The theatrical release of big Tollywood films, like RRR and Radhe Shyam, was postponed to 2022 due to the COVID-19 crisis this year. But amidst uncertainties, many Telugu movies were released. Particularly, the Balakrishna-starrer Akhanda and Allu Arjunâ€™s Pushpa: The Rise gave the Telugu film industry much-needed relief in terms of revenue. Amongst the films that were released in 2021, here are the best Telugu films of the year in no particular order:
Love Story: Directed by Sekhar Kammula, this was definitely one of the most entertaining Telugu films to have come out this year. Starring Sai Pallavi and Naga Chaitanya, the movie went beyond romance and discussed caste, which is usually considered a taboo issue in Tollywood. The film also discussed other social issues like gender-based oppression and child sexual abuse, which makes the film a little heavy to watch at times. Nevertheless, Sai Pallavi and Naga Chaitanyaâ€™s performances leave you spell-bound. In an industry, which is obsessed with violence and action, Naga Chaitanya donning the role of a man who is vulnerable is an encouraging sign. One hopes many young actors follow suit and take up such challenging roles.
Skylab: Debut director Vishvak Khanderao made one of the most promising films of 2021. Based on the real-life event of a space station crashing on earth, this film is quirky and thoroughly entertaining. It also veers away from a conventional film, where the male and female lead are paired opposite each other. Instead, both Nithya Menen and Sathyadev have individual storylines, and hardly share screen space. There is a sense of earnestness throughout the film.
Jathi Rathnalu: Naveen Polishettyâ€™s movie was a runaway hit at the box office. The comedy film was unpredictable and hilarious. Naveen, in particular, delivered a fine performance with his impeccable comic timing. The film provided welcome relief to many people during the pandemic. Jathi Rathnalu does not take itself seriously. It is a film sans logic, relying solely on mindless humour and the performances of the artistes. The filmâ€™s spoof on Telugu mass movies worked brilliantly. The film is available on Over-the-Top platform Amazon Prime.
Pushpaka Vimanam: Another comedy film that makes it to the list of best Telugu films this year is Anand Deverakondaâ€™s Pushpaka Vimanam. The film has a funny premise: Sundarâ€™s wife elopes with someone else a few days after their marriage. An embarrassed Sundar keeps this a secret and hopes that his wife will return. He takes great pains to pretend that his marital relationship is great. He even goes to the extent of hiring an actor to play his wife before his colleagues.
As the naive and harmless Sundar, Anand Deverakonda delivers a fine performance. The rest of the characters in the film also make Pushpaka Vimanam a delight to watch.
Pushpa: The Rise: Allu Arjunâ€™s much-awaited film has also made it to this list. The film is a story about an outcast who wants to create an identity of his own. It is a story of an underdog who wants dignity and accumulates wealth and power in the illegal red sandalwood trade. The film has visible flaws â€“ the visual effects are jarring, the sound design is poor, the editing is underwhelming â€“ but Allu Arjunâ€™s fine performance makes it a compelling watch.
Shyam Singha Roy: Nani and Sai Pallaviâ€™s movie is based on the concept of reincarnation. Though the film has minor flaws in terms of logic and a weak backstory as well, the actors â€“ Nani, Sai Pallavi, Madonna Sebastian and Krithi Shetty â€“ make you overlook this with their brilliant performances. The film also addresses the issue of caste. Surprisingly, many Telugu films this year: Uppena, Sridevi Soda Center, Love Story, SkyLab, etc in their own ways acknowledged that caste is an issue. Hopefully, this is a start towards a discussion about caste, via the medium of film.