Telugu Movies Then And Now
I must admit this. I am an unbashful Telugu Cinema fan. From a cult classic like Mayabazar to a lazy trashy movie which airs on Gemini Movies on a Monday afternoon, I would watch everything as long as it is a Telugu movie! For me, Telugu movies are a religion by itself and define my thoughts, emotions, and at times even beliefs about life. I am even sure that it is the same for many Telugu movie fans in every nook and corner of the two Telugu states, as well as spread over the world. However, the quality of films from the time I grew up ( predominantly 90s) until now has drastically changed and even transformed.
Well, my attempt here is not to say that Telugu Cinema’s quality has come down. But the quality of a mass film or a masala film has also come down to some abysmal levels and Telugu folks are being tolerant of such films too. While watching Indraganti Mohanakrishna’s latest film Sammohanam, it triggered a chain of thoughts on how an average commercial Telugu film has turned out to.
Here is a formula which I devised from a typical Telugu Film format:
Preferably a middle-aged common man, who is bashed by his father and pampered by his mother. Has a sister who has little say in the mainstream storyline. He comes off with a peppy introduction song and often shown as useless idiot (there is a stream of movie titles with such abuses- I leave the list to your imagination!).
She is usually either a damsel in distress waiting for the hero to come and rescue her from the chains of villains. In all probability, she will be a rich woman wearing modern dresses initially but after hero pouring in some gyan to her (either by slapping, or saving from goons) changing to a ‘neatly ‘ dressed woman (sarees or salwars). Her job is to romance the hero, wear glamorous dresses, dance along with the hero and stand blank while the hero trashes 100 goons in flashy sand blowing shots.
Well, he should be greatly built (that’s why we opt for north Indian middle-aged men) and should have no brains whatsoever. Even if the takeoff is great for the villain, somewhere he loses the mind and comes to the feet of the hero. He is usually rich or with the political influence of his father (who is a bit more cunning).
Rest of them are either hero’s brainless friends, heroine’s friends (who are definitely less beautiful or de-glamorized versions of the heroine), a supposedly forced comedy track, which has no say with the original storyline. And yes, an item song involving the hero dancing along with the sleazy item girl in the villain’s den!
Sounds familiar? Storylines of this sort were made into hundreds of movies and also scored success and awards (Yes!). Telugu Cinema has fallen to a comfort zone where this formula is believed like gospel and it will work for the producers. No matter how many films come in this formula, it will inevitably click. But aren’t we getting into the comfort level trap which is making the filmmakers cease to experiment?
Experimentation In Telugu Cinema
Yes, there are some experimental films in Telugu Cinema which were downright enjoyable, but what about the reach? Why can’t experiments be done in high commercial films? Why are we not trying different genres like science fiction, but when neighbouring industries like Tamil or Malayalam do it, we are following suit?
Sammohanam might have got its own set of low points but the film speaks on very important points which need to be addressed by the audience as well as the filmmakers. The ‘Telugu-can-be-taken-for-granted” thing should go from our minds and yes- we need to respect our language first. Telugu people, in the name of being warm, effortlessly blend into every language which the opposite person speaks- with the intention of hospitality! But at the same time, our language comes first- only then rest follows!
The year 2018 is quite a memorable one for Telugu Cinema because of films like Mahanati, which celebrate the pride of Telugu language and the amazing films it produced. Let us embrace our language and give the respect it deserves- in art and Cinema too.