. Period. Starting from Sharwanand’s Shatamanam Bhavati, Dil Raju tasted success with Nenu Local, Duvvada Jagannadham, Fidaa, Raja The Great, and finally MCA. The producer even celebrated the success of this defining moment in his career by inviting all the actors and directors, who worked with him in 2017, and felicitated each one of them at a grand ceremony.
When Spyder was first announced, with Mahesh Babu playing the lead role, the general consensus was that it just couldn’t go wrong. After all, it was being directed by AR Murugadoss, who had films like Thuppaki and Kaththi to his credit in recent times. The film was produced with a budget of more than Rs 100 crores and it was billed as one of the most expensive south Indian films at the time of its release.
However, the result came as a rude shock to everyone who was betting big on the film. The story, which was based on an intelligence officer’s race against time to stop a psycho from wrecking havoc in a city, didn’t resonate with the masses and it was one of the biggest flops of the year at the box-office.
It was a fairytale wedding that was made of the stuff of dreams. That Naga Chaitanya and Samantha were going to get married in 2017 was on everyone’s mind, and the wedding itself lived up to the buzz surrounding the grand ceremony.
Prior to his son’s wedding, Nagarjuna had told the media that it’s going to be a private affair with only close friends and family members attending the event. The wedding took place in Goa, and later, the family threw a grand reception in Chennai and Hyderabad.
If we had to pick one moment which made everyone smile, it was the sight of Naga Chaitanya and Samantha saying ‘I Do’ at the wedding ceremony.
A new ray of hope
For the longest time, Telugu film industry had come under the scanner for not offering strong characters to women actors. However, 2017 had a different story to tell. In Sai Pallavi, Anushka, Shalini Pandey, Nivetha Thomas, Nivetha Pethuraj, Eesha, and Rakul Preet, the industry found a new ray of hope.
While Anushka turned her role (Devasena) in Baahubali 2 into a warrior queen who commanded respect and admiration in equal measure, Sai Pallavi made us fall in love with her onscreen persona in Fidaa. And then, there were others like Nivetha Thomas and Nivetha Pethuraj who delivered strong performances in Ninnu Kori and Mental Madhilo respectively.
Rakul Preet too made her mark with her role in Rarandoi Veduka Choodham.
A new star is born
If one had to pick the Best Actor in 2017, it all narrows down to two choices - Prabhas (Baahubali 2) and Vijay Devarakonda (Arjun Reddy). Baahubali 2 was testimony to Prabhas’ unrelenting faith in SS Rajamouli and his portrayal of the lead character, Amarendra Baahubali was his best yet.
And then, the Telugu film industry found a new star in Vijay Devarakonda who stunned everyone in Arjun Reddy. The sight of a man who broke every rule that defines what a Telugu film hero can do on screen is hard to forget after watching Vijay hogging the limelight in Arjun Reddy. Clearly, the contest will go down the wire between the two.
SREEKAR PRASAD HAS WORKED WITH MURUGADOSS IN PROJECTS SUCH AS THUPPAKKI AND SPYDER.
After delivering blockbusters such as Thuppakki and Kaththi, filmmaker AR Murugadoss and actor Vijay are teaming up for the third time for Thalapathy 62and the project is likely to roll from December this year, reliable sources have confirmed. While it has already been confirmed that Girish Gangadharan, the young lensman whose recent work includes Kali and Solo, has been signed on for the project, it has been learnt that well-known editor Sreekar Prasad, who has worked with Murugadoss in projects such as Thuppakki and Spyder, is also part of the project. The rest of the cast and crew will be finalised soon.
Sun Pictures, best known for producing Rajinikanth’s Enthiran, will bankroll the project on a lavish budget. Double Oscar-winning composer AR Rahman is in talks with the makers of the film even while Anirudh Ravichander and GV Prakash Kumar, both known for their successful collaboration with Vijay in films such as Kaththi and Theri respectively, are also said to be in discussions to join the project.
The yet-untitled film was supposed to happen even before Theri, but for reasons unknown it was delayed and is finally taking shape. During the release of Akira, his last Hindi outing, Murugadoss had confirmed that a project with Vijay is on the cards. In 2013, he had also tweeted that he will be reuniting with Vijay and he is thrilled about it. It’s tipped to be another action entertainer from Murugadoss, who who is under tremendous pressure to deliver following the debacle of SPYder, his bilingual film with Mahesh Babu. Murugadoss is currently giving final touches to the script which is tipped to be an action entertainer.
All eyes are on Thalapathy 62 as the combination of Vijay and Murugadoss has set the bar very high. Two of Vijay's best films in recent years have come from Murugadoss and it naturally has built high anticipation around their next project. It is believed that the project is being planned as a Diwali 2018 release. It might even come earlier if completed on time. Otherwise, the makers will look for a very good festival release date. Banking in the phenomenal success of Mersal, Vijay will be hoping to continue his winning streak with this project.
THE TRICK IS TO BALANCE THE "MASS" MOMENTS WITH GOOD CONTENT.
In Tamil cinema, writing a good screenplay for a huge star is a herculean task. On one side, you have to play to the gallery to please the actor’s ardent fans. At the same time, you need to have enough going to keep other viewers engaged. But unfortunately, most times, the makers end up giving us the “been there, seen it umpteen times” feeling.
Let’s take some of the movies of such stars in recent times. Movies like Theri and Vedalam still carry the “predictable” Baasha hangover in which the hero has a past that many are not aware of. Kabali brought out the actor in Rajnikanth after a while but failed to give the thrills you expect from his movies. Singam 2 and 3 didn’t have anything new to offer like the first film did.
