The Dichotomy of Tollywood

A career in the film industry is as lucrative as it gets. The fame, adulation, and not to forget, the money involved make it a highly sought after career. Those wanting to make it big in the industry are driven by various reasons. They give their best in whatever field they have chosen for themselves. But unprecedented success stories in the film industry are very few.

Apart from the fame, another recurring aspect in all the industries is the N word - Nepotism. Take a casual look at the A List actors of the 5 film industries that make the most money - Bollywood, Kollywood, Tollywood, Sandalwood and Mollywood. You will find that 99% of them have some backing in the industry. Agreed the noise around nepotism right now is not as much as it was some time back. But, it is still there. The noise around nepotism is like the ocean tide; sometimes high, sometimes low, but always present.

Take Tollywood for example. Megastar Chiranjeevi has introduced more than 10 members of his family as leading actors in the industry. That is a gigantic number. But let's talk about nepotism some other day. Let's talk about an event that, with my limited knowledge about the history of various film industries, has happened only in the TFI.


Any industry in general witnesses people of various tongues joining hands to make a film. Such an occurence is common in the technical department. For example, the cinematographer of Allu Arjun's pan Indian Pushpa is Mr. Miroslaw Kuba Brozek, a Polish national. You even have the heroines of many Telugu films to be non Telugu girls. But then the event that I allude to, is unique in its own right.

The event, or rather the movie, I'm talking about is the movie Bommarillu (House of Dolls) released in the year 2006. You might have guessed what I'm about to reveal. But before you confirm if you got your guess right, let's define the 3 main pillars of any film.

It's a tough ask, but I would say they are :

  1. The principal protagonists - for they execute the director's vision

  2. The director - for he/she is the one with the vision

  3. The producer - for he/she can afford the director's vision

With respect to Bommarillu, the main people would be :

  1. Siddharth, Genelia and Prakash Raj

  2. Baskar

  3. Dil Raju

Do a basic Wikipedia search of all these people with respect to where they were born and brought up. For those who haven't got it yet, no problem.

Dil Raju is a Telagite. No big deal. Prakash Raj who plays Siddharth's father is a Kannadiga. Genelia D'Souza, the heroine, is from Mumbai. Par for the course, as many would say. Baskar or Bhaskaran Natarajan is a Tamilian who made his debut in TFI. And Bommarillu was his debut. Interesting, isn't it? But the best part is this - Siddharth the hero, is a Tamilian.

The fact that the principal protagonists of a Telugu film are not from a Telugu speaking state can be counted as a really rare occurence. Apart from Prakash Raj who was a well known face to the Telugu audience, the lead pair were relatively fresh faces in the industry. Top that with the debut director. What makes this even more special is that Bommarillu won a plethora of awards and set the box office on fire. Such an event deserves all the appreciation and plaudits that come it's way.

What can we take away from the Bommarillu story? The biggest takeaway has to be the fact that good stories always are lapped up by the audience, sooner or later. Otherwise how can such a movie collect a raft of awards?

Another interesting subplot to this whole story is that it made Siddharth a sought after actor in TFI. By then he had made his mark in Tamil as well as Hindi cinema. A few more Hindi films and he could well have been the first Pan India star. But we'll never know. Interestingly, the Telugu movie he did before Bommarillu, Nuvvastante Nenoddantaanaa is similar to the idea we have been discussing so far. Ullasanga Uthsahanga starring Yasho Sagar and Sneha Ullal is another case in point.

It also throws up another interesting point. With this apparent openness to talent, shall we witness better movies being made in Tollywood? Agreed that such cases are few and far in between, but then they best represent the dichotomy of the TFI - Nepotism hotbed along with non Telugu speaking lead protagonists. In that way, Bollywood with its huge number of 2nd Gen Actors is like state sponsored Russia while Tollywood is like free natured America. What do you think?

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