Tollywood round up 2021
As 2021 comes to an end, here's a look at what happened in Telugu cinema
2021, for me, is a year of pleasant surprises. The industry not only believed in the small is big theory, but also proved that the masala entertainers of big stars will have a solid run at the box office when they have a good storyline.
I must say it was a year when both the big-budget crowd-pleasers and small-budget critically acclaimed films cast a magical spell at the ticket window. The audience lapped up good content, and at the same time, rejected the ones which fail to strike a chord with them.
The year started with a bang and is ending that way. The second wave of the pandemic worried the filmmakers for a few months with some of them striking a deal with streaming platforms which emerged as a silver lining during these trying times. The industry, however, coped better after July, but we saw an increase in the footfalls only in December.
With the evolving tastes of the audience asserting again that content is king, young actors have shown interest in teaming up with new directors. Undoubtedly, 2021 saw the directorial debuts of some fine talents.
Director Buchi Babu Sana’s Uppena is easily the most exciting film of the year. As a film that discusses social strata divisions, this rustic love story was quite new in the records of Telugu cinema. It also introduced two promising stars in Panja Vaisshnav Tej and Krithi Shetty.
Director Anudeep KV’s Jathi Ratnalu, which was loaded with madcap humour is a delight to watch. With no big stars, the film managed to rake in the moolah and emerged as the audiences' favourite. Jathi Ratnalu also marked the debut of Hyderabadi-girl Faria Abdullah, who is making rapid strides in the industry.
Several other small-budget releases too moved away from the beaten track and commended much applause. These include Naandhi (Vijay Kanakamedala), Ninnila Ninnila (Ani I V Sasi), Chaavu Kaburu Challaga (Koushik Pegallapati), Cinema Bandi (Praveen Kandregula), Raja Raja Chora (Hasith Goli), Net (Bhargav Macharla), Aakashavani (Ashwin Gangaraju), Adbhutam (Mallik Ram), Skylab (Vishwak Khanderao) and Gamanam (Sujana Rao). The year also saw films like Ram Pothineni’s Red, Pradeep Machiraju’s 30 Rojullo Preminchadam Ela, Teja Sajja’s Zombie Reddy, Pawan Kalyan-starrer Vakeel Saab and Akhil Akkineni’s Most Eligible Bachelor, which have become big talking points in particular.
Rise of The Young Brigade
While top heroes seem to be taking it slow with just one or two releases a year, the young actors have been busy as they straddle multiple films. Actor Satyadev Kancharana is setting a new bar of excellence and this year, he proved his unmatched versatility in a slew of films. His first release of the year, Pitta Kathalu, an anthology of four stories, showcases him as a struggling writer, who has an unsanctioned romance with his ex. In Thimmarasu, he played a quick-witted lawyer, who probes a case to prove a wrongly convicted person innocent. In Skylab, he plays a doctor, who is in need of money to get his revoked licence back. Another actor who is showing great potential as an emerging star is Panja Vaisshnav Tej. The youngster impressed both critics and audience with his acting prowess in Uppena and Kondapolam.
Stars Who Missed Out
Some of Telugu cinema's biggest stars such as Chiranjeevi, Mahesh Babu, Jr NTR, Prabhas and Ram Charan had no releases this year. Heroines Anushka Shetty and Raashi Khanna were also missing in action. On the other hand, senior actors Nagarjuna and Venkatesh had releases like Wild Dog, Narappa and Drushyam 2, respectively, but unfortunately, these films didn’t get a rousing reception.
November 30 left millions of Telugus heartbroken when the shocking demise of legendary lyricist Sirivennela Seetharama Sastry was announced. The 66-year-old actor died of lung cancer at a private hospital in the city. The year also saw the passing of ace choreographer and actor Shiva Shankar Master (November 28), producer Mahesh Koneru (October 12), actor Jayanthi (July 26), and Potti Veeraiah (April 25).
Tepid reception was meted out to actors Nithiin, Sai Dharam Tej, Sharwanand, Rana Daggubati, Sundeep Kishan, Sudheer Babu, Naga Shaurya and Kartikeya Gummakonda, all of whom suffered major setbacks this year with their respective releases getting panned.
Actors Naga Chaitanya and Sai Pallavi are back to winning ways with Love Story. Directed by Sekhar Kammula, the film effectively takes on the dynamics of the caste disparities and some significant issues encountered by women.
After a hat-trick of flops, Nandamuri Balakrishna redeemed himself with Akhanda. The Boyapati Sreenu directorial relied solely on Balakrishna’s star power and the 61-year-old actor delivered a knockout punch at the box office. The film has not only revived the fortunes of Balayya but also paved way for other big films.
With a refined sense of visual storytelling director Sukumar's Pushpa: The Rise has set the box office on fire. The film traverses the journey of a coolie who rises through the ranks of a powerful sandalwood smuggling syndicate. Allu Arjun, who was seen in the titular role, gave his career-best performance and the film became the highest grosser of 2021.
Actor Nani too impressed with Shyam Singha Roy, a story of a revolutionary writer, who fights against caste inequalities and the exploitative Devadasi system.
Although some actors may have had it tough to get going, you still have to say that it's been a successful year for Telugu cinema, especially from the perspective of the people who wanted the industry to prosper in these uncertain times. It appears that Telugu cinema is poised for an exciting start with some of the most-awaited films arriving soon this New Year.