A lot of movies do not even try.
In the last five years of Tamil cinema, two instances that come to mind when a superstar movie offered immense repeat value would be Thuppakki and Kaththi. Both were Vijay movies. Both had A.R Murugadoss at the helm of screenplay and dialogues along with direction.
Kaththi completed 3 years on October 22nd. Thuppakki would complete 5 years this November 13th. Here is a look at various nuances in the screenwriting of A.R Murugadoss that make these two movies great entertainers:
Be imaginative: In Thuppakki, when Jagadish (Vijay) finds out that the sleeper cell has planned to detonate bombs at 12 places in Mumbai at the same time, he gets the help of his eleven army friends, gives directions to them over phone and kills all the sleeper agents.
In Kaththi, when Chirag (Neil Nitin Mukesh) sends 50 men to get rid of Kathiresan (Vijay), he asks his friend to quickly switch off and switch on the mains whenever he flips a coin – a trick that lets him attack the men when they cannot see him.
There is a good chance that this is not how you expected these heroes to handle the situations. The central theme of these movies doesn’t deviate from the protagonist who is a saviour of the community. But Murugadoss’s success lies in writing sequences like these that viewers haven’t seen before. It keeps them guessing.
Consistent one-upmanship between Villain and Hero: A villain who thinks one step ahead of the hero – that is as rare a sight as could be in a Tamil superstar movie. In Thuppakki, until the short brain freeze in the climax where he decides to take Vijay one-on-one, the sleeper cell leader (played by Vidyut Jammwal) gave us one of the cleverest bad guys Tamil cinema has ever produced.
The character interestingly didn’t even have a name in the movie.
In a sequence that showcases the villain’s skills, he gets pretty close to narrowing down the group of people who killed his men just from the dress they were wearing that day. When the hero hacks into his kidnap plan and sends his sister as one of the hostages, the cat and mouse game between them gets really exciting.
Kaththi might not have had a villain as well etched out as Thuppakki. But even he could give the hero some serious headaches when he faked the signatures of 2300 villagers in support of the factory- those who couldn't come to India and deny the claim.
Dialogues that resonate with viewers: In Thuppakki, when his friend asks Jagadish why he needed to give up his life to kill the villain, he replies –“If those who want to kill thousands of people are ready to sacrifice their lives, why can’t we sacrifice ours too to protect people”.
In Kaththi, during the press conference, Kathiresan asks –“When we are hungry thrice a day, we remember food. But have we thought about the farmers who give us that food any day?”
Entertainment was obviously the first priority of these movies. But both Thuppakki and Kaththi could also make us think about our soldiers and farmers respectively while our eyes were on the screen. What helped the cause were such well written dialogues.
Well placed whistle worthy moments: Now regardless of all other factors, Murugadoss doesn’t forget the most important thing in a superstar movie – produce the whistle worthy moments. He doesn't mind waiting to create these moments.
Kaththi saw a deviation from the usual routine of having a hero perform a fight immediately after he is introduced. The first fight doesn’t happen until the two foreign ladies arrive in disguise to attack Kathiresan and we were treated to one of Vijay’s finest choreographed stunt sequences.
In Thuppakki, when Jagadish finally reaches the location where his sister is kidnapped, you first see the dog and then hear a gunshot. Vijay then slowly emerges out of the smoke with Harris Jayaraj’s thumping score in the background.
In Kaththi, Chirag who is watching the live news on TV thinks he has won the battle after he had ties up Jeevanandam in his room. But then, Kathiresan comes out of the water pipeline, this time against Anirudh’s BGM.
To write these two sequences in this exact same way is what matters. In Thuppakki, when the sleeper cell leader speaks to Jagadish the first time over phone, the latter listens patiently to all the threats on the other side, nods his head and just says –“I am waiting”. Then "interval" appears on the screen.
The same set of words, which is used once again for Kaththi’s interval, has today grown into an iconic one-liner.
In Kaththi, another smart technique used is to establish Kathiresan’s expertise with blueprints at the beginning itself in jail. Which meant that when he asks for the blueprint of Chennai city later to shut down the source of the water, the moment has already earned its right to be "mass".
A.R Murugadoss might not have been able to enjoy the same success that he had with Thuppakki and Kaththi in his new Telugu film – Spyder. But his next project, in which he teams up with Vijay again, carries huge expectations. Because one is a superstar whose energy levels has still seen no dent. Another is a writer-director who knows how to use this star to his full advantage. This is a lethal combination any day.
Maan Karate, the first official summer release, has take a good opening and the film is a blockbuster hit. Starring Siva Karthikeyan and Hansika, it has been directed by Thirukumaran an associate of AR Murugadoss. Incidentally, ARM had penned the story of the film apart from co-producing it.
Released on April 4th, 2014, the film’s box office collections have been revealed by credible trade sources. We hear that Maan Karate has grossed 7.71 crores at the Chennai box office during this 10-day period and the worldwide collections amounted to 35.61 crores.
Director AR Murugadoss is not only one of the producers of Maan Karate but has also authored the story. Speaking at the success meet of this film, the ace director-producer said that Sivakarthikeyan is completely fit to do comedy roles and if he ever thinks of moving over to the more serious genre, then it should be done gradually. A sudden shift will not be beneficial to the actor, stated the director.
AR Murugadoss added that he always wanted to introduce new talents to the film industry and with Maan Karate, he has done it once again by giving an opportunity to his assistant Thirukumaran to prove his mettle.
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