By Vakkalanka Venkataramana
The current generation of Telugu actors consists of a few star sons and the younger brother of an ageing mega star (Chiranjeevi). Telugu cinema - the classification "commercial" is needless since there aren't any other kinds of film getting made - is being sustained by a few star directors.
This list includes two big names who wield the megaphone - S Shankar and A R Murugadoss, who come from Tamil cinema.
But topping the list is Rajamouli who works mainly in Telugu films. The 'superman' is the maker of the highest grosser at the Indian box office, "Baahubali". The charismatic director, who has arguably overtaken Shankar with the stupendous success of his fantasy multi-starrer, is now busy working on the the second and the concluding part of the film. His tally of box office hits before "Baahubali" also includes a film of the science fiction genre, "Eega".
While these three directors command the highest remuneration, running into several crores, there are others too who take home a whopping salary for their Midas touch at the box office. It is these directors who make young superstars out of the likes of Rana Daggubati and Prabhas of "Baahubali" fame, Allu Arjun and Naani. The last two have enhanced their reputation by winning the coveted Filmfare award just a few days ago.
Telugu cinema, in the past had actors like NTR, ANR, S V. Ranga Rao, Jaggaiah, Kanta Rao, Sobhan Babu, Krishna and Chandra Mohan who were moulded in the hands of many artistic directors and proved their mettle. After this era, though, the Telugu industry has been spinning out fantasies topped with largely slapstick comedy.
A few steps below Rajamouli, in the middle rungs of the ladder, are directors Koratala Siva, Boyapati and Trivikram. Trivikram is the man of the moment with his latest offering "A Aa" starring Nithin and Samantha doing record business at the box office. This trio is now in the Rs 10 crore bracket salary-wise.
Three others in the bigwig bracket in the Telugu industry are Vamsi Paidapalli, Puri and Seenu Vaitla. One or two flops have seen their salaries slipping to Rs 8 crore per film. But Vamsi has pulled himself up with his latest film "Oopiri' (Breath) , which was about an unlikely friendship between two men - a rich, disabled man and his attendant - and included Nagarjuna as part of the cast.
However, what is missing in the Telugu film industry is the evolution of a crop of directors who can raise the standard of filmmaking with substantial content and earn national as well international acclaim - something the neighbouring Tamil industry has managed to accomplish.
In earlier times, Telugu and Tamil cinema were together, especially in the days of the studio system when the three big banners Vijaya Vauhini, AVM and Gemini used to make a film simultaneously in Telugu, Tamil and Hindi. Films in all three languages used to meet with success at the box office too! The legendary director CV Sridhar used to make many of his films simultaneously in Tamil, Telugu and Hindi as well.
But gradually Tollywood has been overshadowed by Kollywood. The three artistic Telugu directors K Viswanath, Bapu and Dasari Narayana Rao used to make films with sensitive themes and even had them screened in some international film festivals. Dasari later turned a politician and even became a union minister in the erstwhile UPA government.
However, since their time, not many have taken up the challenge seriously. The current crop of directors in the Telugu film industry are crorepatis but the question is, will they develop the sensitivity to take Telugu cinema to the heights that it deserves to go?