Telugu filmmakers go back to the villages
With rural films striking gold at the box office, we ask filmmakers why our audiences are taking to them
The success of films like Shatamanam Bhavati, Fidaa, Rangasthalam, RX 100 and Srinivasa Kalyanam is showing that filmmakers have made a return to our villages to come up with successful stories. It’s not just about skyscrapers and men in suits; capturing the rustic charm and the innocence of rural people can also do the trick, as shown by filmmakers like Satish Vegesna and Sukumar.
Director Satish Vegesna, who made his debut with National Award-winning family entertainer, Shatamanam Bhavati, a film about an aged landlord and his wife in Atreyapuram village, has now arrived with another rural offering, Srinivasa Kalyanam. This film is set in a village called Sakhinetipally in East Godavari district, with the story being about the sanctity of marriage.
He reveals that the film has all the trademark shots one would associate with the genre, including those of expansive greenery, paddy fields, coconut trees, and “the earth itself (putta mannu),” says Satish, who believes that village films are his forte.
“I like making films that are about our traditions, sentiments, and culture. Even though we got jobs in metropolitan cities, we are a generation that belongs to the villages. I think emotions get conveyed better in such an atmosphere. Also, we find joint families only in villages these days, and films based on such themes resonate with their people.” He’s quick to clarify, “I’m not saying urban people don’t have emotions, but the love and affection we see in villages is purer. This is why the audience is able to feel the bliss of being in a big family.”
The advantage of making these films, according to Satish, is that they also help kindle nostalgia in older viewers. “These films help them recollect life in their younger days. Watching these films remind us of the importance of the basics and help us understand ourselves better,” he says.
Actor-director Anand Ravi, who made Napoleon, is prepping for his next, Zindabad, a contemporary political drama set in a village. “In a village with even 1,000 or 10,000 people, they know each other by names. Stories set in a village help the writer distinguish between good and bad in an easier way,” he says. “Zindabad is a film about local-body elections. The audience will find this story very relatable. As for those not used to life in the villages, they will be fascinated to learn about it. Watching a rural story is like meeting a long-lost childhood friend.”
Actor Karthikeya points out that the acceptance of stories like his debut film RX 100 is an indication of the audience's changing taste. "The success of our film gave us hope that the audience rewards novel content. Having the rural setting as the backdrop made the story feel familiar. The story is raw and rooted, and we find such characters only in villages. It feels happy to have come up with a film that comes straight from our heartland."
Director Sukumar’s Rangasthalam starring Ram Charan and Samantha has emerged as the highest grosser of the industry. Although parts of the film were shot on specially constructed sets, the real story begins in a hamlet near the almost-submerged Polavaram Project.
“I spent over 20 years of my life in my village (Mattaparru) near Razole. I always wanted to incorporate some of my childhood memories in my films. After Nannaku Prematho, one of my friends told me that my films are lacking in nativity. It was only then that I have decided to make a rustic drama, Rangasthalam. A lot of characters in that film are inspired by the people my associates and I have met in our lives. The performances, landscapes and the emotions in the film struck a chord with the audience,” he says. “Those who don’t live in villages were excited to have a new experience. The success of Rangasthalam has inspired me to make more films set in villages.”
Going by the success of these films, it's evident that filmmakers are not just relying on larger-than-life roles, over-the-top heroism, and extravagant foreign locations. Making films that dig deep into our culture and traditions seems to do the trick too.