The Pre-Bahubali phase: When South stars were jinxed in Hindi cinema

Rajinikanth in 2.0. He was one of the pioneers of the South influx in Hindi cinema, way back in the 1980s. Photo: Publicity Photo

Unlike today, there was a long phase of several decade when male South stars had a tough time in Hindi cinema.

Hindi cinema has always imported actresses from the South, including Vyjayanthimala and Waheeda Rehman, who became big stars here. Hema Malini too would perform dances and small roles in films there.

Padmini, B. Saroja Devi, Bharati and some others also tried to make a mark in Hindi cinema, and the second phase of top names in Hindi cinema came in the 1970s with Sridevi (1978) and Jayapradha (1989). There also was this trend of some North Indian-origin actresses starting out there and then coming Hindi cinema-wards—a list illustriously led by Priyanka Chopra Jonas in stature and also comprising names like Taapsee and more.

But actors were a totally different story! This was mainly because their looks and personae did not fit the concept of a pan-Indian Hindi film hero. And while most of the girls were expert dancers as well, the males never had that advantage either! Gemini Ganesan, Sivaji Ganesan (he also produced some Hindi movies), N.T. Rama Rao and Akkineni Nageswara Rao all did Hindi films and bilinguals and even a few of M.G. Ramachandran’s films were dubbed in Hindi.

The Pioneers

Kamal Haasan:

The first time that South heroes truly made a mark was in the early 1980s. Kamal Haasan, who had done a blink-and-miss cameo in Aaina (1974), became big after the smash success of Ek Duuje Ke Liye (1981), in which he played a South Indian. He had a second success in Sanam Teri Kasam, but could not muster the same hit quotient later, and but for stray dubbed films like Appu Raja and Hindustani, could not be a pan-Indian hit star.


The other icon made an entry with swag in a bigger blockbuster, Andhaa Kaanoon, in 1983, but again could not sustain because no subsequently film matched its excellence or success. In the dubbed films arena, he did strike it big for a while with Sivaji—The Boss, Robot and 2.0 almost a quarter of a century later.

The Others

Arvind Swamy

Arvind Swamy became a popular name in the mid-1990s after the dubbed Roja and Bombay, but failed to be accepted in pure Hindi films like Saat Rang Ke Sapne and Raja Ko Rani Se Pyar Ho Gaya.


The superstar could not make a mark despite the successes of his first two (of three) Hindi films—Pratibandh and Aaj Ka Goondaraj.

Dhanush began with Raanjhanaa but did not make the right choices. Photo: Publicity Photo


While Raanjhana was a tepid success, Dhanush’s Shamitabh, VIP-2 and Atrangi Re failed the box-office test. And Dhanush had to take a ‘bow’ (Dhanush!) from Hindi films.

Good performances in films that did not make the b-o. grade marked Mammootty’s son Dulquer Salmaan’s Hindi career. Photo: Publicity Photo

Dulquer Salmaan

Mammooty’s son fared several shades better than his father in Hindi films, with good performances in films as varied as Karvaan and Chupp. Though he may still do the occasional Hindi film, he is not a star here.


Mammootty was cast only in one Hindi film—the 1993 Dhartiputra, in which Rishi Kapoor also was in the lead. It bombed. And the dubbed Dalpati bombed too.


The Malayalam superstar ventured Mumbai-wards only once: in Company (2002).


Nagarjuna made his debut in the 1990 Shiva but again could not sustain despite a couple of forgettable Hindi assignments. His recent cameo in Brahmastra was appreciated, but is past his prime now.

Prabhu Deva

The choreographer made a mark with Humse Hain Muqabala (the dubbed Hindi version of Kaadhalan) but never made a big impact. His subsequent dubbed Hindi movies were washouts, like Chhaila and Love Birds. He then switched successfully to choreography and even direction (Wanted, Rowdy Rathore) here, in which he had a mixed innings, and returned as a character artiste and hero with movies like the ABCD franchise and others. But stardom in Hindi films has eluded him.

Prithviraj Sukumaran

Prithviraj Sukumaran made a disastrous debut with Aiyya but played strong characters in Aurangzeb and Naam Shabana, in which was the villain. His recent co-production, Selfiee, in which he did not star, ranks as Akshay Kumar’s lowest opener in the last decade.Before WAR 2, which will star NTR Jr., he is nevertheless  the only South hero to do a Yash Raj film.

Ram Charan, Chiranjeevi’s son made his debut in the flop phase of South heroes in Hindi cinema but has now acted in the blockbuster RRR. Photo: Publicity Photo

Ram Charan

Chiranjeevi’s son first made his debut with the 2013 Zanjeer, a terrible remake of an iconic film: his father had done its successful Telugu remake years back. After RRR, last year, he has, however, made a mark and is the only South star common to both the jinxed phase of Hindi cinema and the new ‘pan-Indian’ movement where South heroes are identified more than some Mumbai heroes by the audiences!

Rana Daggubati

Rana Daggubati was a part of the Bahubali franchise that turned the tide for the dakshini hero in Hindi cinema, but as a part of earlier films like Dum Maaro Dum, Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani and Housefull 4 (both cameos), is not really a force in the Hindi reckoning. And against the successful Baby, there were non-starters like Department and Haathi Mere Saathi that undid his Hindi prospects.


The South star made a small impression in Rang De Basanti but could not keep up the impact. Striker never struck anywhere and Chashme Baddoor saw him lost in a young male ensemble with Rishi Kapoor and Taapsee dominating.


There was some kind of promise in his debut hit, Anari, but Taqdeerwala undid that and now, Venkatesh attempted a character role in Kisi Ka Bhai Kisi Ki Jaan.


Arguably the least successful of the South actors in Hindi cinema, Vikram, who first appeared in Mani Rathnam’s Raavan, also had further flops like David, I and the films that have become raging hits down South but flops across the country—the PS franchise.



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