SS Rajamouli's latest directorial RRR: Rise, Roar, Revolt has set cash registers ringing all over India. The movie is led by two of Tollywood's biggest star actors- Ram Charan and Jr NTR, and it is safe to say that riding on Rajamouli's name and the Baahubali brand behind them, their pan-India move has been successful. Not long ago, Pushpa: The Rise, starring Allu Arjun, had a successful run at the box office in North Indian markets. Going further into 2022, there will be frequent pan-India releases but a common thread connects them all together. It is their genre. All of the pan-India projects of South stars are action films, typically called 'masala' films.
South Indian movies enjoy a huge fan following in the North. They have for years. The Hindi dubbed versions of Telugu and Tamil films have captured major time slots on prime time TV for several decades. Their re-runs made Nagarjuna, Ravi Teja, Rajinikanth, Chiranjeevi and the others household names in the 90s and early 2000s. Then came Mahesh Babu, Suriya, Vijay, Dhanush and Jr NTR and now Prabhas, Allu Arjun and Vijay Deverakonda are ruling the hearts in North India. Their brawny looks coupled with a larger-than-life persona were the ideal replacement for the Hindi film hero, who had started to gravitate towards the more urban and refined viewers in Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities, commonly known as the multiplex audiences.
South Indian films delivered what Hindi cinema lacked- action, emotion and entertainment and the audience lapped it up. The developing vacuum created a level playing field that South Indian movie stars are exploiting. Seeing the success of pan-India films, Hindi film stars are slowly getting back to the mass audience, who like their action heroes more than anything. However, they are a step behind and playing catch up.
Yash's KGF: Chapter 2, Vijay's Beast, Adivi Sesh's Major, Mahesh Babu's Sarkaru Vaari Paata, Vijay Deverakonda's Liger, director Mani Ratnam's Ponniyin Selvan: I, Pushpa: The Rule among others are the pan-India films that are releasing this year alone and all of them are action movies. In contrast, all major Bollywood stars' action films are either slated for release in the second half of 2022 or next year. Not to say that the Bollywood actioners won't have any takers but for one, they will have to match up to the technical finesse of their South counterparts and secondly, South Indian cinema may have made inroads in Hindi belts even further, setting the stage for an even bigger 2023 and beyond.
Telugu commercial cinema has proved to be a game-changer post-Covid for Indian cinema, especially when compared with much-hyped commercial duds such as '83 and Bachhchan Paandey. Not just TV, with OTT coming in all of India has started watching and appreciating films made in the South. The South is also scoring because of the grand visions of its directors. It has been amply evident in Pushpa and RRR. Going forward, the move is uphill for the Hindi cinema heroes and their films.