Balagam to Month of Madhu: Our favourite Telugu films of 2023

Some of the best Telugu films of 2023 were made on relatively small budgets by first or second-time filmmakers. Here are some of our favourites.
Thiruveer, Sudhakar Reddy, Shreya Navile
Thiruveer, Sudhakar Reddy, Shreya NavileYouTube
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Telugu cinema began and ended 2023 with star vehicles such as Chiranjeevi’s Waltair Veerayya and Prabhas’s Salaar: Part 1 - Ceasefire. While top stars like Balakrishna, Chiranjeevi and Prabhas had two releases each, and Pawan Kalyan had one (Bro), fans of other star actors like Allu Arjun, Mahesh Babu, Ram Charan, and Jr NTR will have to wait till 2024 to see them on screen again after last year. But some of the best films to come out of the Telugu film industry this year were made on relatively small budgets by first or second-time filmmakers. Here’s a list of our favourite Telugu films from 2023, in the order of their release. 


Telugu cinema has seen a surge in films highlighting and celebrating the cultural identity of Telangana since the state’s formation in 2014. Several years into the trend, Balagam, set in rural Telangana, still managed to give us a fresh take on the traditions and culture of the region. Actor Venu Yeldandi’s directorial debut had us shaking with laughter and also tearing up, rooting for a slightly dysfunctional family and a myriad of quirky characters in a village to come together with empathy and forgiveness. Starring Priyadarshi and Kavya Kalyanram in the lead roles, Balagam portrays the events in a village following the death of a family’s patriarch, the elderly Gajula Komurayya played by Sudhakar Reddy. The film was critically and commercially acclaimed and also went on to win awards at many international film festivals.  

Read: What the success of Telugu film Balagam says about Telangana state's identity

Balagam is streaming on Amazon Prime Video. 


A gripping horror-thriller, Virupaksha was written by director Karthik Varma Dandu along with celebrated filmmaker Sukumar. A period film set in a remote Telugu village in the early 1990s, Virupaksha dealt with interesting themes such as black magic, rationalism, and the importance of education. Starring Sai Dharam Tej and Samyuktha Menon, the film had a refreshingly significant part for the female lead and effectively created an eerie, unsettling atmosphere for viewers. While it falters a bit with its socio-political commentary, the film succeeds in drawing us into its world with potent writing, and makes for a good nail biting suspense thriller. 

Virupaksha is streaming on Netflix. 


Coming on the heels of other hit ‘Telangana’ films this year such as Balagam and Dasara, Pareshan’s trailer received flak for once again ‘reducing’ Telangana’s identity to toddy and mutton. But Rupak Ronaldson’s feature debut Pareshan is a delightful indie buddy comedy about a group of aimless misfits. Set in a village near the Singareni collieries just like the more mainstream Dasara, Pareshan managed to capture a different, almost unseen-on-screen side of the region. The cast, comprising mostly newcomers led by Thiruveer and Pavani Karanam, carries what seems to be a deliberately ambling, low-stakes plot with disarming charm. The oddball humour and Yashwanth Nag’s fun, experimental soundtrack make Pareshan a very gratifying watch. 

Pareshan is streaming on SonyLIV. 

Month of Madhu

Month of Madhu released with very little buzz but went on to be widely loved for its refined portrayal of two women’s lives. Starring Swathi Reddy as Lekha, Naveen Chandra as her husband Madhusudhan, and Shreya Navile as a young American Born Confused Desi called Madhumathi, the film weaves their stories and those of other supporting characters beautifully. All three lead actors deliver excellent performances in their layered roles, and the film plays out as a slow character study of these individuals, examining their desires and actions with little judgement. Director Srikanth Nagothi’s brilliant, powerful, and dialogue-heavy writing, and the film’s captivating female leads make it a must-watch. 

Month of Madhu is streaming on Aha and Amazon Prime Video.

Hi Nanna

Still showing in theatres, Hi Nanna is the third film on this list made by a debut director, Shouryuv. While it may not be the best film on this list, it excels in the feel-good romance drama genre. Starring Nani, Mrunal Thakur, and child actor Kiara Khanna, this film about a father and his terminally ill daughter is equal parts a tear-jerker and heart-warmer. This December release has a lot in common with American and British Christmas rom-coms – beautiful people, scenic locations, characters who are wholesome to a fault, and predictable twists that feel either like a gut punch or butterflies in the stomach. Hi Nanna hangs on a delicate balance, almost tipping over towards the oversweet, mawkish side but is saved by fine performances by the three lead actors. You may still be able to catch the film in theatres if you’re looking to end this year with a comfort watch. 

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