If Tollywood was defined in 2015 by the gargantuan Baahubali, 2016 was the year of the big ‘small’ films. The year saw surprise hits from debutante directors who broke records by bringing in great content. There were also major flops by some top stars, indicating a shift in the mindset of Telugu audiences who seem to be really embracing the new wave in Telugu cinema.
Here’s the best from Tollywood this year.
Pellichoopulu: Topping everyone’s list by a long distance is Tharun Bhascker’s debut film Pellichoopulu. In a time when romcoms are equivalent to an unimaginative storyline combined with a trusted sidekick comedian delivering one-liners at will, with the staple bar song reeking of misogyny tossed in, Pellichoopulu was fresh, relatable, and realistic. The film had breakthrough performances from lead actors Vijay Deverakonda and Ritu Varma and the supporting cast was no less. Preyadarshi as Kaushik the witty friend is easily the find of the year. The film its on its way for remakes in multiple languages. Fingers crossed that the magic of the original is retained.
And really, when was the last time someone said that about a Telugu film?
Kshanam : Perfect thrillers are rare, especially in South Indian cinema. Somewhere, something is always lacking. Until Kshanam came along. Kshanam was the perfect thriller because it was the culmination of a great story, screenplay, and onscreen performances. Directed by newcomer Ravikanth Perepu, Kshanam was full of surprises. The way the characters were written and presented made sure that every few minutes there was a twist in the tale. And the content was matched by acting performances that far surpassed their previous work. Anasuya, Satyam Rajesh, Adivi Sesh, and Adah Sharma were all revelations in the film.
Jyo Achyuthananda : A film about sibling love and rivalry, Jyo Achyuthananda was a warm film that left audiences with tearful smiles. Just like Avasarala Srinivas’ debut film Oohalu Gusagusalade, Jyo Achyuthananda’s humour too is slapstick, full of puns, and heavily reliant on dialogue. The comedy was a relief from the insult-based, borderline-offensive humour that has become so prevalent. Srinivas intelligently interlaced situational comedy with complex emotions to deliver a non-preachy film.
Gentleman : Expectations skyrocketed when Nani announced that he was reuniting with his debut film’s director Mohan Krishna Indraganti for Gentleman. The trailer promised suspense, especially with the film’s tagline ‘Hero or Villain’. Nani, known for his good-guy roles, seemed to be shaping up for a negative role in this one. And the film didn’t disappoint. Characters had been written meticulously, and the screenplay kept us on the edge of our seats until the very end. Nani and Nivetha Thomas took the film to new heights with their performances. Nivetha, who had only done supporting roles thus far, was a revelation. She went on to become the find for Telugu cinema this year.
Dhruva : Possibly the only top star who didn’t have to deal with the wrath of 2016 was Ram Charan. Thus far he had been doing cookie-cutter roles. Dhruva was the exception. For once, he decided to submit himself to the screenplay and the story. Written originally as Thani Oruvan by Mohan Raja, the brilliant story was retained without any major changes. A dizzying cat-and-mouse chase that doesn’t give the audience time to take their eyes off the screen (except when Ramcharan decides to charm the audience with his dance moves), Dhruva was a frill-free film that proved to have exactly what Telugu audiences wanted – a unique and entertaining script.
Kalyana Vaibhogame : The film was about the expectations and fear of commitment among youngsters, and struck a chord among all sections of the family with its exploration of marriage in this day and age. It’s a slice-of-life drama which hits all the right notes for a good part of the film. Much of the credit goes to writer Lakshmi Bhupal and director Nandini Reddy for a beautiful story that perfectly captures the anxiety which the youngsters today go through when it comes to relationships and marriage. Actors Naga Shaurya and Malavika Nair made impactful performances as youngsters whom everyone could relate to.