Indie films: The future of Telugu cinema

The Telugu cinema has churned out movies of almost all genres and the filmmakers eventually settled at a formula that is believed to give huge profits. The formula is to mix all genres and produce a film that has action, romance, drama, comedy, social message, etc. As such films have wholesome entertainment, they have a wider audience and higher revenues. Almost all these films have the protagonist being a savior for a village, a family, a lead actress, or even to the state or the country. This trend started in the early 80s and has been continuing ever since. The annoying cliches have plagued the industry. The audience is fed up with the same old story rehashed Hundreds of times. As more and more directors are coming to the industry every year, this trend is slowly changing and there is a remarkable change clearly visible.

The indie or independent films have changed the way stories are told. They’ve brought back freshness into the corrupt storytelling techniques of Tollywood. The protagonists in these films are not alpha males who beat up Tens of baddies to prove their superiority but normal guys with ordinary lives. The 2016 Telugu film ‘Pelli Choopulu’ has brought back the casual style of narration with extremely ordinary characters. Such films were common during the early 2000s but were almost forgotten within a decade. Many Telugu producers were surprised that the audience have been accepting realistic films too. But the Telugu audience always sticks to content over formula. The independent films were initially thought to be a threat to studios but eventually, they decided to get profits out of these films. The leading Telugu production houses like Geetha Arts, Suresh Productions, Mythri Movie Makers, etc ventured into the production of low-budget films. However, most of them don’t understand the requirement of the audience and are producing mostly rehashed stories.

Dil Raju is well known for notoriously corrupting the stories to suit his needs. Most of his films are tailor-made to be mixed Genre films that cater to the whole family. While the films he produced in his initial career like Dil, Arya, Bommarillu, etc have freshness and authenticity, he eventually started advising writers to make changes according to his success formula. The audience got bored of his formula and rejected many of his films. The monopoly over the Nizam market and the theaters have been helping him to sustain in the industry. He had a remarkable success rate with 6 hits in 2017. But how many of those films are memorable is a matter of debate. Apart from that, he pays relatively very low remunerations. This is the reason most of his films have debut technicians whom he expects to be thankful for the opportunity.

Sandeep Reddy Vanga, the director of Arjun Reddy, faced rejections everywhere. Apart from rejections, there are several others who suggested he make something safe for his debut film. He decided not to give up and his brother produced the film. After the success of Arjun Reddy, now many production houses are preferring bold stories. While Sandeep Reddy didn’t give up, there might be several others who would have followed the suggestions. Once a filmmaker loses his style and authenticity, there is nothing he can contribute to the craft. The recent success of ‘RX100’ proves that the audience prefers realistic films over formulaic ones.

There are some other filmmakers who chose to make crowdfunded movies because they don’t want to be dictated by producers. Phanindra Narsetti tasted success with short films and chose to direct an independent project for his debut film. He decided to be a filmmaker without any connections in the industry, without the support of the family, and without financial support. After making a couple of short films, he had a considerable following and it wasn’t much difficult for him to draw attention to his crowdfunding campaign. Another popular name among crowdfunding circles is Srikanth Challa. He is an IIT graduate and has given up his job to pursue his dream of filmmaking. His first crowdfunding project ‘Vasham’ wasn’t much acclaimed but is commercially successful. He published the first half of the script on the internet and asked people to fund the project if they like the story. The campaign was successful and he could finally release the film. He is following the same campaign for his second film titled ‘Banned’.

The indie films are revolutionizing Tollywood and within a few decades, we can witness the industry backed by the audience. The overseas audience is playing a key role in bringing a positive change in the industry. We can expect Telugu films to have more representation in world cinema in the coming years.

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