Who can forget the flourish with which a Rajinikanth lit up a cigarette, or the manner in which Kamal Haasan turned into a monkey to cheer up a child-like Sridevi who he was falling more and more in love with! Be it the moustachioed Arvind Swami pining for his “Roja Jaaneman” or the macho Nagarjuna from ‘Meri Jung’, South actors have always tested their luck in Bollywood. And while the ladies, who migrated from the South, managed to make a place for themselves in B-Town, more often than not, these male stars who were very popular in their respective regional film industries, didn’t enjoy the same success with a pan-India audience.
However, with Vijay Deverakonda being signed on for the bilingual ‘Liger’ by Karan Johar, and Prabhas already making waves with the success of ‘Baahubali’ series and ‘Saaho’, a new trend seems to be emerging. The disbelief in his words was evident, when Vijay tweeted, “Someone with my background shouldn’t have reached anywhere near here according to the conventions and set norms. But with sheer madness, passion, hardwork, here we are!” While his efforts can’t be undermined, the concept of shooting in two, or sometimes even three different languages is helping actors overcome the language barrier and cater to a wider audience.
Film critic Anupama Chopra, too, feels that the boundaries between film industries within the country have been collapsing for a few years now. “Thanks to OTT platforms where one can watch films in any language with subtitles, there is much more cross-pollination now than ever before. And it will benefit not just male stars but artists across the board,” she predicts.
Boney Kapoor, who has a lot of South remakes to his credit, is in agreement too. “Times have changed. Instead of focusing on glamour, the entertainment industry is now more content-driven. Today, a Madhavan is accepted universally, and even Aditya Chopra signs on Prithviraj for a role,” he asserts.
What went wrong in the past
Boney goes on to add how Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan never lacked opportunities but rather chose to focus more in the South. Film writer Dilip Thakur, however, attributes the delay in the making of Dimple Kapadia-starrer ‘Sagar’ as the reason behind Kamal’s decision to take a break from Bollywood. “That put him off. He didn’t like the system of working in Bollywood, which was the complete opposite of what happened in the South,” points out Dilip, adding that both the stars became hugely popular in the South and so they shifted focus there. “And once the Khans arrived, Bollywood stopped missing them,” he adds.
But in the ’70s and ’80s, too, there was a similar trend of actor exchange with the South, especially when the Hindi film industry looked at regional cinema for inspiration, but it didn’t last long. Film writer Dilip Thakur points out how several actresses like Radhika, Bhanu Priya and Vijayashanti made a foray into Bollywood to be part of South remake. “But only Jaya Prada and Sridevi were accepted because they were glamorous dancers and good actors,” he reminds. Meanwhile, Jeetendra, who was pairing up with these gorgeous actresses, was also working in regional films down South. “All the big South stars like MGR, NTR and Sivaji Ganesan were very disciplined. So, automatically the work culture would be proper and someone like me who is disciplined enjoyed working there,” asserts Jeetu ji.
When he asked Rajinikanth his reason to do a Bollywood film, veteran journalist Jyoti Venkatesh was told that it was because he wanted to be known outside Puducherry and Thootikudi. “He told me he wanted to be known in Bombay and then internationally,” recalls Jyoti, adding that the reason he feels South actors did not last long is partly due to their looks and refusal to part with their moustaches. “In those days heroes had to be clean-shaven but South refused to shave off their facial hair for a film,” he states.
Change is here
However, the challenges of the past are no longer valid in the internet age. And after tasting blood with the dubbed version of a film like ‘Baahubali’, there’s nothing stopping Bollywood filmmakers from signing on stars that are already huge down South and presenting them to the country. Ram Gopal Varma puts it best when he says, “Commercial South Indian stars have been making a huge impact on the Hindi belt for many years right under the noses of Bollywood through huge dubbing prices being fetched by South films. Bollywood didn’t know about it because their world is mostly limited to Bandra. If at all they leave Bandra, they go to London. But now, spectacles like ‘Baahubali 2’ and ‘KGF 2’, have brought it to their attention. The time I worked with South stars like Nagarjuna, Chakri, or Surya, they were like character actors in realistic space but a Prabhas or a Yash are designed to be mainstream stars!”
Film journalist Udaya Tara Nayar, who complains of South stars not getting their due in the Hindi film industry, also views this period as one of the most opportune ones. “It is the right time to bring the versatile actors from the regional cinemas into the Bollywood fold. I would like to see Dulquer Salmaan, Fahadh Fazil, Nivin Pauly and Vineeth Srinivasan playing strong characters in Hindi films. Mammooty’s handsome son Dulquer Salmaan and Rajnikanth’s talented son-in-law Dhanush are already making a mark in Bollywood and should continue to do so,” she insists.
The trade test
Trends emerge and fade away based on how successful they are and if trade analyst Atul Mohan is to be believed ‘Baahubali’ has tipped the hat in favour of South actors in Bollywood. “The olden days were different but times have changed and actors are now known pan-India; Prabhas is one example. Also, the TRPs of most of the dubbed films of South stars are huge and popular on social media too. It is another factor that has helped them,” he affirms.
Source: Click Here