Telugu cinema has been different until the 80s without nepotism and rivalry. Many youngsters tested their luck out of interest in acting and passion for cinema. Until the mid-80s, stage dramas are common in educational institutions and villages which led to many youngsters choosing acting as their career. Things have changed with the arrival of K. Raghavendra Rao and Chiranjeevi. They gave a taste of commercial cinema to the Telugu film industry. This helped the industry to expand the business and compete with other film industries of India, but at the same time left an impression that the hero plays a key role in the success of a movie instead of the Director.
Beginning of Nepotism in Tollywood
NTR brought Balakrishna as his successor. The gigantic image of NTR has helped Balakrishna in his early career to get good projects and establish himself as an actor. Many contemporary actors praised the acting skills of Balakrishna. He rose to a level to compete with Chiranjeevi. This has influenced other senior actors in the industry too. ANR introduced Nagarjuna and D Ramanaidu introduced Venkatesh as the lead actor who has no prior acting experience. Although Venkatesh didn’t face much criticism, the critics mocked Nagarjuna for his husky voice and lean body. Some Directors used padding for Nagarjuna as they considered him too lean to be a lead actor. It didn’t take much time for both of them to establish themselves in the industry. They not just settled but rose to stardom. The supporting actors and technicians too started introducing their children as lead actors.
The influence of commercial cinema
Chiranjeevi’s image has crossed all boundaries and the hero worship flourished. His contemporary actors like Balakrishna, Nagarjuna, and Venkatesh have good markets, but they remained under the shadow of Producers and Directors. The race to stardom started in the 90s which resulted in actors competing with each other to prove their superiority. By this time, everybody lost respect for acting and stardom has become the norm in the industry. The box-office collections, theatrical run, records became a matter of pride. The selfish film industry has stopped talking about legendary actors whose successors are not in Tollywood. They instead started praising the family legacy of lead actors in audio functions which cemented the nepotism in the industry.
The stardom of Chiranjeevi has made many aspiring actors believe that commercial cinema is the only path to stardom. Most actors started demanding commercial scripts. This has to lead to the actors not being capable of stunts trying them with the help of dupes, ropes, and VFX. This led to the trend of cliched fights where the hero beats tens of baddies effortlessly.
Nepotism in current generation
Pawan Kalyan has exploited this vulnerability and used his martial arts skills and attitude to present more realistic fights. The audience embraced it and he soon rose to stardom. The continuous success and selecting relatable stories helped him reach more audiences. He’s still remembered for these roles that brought him a cult following.
Mahesh Babu has struggled in his early career. He was made to accept scripts that he didn’t like and forced to mimic his father. The faction drama ‘Okkadu’ is a game-changer in his career. Later Pokiri cemented his position in the industry.
NTR had a rough early career and being a teenager, he couldn’t handle stardom. He had a string of flops that questioned his position in the industry. He had to distance himself from commercial cinema to reach more audiences. Being a method actor, he works hard for his roles and tries his best to convince in every role.
Ram Charan had to face criticism throughout his career for everything. He was introduced as a star but has to work throughout his career to prove himself as an actor. Prabhas and Allu Arjun weren’t taken seriously in their early careers. But they worked hard to establish themselves. Things would have been different if it stopped here.
The problems with Nepotism
The star kids have been flocking to the film industry and kept testing the patience of the audience. Most of them lack a basic understanding of what it takes to be an actor. Some of them are camera shy, and some have serious issues with voice modulation and rural slang. Many of them don’t depend on hard work and wait for success to establish themselves. Ironically, some star kids depend on character artists for emotional scenes and comedians for comedy. Some couldn’t even laugh and cry with a little variation.
During the shooting of the movie ‘State Rowdy’, Sharada woke up at 5 in the morning and heard someone talking. She stepped out of her room out of curiosity and found Chiranjeevi practicing his lines for the day. She is surprised and asked him what’s the need to practice dialogues for an established actor like him. He said that he has to work hard to perform against such a senior actress. He has done all kinds of roles by that time and was the top actor, but still didn’t compromise on his acting.
Can we expect the same dedication and sincerity from youngsters who have yet to prove themselves?
Increase in template stories
Nowadays every actor thinks that dances and fights are more important than acting. They are content with how they look on screen. They put more effort into selecting costumes than into expressions.
With more and more actors coming into the industry and struggling for success, there has been a vacuum for stories. So, the writers started using templates that would work just fine for mediocre actors with the help of comedians. It is no wonder that Brahmanandam alone made many below-average movies into average hits. The irony is that even star heroes started following these templates. This has led to the fall of standards of Telugu cinema.
There won’t be any problem with nepotism if the star kids create opportunities instead of stealing from others. These people never encourage new writers, directors, and technicians. They will listen to 10-15 scripts to finally select one. All the remaining scripts will either be scrapped or made with talented young actors and end up ruining their careers.
The industry should stop encouraging nepotism and force everyone to prove themselves as actors to be lead actors. Otherwise, nepotism would spoil everything good about Tollywood, and at some point, the dubbed movies will reign over Telugu movies.