By PV Durga:
Switching on the TV, watching a Telugu music channel, and ending up watching an audio launch, has pretty much been typical of Sunday evenings. The event would be graced by the who’s who of Tollywood, and marked by loud cheering from an audience (who, I sometimes feel, don’t even know how much of their time they’re wasting on an actor they can’t even manage to get a glimpse of, in all that frenzy). The director and hero shower praises on each other, and in hindsight, realize that it is the music director’s day, and praise him too. The actress is sitting pretty clueless too. Neither can she understand the language (this is probably her debut in Telugu cinema), nor the patriarchal nature of the function, because apart from the compere, there is no other woman on stage; and nobody who talks about her acting skills. That gives me a prelude into how the film is going to be.
So, if you want to watch a movie that has raked in the moolah in the Telugu box office, learn to expect the following:
1) A larger than life actor harping endlessly about the glory of his father/ grandfather, and their achievements/ contribution to Telugu cinema, and, of course, the glory of his whole lineage.
2) An actress who has no idea about what she is doing in the movie, much like her condition in the audio launch. She exists only because the hero can save her and reiterate about the aforementioned glory.
3) Six mandatory songs in exotic locations.
4) A well- built villain who is extremely dumb, whose goons can only attack the hero one by one so that we can see his fighting prowess.
5) Few fight sequences that are every physics students’ nightmare.
Ironically, it is these no- brainers that put me into a contemplative mood when I step out of the theatre. Is it because the makers underestimate the intellect of the audience? Until a few decades ago, directors like Bapu and K. Viswanath gave us some of the finest movies in Indian cinema. Actors appeared in the movies to act, and not harp about their glory or live up to a certain image. Telugu movies received national and even international recognition. Bapu’s movie “Seetha Kalyanam” (1976) was screened at the BFI London Film Festival, among others, and is also part of the course at the British Film Institute. K. Viswanath’s classics swept the National Awards many a times. Telugu cinema also boasts of some of the finest mythological films in cinema history, as well as family dramas. Why is it that now movies like “Jenda Pai Kapiraju”, “Chandamama Kadhalu”, “Aithe”, and others which receive critical acclaim, are unable to sell at the box office? Why is it that a good script still needs faces that sell, and an established production house? Is it true that these “big heroes” and their production houses are sabotaging small cinema and impeding their release?
Sadly, these commercial entertainers are promoted with gusto, and some genuinely good movies go unnoticed. So every time I am part of a conversation at college which is about movies, I am confronted with the question: “Telugu cinema is all about fighting and heroism, right?” I want to strongly oppose that statement, but if 90% of the movies are that way, can I? I too want to boast about movies in my mother tongue, like I can boast about the ones that were made in the past. Is anybody listening?