Has the South bubble burst? Or was it never really there? An analysis

The South Indian wave began after the huge success in Hindi of Allu Arjun’s Pushpa: The Rise—Part 1. Photo: Universal Communications

Three into 15 won’t go!

Yes, precisely! The hype about everything South Indian in Hindi cinema has resulted in precisely three hits, admittedly huge ones, since December 2021: Pushpa: The Rise—Part 1, KGF 2 and RRR. R. Madhavan’s Rocketry, though essentially made with a South Indian team by this actor and debut-making director, was designed as a multi-lingual release and was an average as well as critical success.

The flipside (“flopside”?!) sees a long list, and includes even movies that proved blockbusters down South like Kamal Haasan’s Vikram (also featuring Vijay Sethupati) and PS-1 (both 2022) and PS-2 (2023) as well as hits there like last year’s Vikrant Rona and Major (this film was based around Mumbai’s 26/11 and its hero Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan and was designed as a multi-lingual).

It goes on to include Thalaivi, August 16 1947, Shaakuntalam, Underworld Ka Kabzaa and last year’s RAW, Liger and Radhe Shyam—each an unqualified disaster in Hindi, with the latest release, Chatrapathi, unlikely to face a different fate. This writer has watched many of these films and found them usually too long and tedious.

So has the South bubble burst? Or was it never really there?

Yash in KGF 2. Photo: Spice PR

Opines veteran trade analyst Taran Adarsh: “I would say that the Bahubali franchise, Pushpa…, KGF 2 and RRR became like events, because they did so well. Today, such films will definitely do well, assuming good content as always. I expect Pushpa 2 to take a blockbuster opening, ditto the next Rajamouli film in Hindi. So in a nutshell, it is about event-based cinema, so to speak.”

How true is it that today, pan-India, South Indian heroes like Ram Charan, NTR Jr., Allu Arjun and Prabhas mean and matter much more to the public than the younger heroes from Mumbai? Terming this fact accurate, Taran replies that even Mahesh Babu, who is likely to do the next Rajamouli film as per the buzz, will be added to the list. “The stars there do entertainment-based films, and it is always a star-driven market in the South. So is it in Mumbai, but our stars should do good films with strong scripts.”

Looking at facts, Ranveer Singh has done weak films in a row, ditto Varun Dhawan and Arjun Kapoor. Tiger Shroff’s only recent hit, War, top-lined Hrithik Roshan and cannot primarily be called his movie, while Sidharth Malhotra’s best recent films, Shershaah and Mission Majnu, were both OTT releases.

Heroes like Prabhas, Allu Arjun, NTR Jr. and Ram Charan matter more than Mumbai heroes to the country today. Photo: Publicity Photo

Taran states that he expects humongous openings for WAR 2 wherein NTR Jr. joins Hrithik Roshan, and ditto for Adipurush, which, though directed by Om Raut from Mumbai, features Prabhas as Lord Ram. But wasn’t the initial teaser of Adipurush panned as it was tepid? “That does not matter,” says Taran. “Ramayan is one of our basic texts. The emotions are very string and universally identifiable.”

What does he think, then, of this trend of South Indian actors doing lead or major parallel roles in Hindi movies? “It’s great that the lines between cinemas are blurring. And box-office-wise, it will be a major plus for all!” he says.

Vijay Sethupati, for example, plays a key negative role in Jawan, Shah Rukh Khan’s home production, just as Sanjay Dutt had done in KGF 2. Prabhas, besides Adipurush with Kriti Sanon, is doing a few films of which Salaar will also be designed as a pan-Indian release as it is directed by KGF 2 fame Prashant Neel. His Project K is being directed by Nag Ashwin with Amitabh Bachchan and Deepiak Padukone as co-stars. Much can be expected also from Ram Charan’s Game Changer, which will also be probably designed as an Indian release and stars Kiara Advani. NTR Jr.’s NTR 30 also features Janhvi Kapoor and Saif Ali Khan, who incidentally plays Raavan, the key antagonist, in Adipurush.

Quite naturally, these projects are grander and look more appealing on paper than many Hindi films on the floors, including some with front-line stars. Last but not the least, buzz is that Aamir Khan just might do a negative role in a film directed by Prashanth Neel.

So what is it that will drive people to the cinema halls across India after the pandemic and all its economic ramifications? “Larger than life, star-driven entertainment,” replies Taran. “Of course, exceptions like The Kerala Story will always be there. So the bottom-line will always be relatable content.”



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