From ‘Rakta Charitra’ to ‘Mahanati’, Telugu films online that deserve a watch

A list of Telugu films, from the usual suspects to hidden gems, that are available on OTT platforms such as Amazon Prime Video, Hotstar, JioCinema and Zee5.
From ‘Rakta Charitra’ to ‘Mahanati’, Telugu films online that deserve a watch
From ‘Rakta Charitra’ to ‘Mahanati’, Telugu films online that deserve a watch

Telugu cinema has been an active victim of piracy more than most regional content, with films like Taxiwaala getting leaked weeks before its scheduled release. The industry has found solace in OTT platforms, primarily Amazon Prime Video, where the films are starting to stream as soon as a month after their theatrical release, discouraging viewers on the verge from watching a film illegally. Even though there is only one Telugu film on Netflix – the reason for its reluctance can’t be quality as Spyder made the cut – platforms like Hotstar, JioCinema, Zee5 and Amazon Prime have sizeable Telugu film libraries.

Another great thing about OTT platforms is their reach and accessibility. Most regional content is complemented with subtitles and this is slowly taking language barriers out of the equation. The only problem with options is choice and the task of choosing isn’t always easy when you aren’t familiar with the language and its artists. This list intends to make things easier for anyone who is trying to explore Telugu cinema but doesn’t know enough to choose for themselves. (As with anything, this list is subjective.)

Hidden gems

With streaming platforms and search engines, one has to know what one is looking for. The algorithms do help, but not when the films aren’t popular enough. Hotstar, rather than Amazon Prime, has a surprisingly good number of Telugu films that aren’t conventional.

Take The Lotus Pond, for example. Written and directed by PG Vinda, the film is about two kids and their adventure to find a pond in the Himalayas. A cinematographer by profession, Vinda successfully contrasts the serenity of the surroundings with all that the kids go through. Even though it isn’t flawless, it is definitely worth your while. Same goes with Rajesh Touchriver’s Naa Bangaru Thalli, an award-winning film based on the gruesome business of sex trafficking. Even though its tone is intense and unrelenting, this is understandable considering the grave subject. Supported by great performances, the film will leave an impact and deservingly so.

A still from Naa Bangaru Thalli

When it comes to Amazon Prime, Chandra Siddhartha’s Aatagadharaa Siva comes to mind. A remake of a Kannada film, it is a genuine effort made with an ensemble cast, even though it falters at places. It needs to be seen because its existence itself is hopeful in the industry. Other films that warrant a watch are Gangaraju’s Chandamama Lo Amrutham – for the signature humour and ingenuity we associate with the famous series Amrutham – and Kumar Nagendra’s Gundello Godari – if for nothing else, for Adhi’s performance alone.

Chinni Krishna’s London Babulu is available for streaming on Zee5. Not as superior as its Tamil original Aandavan Kattalai, directed by Manikandan, but still a decent standalone Telugu film, with enough intrigue to keep you going. 

London Babulu poster

The same platform has Vinayakudu directed by Sai Kiran. The film does cross the line at times where it confuses ‘laughing at’ is the same as ‘laughing with’, but a surprisingly empathetic film about an obese man that uses humour to tackle his life and its issues.

For old times’ sake

While browsing through Amazon Prime’s content, I was pleasantly surprised to see KV Reddy’s Mayabazar listed there. Even though, as a socio-fantasy, it deserves a bigger screen than your 6-inch smartphone, it is a good start. Along with some other 1980s/90s cinema, Amazon’s OTT also has films like Chandamama, Rakta Charitra, Sri Rama Rajhyam – Bapu’s Sita is the most exquisite of the lotand Gaganam, which didn’t enjoy blockbuster status when they were released but are enjoyable to watch.

Hotstar too has a notable collection of old Telugu cinema. Even though most of them are average fares, exceptions include Kshana Kshanam, Sisindhri, Sankeerthana, Prema Katha and Chandra Lekha. RGV’s Shiva has found a place for itself on Zee5.

Shiva poster

The usual suspects

Then there are films that are frequent searches on OTT platforms, either due to their popularity or acclaim. While Amazon Prime has made it clear that it is in the lead when Telugu content is considered – with most films, good and bad, finding a place on their service – Hotstar isn’t that far behind either. Some of the new films that are worth a watch include Arjun Reddy, Ghazi Attack, Mahanati, U-Turn, Goodachari, Ye Maaya Chesave, Bhaagamathie, Rangasthalam and Fidaa.

Similarly, Hotstar has content that ranges from event films like Rajamouli’s Baahubali 1/2 to breezy romances like Kammula’s Anand. Others include Janatha Garage, Uyyala Jampaala, Kanche, Oohalu Gusagusalade, Manamantha and Radha Gopalam. JioCinema, one of the new contenders in the market, is dipping its feet by adding the critically acclaimed C/o Kancharapalem, directed by Maha, and Tharun’s Ee Nagaraniki Emaindi to its library. Zee5 has supposedly acquired the rights for Rahul Ravindran’s Chi La Sow as well.

The only downside to the rather comfortable setup is the numerous subscriptions one has to pay to access all of them.

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