Year 2016 saw some new themes and interesting experiments emerge out of Tollywood. Although the bigger stars mostly stuck to doing entertainers that were predictable and formulaic, there were a few films that stood out from the crowd with their freshness in approach.
Undoubtedly the best Telugu film this year, Pelli Choopulu was a most unusual boy-meets-girl story that overturned gender stereotypes and questioned the institution of marriage deftly and with plenty of humour. Directed by Tharun Bhascker Dhaassyam, the film had a heroine (Ritu Varma) with a mind of her own – a rarity in Tollywood. The hero, played by Vijay Deverakonda, too was refreshingly different from the hyper-masculine male leads we're supposed to applaud. The storytelling was original and the film firmly steered clear of clichés, right from its major and minor characters to its plot and resolution.
A taut thriller with a screenplay that leaves you guessing at all the right moments, Kshanam, starring Adivi Sesh and Adah Sharma, went on to become a critical and commercial success. Directed by Ravikanth Perepu, the film is about a man who investigates the kidnapping of his ex-girlfriend's child. Though inspired by a bunch of Hollywood flicks, Kshanam does a good job of adapting the ideas for its audience and delivering a suspenseful flick that has just the right amount of twists and turns.
Although a remake of the hugely successful Tamil film Thani Oruvan, the Telugu version was a few notches better. Directed by Surender Reddy, Dhruva was slicker, tighter, and better than the Tamil original even if Ram Charan's wooden expressions impair the film. But well, Dhruva was more about Arvind Swami, the villain, than anyone else and his flawless portrayal of the classy evil genius Siddharth Abhimanyu is more than enough to make the film a must-watch.
A remake of a French film, Oopiri is about a quadriplegic billionaire (Nagarjuna) and his helper (Karthi). Directed by Vamsi Paidipalli, the film explores the unlikely friendship between the two men and the lessons that they learn from each other. There's plenty to like in here, what with Karthi's tongue-in-cheek naivete and Nagarjuna's sophistication setting up a delightful chemistry between the two protagonists. But the film is not without its flaws: apart from a few plot holes, it also has a disconcerting homophobic narrative all through which was quite unnecessary.
This Trivikram-directed rom-com went on to become one of the highest grossers in Tollywood this year. Starring Nithiin and Samantha, it's not a particularly original story and has its share of stereotypes. But the film has a youthful zing to it and the mostly realistic dialogues between the characters are a plus. Although old wine in a new bottle, it's not surprising that A aa went on to become a hit.
Other films worth mentioning are Premam (the Telugu remake of the Malayalam film), Gentleman (Naani's romantic thriller), and Sahasam Swasaga Sagipo (the Gautam Menon bilingual).