Pawan Kalyan is one of the top actors in Tollywood. He started his career with simple love stories and has grown over the years into a regional phenomenon with his variations and style. He has played multiple roles in the industry as an actor, producer, director, writer, and choreographer within a career spanning over 22 years. The following 10 movies helped him grow as an actor and a star.
Tholi Prema is a milestone in the career of Pawan Kalyan. This is the film that established him as an independent actor without the influence of his brother, Chiranjeevi, over his films. Although he had successful films before Tholi Prema, people used to refer to him as the brother of Chiranjeevi. But after this film, he became a brand of his own. The entire film revolves around the character of the protagonist, Balu, enacted by Pawan Kalyan. And towards the climax, the audience emotionally connects to the character. The climax sequence set a trend in Telugu movies that the airport climax is still used to convey separation in films.
It is the debut film of a painter turned director, Karunakaran. And even after 20 years of its release, he is still called the director of Tholi Prema. This film has the most natural performance of Pawan Kalyan. Tholi Prema is considered one of the modern classics of Telugu cinema.
Kushi remained the epitome of Pawan Kalyan’s stardom. The film has made him the style icon among the youth of (then united) Andhra Pradesh. The fights were a sensation and all the songs were instant chartbusters. The film has been marked as the most successful urban love story in the history of Telugu cinema. His craze at the time of Kushi was so high that there were articles in some leading magazines at that time about how Pawan Kalyan is going to surpass Chiranjeevi in terms of popularity in the coming years. His casual acting style in the film was appreciated by the audience, critics, and contemporary actors alike. Pawan Kalyan emerged as the most promising actor of the generation with consistent success.
Gabbar Singh is so important to Pawan Kalyan’s career for many reasons. After Kushi, he faced many flops and average films with Jalsa being the only successful film within a decade. The hiatus of failures became worrisome to his fans who have been waiting for a film as grand as Kushi. Gabbar Singh is his first full-fledged commercial film that was made in admiration of his screen presence. The critics considered it the peak of hero worship in Tollywood with supporting actors and even villains talking about his craze. Moreover, most of the technicians who worked for the film are fans of Pawan Kalyan, and his characterization in the film is designed to cater to the fans. Gabbar Singh is a celebration of his stardom.
Attarintiki Daredi is the second collaboration of Pawan Kalyan and Trivikram Srinivas after Jalsa. A pirated copy of the entire first half of the film was available before its release. The team had to prepone the release and the result of the film became doubtful. However, the film impressed the fans and general audience and went on to become the highest-grossing film in Tollywood at that time. Pawan Kalyan’s comedy timing, Trivikram’s dialogues, and Devi Sri Prasad’s music recreated the magic of Kushi and the film ran to packed houses.
Thammudu marks the beginning of Pawan Kalyan’s craze. Pawan Kalyan being the martial artist himself has just lived in the role of an aimless youngster turned boxer. He learned boxing for the film and portrayed his role to perfection. It will remain on the list of top Telugu martial arts-based films in the decades to come. Additionally, the ‘Traveling soldier’ song is one of the best motivational songs in Tollywood.
Jalsa is among the most anticipated films of Pawan Kalyan before its release. The posters of the film have been a sensation and were the talk of the town at the time of its release. This is undoubtedly the most stylish outing of Pawan Kalyan after Kushi. Moreover, the songs were refreshing and youthful. Jalsa is one of the most entertaining films in the career of Pawan Kalyan. Apart from entertainment, the film has an underlying social message which is intensified by the dialogues of Trivikram Srinivas and the performance of Pawan Kalyan.
Suswagatam established Pawan Kalyan among the promising youngsters of Tollywood. The audience and critics loved his performance alike. Particularly, the scene where he expresses his love for the heroine to his father is one of his career-best performances. The audience well received the positive role of Raghuvaran in the film who was popular for his negative roles. It became the norm in Telugu cinema for all love stories to end with marriage but the film came up with a shocking ending with a strong message.
Badri is a film that has inherent attitude and mannerisms more than the story. By the time of this film, Pawan Kalyan has become the minimum guarantee hero with a string of successful films to his credit. The film has become a blockbuster despite a weak script. The critics didn’t appreciate the film and many credited the success of the film purely to Pawan Kalyan’s craze among youth. Moreover, the iconic hand-on-neck pose started in this film. And the arrogant and rebellious characterization became a trademark of director Puri Jagannadh.
Balu is the second collaboration of Pawan Kalyan and Karunakaran after the landmark ‘Tholi Prema’. Although the film had huge expectations, it couldn’t repeat the magic. However, it is among the favorite films of many fans for the characterization of Pawan Kalyan in a flashback episode.
Panjaa is not a box office success but it has one of the most stylish screen presences of Pawan Kalyan. Although the film had a lousy script, the styling and performances are remarkable.