Sandeep Reddy Vanga was a well known director in the South film industry, before the release of his remake of the cult movie Arjun Reddy, in Hindi as Kabir Singh. Now, the Shahid Kapoor starrer becoming a cult classic in Hindi proves the mettle of South Indian technicians, especially the directors, who can translate their vision to film with astounding creativity and directorial skills.
The Starting Of Telugu Dominance In The North Belt
Telugu films were remade into Hindi, with the initiative of successful Telugu content in the past. Perhaps the first Telugu remake into Hindi which proved to be a cult classic, was Tapi Chanakya’s Ramudu Bheemudu (1964.) The debut product of Suresh Productions had a dream cast, from N.T. Rama Rao, who played his first double role of his illustrious career, to the great S.V. Ranga Rao, Jamuna, L. Vijayalakshmi and Shanta Kumari. This movie was a roaring success.
The famous Vijaya Productions bought the rights of the movie and remade it in Hindi as Ram Aur Shyam (1967,) with the great thespian Dilip Kumar in the dual role, supported by Pran, Nirupa Roy, Waheeda Rehman and Mumtaz.
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Thus began a successful journey of Telugu directors wielding the megaphone in Hindi.
The T. Rama Rao, K.S. Prakasa Rao, K. Raghavendra Rao trio made successful Bollywood movies in the 1970s and 1980s. It is interesting to know the case of Jeetendra, whose career was in the doldrums during the late 1970s. He resurrected his career with a host of Telugu remakes like Suntan (1971,) a remake of the Dasari Narayana Rao movie Tata Manavadu, Udhar Ka Sindur (1976,) a remake of the NTR starrer Manushullo Devudu, Jay Vijay (1977,) a remake of the B. Vittalacharya folklore, Chikkadu Dorakadu and Dildaar (1977,) a remake of the D. Rama Naidu product Soggadu.
Jeetendra, in a media interaction once said he built his career in an era ruled by Amitabh Bachchan, due to the great films from the South, which he remade with the help of his producers and directors.
Jeetendra’s biggest triumph was the relaunching movie of Sridevi by K. Raghavendra Rao in 1983 with Himmatwala. This movie was the remake of his Telugu directorial Ooriki Monagadu, starring Krishna and Jayaprada. K. Raghavendra Rao gave hit after hit to Jeetendra in the form of Jaani Dost (1983,) Justice Chaudhury (1983) and Tohfa (1984,) all remakes of Telugu movies.
K. Bapaiah and T. Rama Rao also form a part of Tollywood directors who made successful careers in the North.
K. Bapaiah made Mawaali (1983,) a remake of his Telugu Chuttalunnaru Jagratta. The movie was a big hit. Similarly, T. Rama Rao made Yeh Desh (1984,) Maqsad (1984,) which were also blockbusters. Veteran Tollywood director Dasari Narayana Rao made Swarg Narak (1978,) Prem Tapsaya (1983,) and many other movies with Jeetendra as he went on to become a legend in Bollywood.
The Resurgence of Tollywood Directors In The 1990s
The name of Ram Gopal Varma resounded in Bollywood as a trendsetting filmmaker who was responsible for the renaissance of Bollywood cinema. His Rangeela (1995,) Satya (1998) and Company (2002) set the template to make a commercial movie with a gangster subject and a commercial love story.
The 2000s: The Bahubali Onslaught
The change of the millennium saw the emergence of many technicians, music directors and other crafts people from the South who established a great dominance in Bollywood. The emergence of Mani Ratnam’s Roja (1992,) with A.R. Rahman’s music, made the Bollywood industry take note of the brilliance of South cinema. Slowly, the Bollywood industry HAD to open its doors to the talent from the South, as the great director Bharathiraja once said in an interview.
Filmmakers like Boney Kapoor and Aamir Khan opted for southern directors to do their remake movies in Hindi. However, the advent of S.S. Rajamouli and his social fantasy Magadheera (2009) and Eega (2012,) which were stupendous commercial movies with great storytelling, made Bollywood marvel at the commercial viability of the medium of cinema in the South.
Slowly, the gates opened with the Bahubali series in 2015 and 2017. The movie underscored the talent of Telugu technicians in Bollywood, which made Karan Johar declare S.S. Rajamouli as the greatest showman of Indian cinema in the 21st century. Karan mentioned this in his autobiography and he also praised Rajamouli when Bahubali 2: The Conclusion released in 2017.
At the time, Karan Johar tweeted, “This decade and many to follow will always belong to him. Salute and Respect forever. S S Rajamouli is the new super hero! #baahubaliman (sic).”
Johar also said, “We cannot make movies like Baahubali here in Bollywood because, we don’t have Rajamouli (sic.)”
The current hit Kabir Singh and the news trending of Salman Khan planning to make a movie with Sandeep Reddy Vanga, reasserts the fact Telugu cinema has become a haven of inspiration and technicians from the South, are more sought out for Hindi projects.
With Saaho hitting the screens of the North in August 2019 and the increasing fanfare for Prabhas and other Telugu heroes in Bollywood, the Telugu flag is flying high in Bollywood.
Truly, this is the era of Telugu renaissance in Bollywood.