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Baahubali 2: The Conclusion to Arjun Reddy – Telugu cinema soared high in 2017

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This article is part of our 2017: A Year In Review series

In January, 2017, if someone had told us that this would be the best year for Telugu cinema in recent history, most of us would have brushed off this prediction as wishful thinking. For an industry that has rarely seen a 10 percent success rate over the past few years, 2017 has been nothing short of a miracle. With blockbusters like Baahubali 2, Khaidi No 150, Fidaa, Shathamanam Bhavati setting the cash registers ringing, it was also the year where ‘newness’ was embraced whole-heartedly. Some of the most talked about films of the year like Arjun Reddy, Ghazi, Ninnu Kori and Mental Madhilo were all helmed by first time directors, and more importantly, Telugu film industry finally emerged from the shadows of its own past to hog the limelight at a national level.

No discussion about Telugu cinema in 2017 will be complete without acknowledging how SS Rajamouli’s magnum opus Baahubali 2 has been a game-changer for everyone. The film went on to gross more than Rs 1,600 crores at the box-office all over the world, and the Hindi version alone became the first film to cross Rs 500 crores (net). Box-office records aside, the film has given wings to the dreams of other filmmakers in the industry and proved that nothing is impossible. Shobu Yarlagadda, who produced the film, says, “The film’s success has definitely increased the scope and ambition of the entire industry. We can look beyond the existing market for Telugu films to make inroads in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, North India, and other international markets like USA, Gulf etc. Baahubali 2 has proved that there is so much potential, given the numbers it made at box-office.”

Films like Arjun Reddy, Mental Madhilo, Fidaa, Baahubali 2 and Khaidi No 150 made 2017 a successful year for Telugu cinema

Films like Arjun Reddy, Mental Madhilo, Fidaa, Baahubali 2 and Khaidi No 150 made 2017 a successful year for Telugu cinema

To put it in perspective, Baahubali 2’s success was so long-lasting that it has even encouraged several other filmmakers and producers to not worry too much about the budget, since the market for Telugu films has increased by leaps and bounds. “The impact that the film made at box-office was so huge that producers are now willing to put in more money to make a film. All of a sudden, the market for Telugu films looks much bigger than what it was couple of years ago. And now, OTT players like Amazon, Hotstar are vying with Hindi TV channels to shell out big bucks for our films. It’s a great time to be making films,” says filmmaker Praveen Sattaru.

Prominent producer Dil Raju, who had a dream run this year with six back-to-back hits, too says that Baahubali 2 was the biggest differentiating factor for Telugu cinema in 2017. “The film has made the entire industry proud at a national level. I hope our films continue to make news in terms of content, visualisation, and revenue on a bigger scale in near future,” he opines.

Apart from Baahubali 2, there were also plenty of other smash hits like Khaidi No 150, which marked ‘Megastar’ Chiranjeevi’s comeback after more than nine years, Balakrishna’s 100th film Gautamiputra Satakarni, Varun Tej-Sai Pallavi starrer Fidaa, Sharwanand’s Shatamanam Bhavati, Allu Arjun’s DJ, NTR Jr’s Jai Lava Kusa and Rarandoi Veduka Choodham to name a few. And there was no dearth of critically acclaimed films like Arjun Reddy, Ghazi, Ninnu Kori, Mental Madhilo, Hello, and PSV Garuda Vega which made headlines amidst big-ticket entertainers.

Talking about why Telugu films have found new takers, Nani, who is basking in the glory of his recent hits like Nenu Local, Ninnu Kori, and MCA turning out to be hits, says, “For the past few decades, unlike other film industries, Telugu cinema stuck to its template of making larger-than-life films in a general sense. There are some really wonderful films coming out from Hindi, Tamil, and Malayalam cinema, and a lot of them are gritty, realistic dramas. Compared to them, Telugu cinema has kind of been aspirational, and there’s an element of escapism that draws people’s attention. With all the chaos in the world today, perhaps audiences across the country have found solace in our kind of films. You take any Hindi TV channel and you’ll see some of their highest viewed films are all dubbed versions of Telugu films. Back home, cinema is such an important part of our lives that for a lot of people it’s the only option to relax and have some fun. That’s exactly what is so amazing about our movie culture. We are obsessed with films.”

While template-driven films continued to dominate the overall business, the most heartening change in the industry has been the rise of new-age films. For instance, Sandeep Vanga’s Arjun Reddy, a modern version of Devdas, was hailed as a cult film with Vijay Devarakonda delivering the performance of a lifetime. Sandeep turned the story of a medical student who struggles to come to terms with his heartbreak, into a raw, bold, and visceral tale that shattered a lot of cliches about filmmaking. On the other end of the spectrum were films like Fidaa, Ninnu Kori and Mental Madhilo — all of which explored the institution of marriage, and love — that stood out for their portrayal of what being in love meant. The differentiating factor was having a strong female protagonist at the centre of the story. In Fidaa, it was Sai Pallavi who swept us off our feet with her portrayal of a young woman who wants to stay back in her native place and take care of her father instead of getting married. Her Telangana dialect was spot on, and even more endearing was the romance between her and Varun Tej in this Sekhar Kammula film. In Ninnu Kori, it was Nivetha Thomas who stands up to her ex-boyfriend to tell him that she’s happily married to someone else, and advises him to move on in life. And finally, in Mental Madhilo, it was an uber confident Nivetha Pethuraj, who tells her prospective husband that she knows what she wants when he asks her why she agreed to marry him.

Apart from period dramas like Baahubali 2 and Gautamiputra Satakarni, 2017 was also the year where Sankalp Reddy’s Ghazi and Praveen Sattaru’s PSV Garuda Vega showed the power of ambitious story-telling made with just a fraction of a big-budget film. Sankalp Reddy’s Ghazi was touted as India’s first ever film that was set inside a submarine during the 1971 Indo-Pak war and the team’s efforts didn’t go unnoticed. Shot in a specially designed set, resembling a submarine, in Hyderabad, the film’s production design and cinematography created a claustrophobic experience to heighten the tension of war. And to think that Ghazi was one of the most critically acclaimed films of the year was a clear indication that the audience is ready for films that defy conventional formula of a Telugu film. Perhaps, one of the biggest surprises of 2017 was the startling comeback of actor Rajasekhar in Praveen Sattaru’s PSV Garuda Vega. The action drama delved into the world of National Investigation Agency (NIA) officials, smuggling, international-trade, plutonium scam, hacking, and bomb squads. The pulsating background score by Sricharan Pakala and thrilling action choreography, coupled with an earnest performance by Rajasekhar turned PSV Garuda Vega into a stunning experience.

It wasn’t all rosy for Telugu film industry in 2017, of course. The disappointing run at the box-office for Mahesh Babu starrer Spyder came as a rude shock, and there were few other duds like Mister, Rogue, Nakshatram that made us cringe. The industry was also rocked by few controversies including a drug racket that was linked to few actors and technicians; Nandi Awards controversy with several filmmakers alleging that the awards committee was unfair to more deserving films; ugly fan-wars about the authenticity of box-office collections among others. Despite all these untoward developments, there’s no denying that right now there’s a certain sense of undeniable anticipation for the next big hit and emerging talent among Telugu movie aficionados.

At the end of the year, as we look back at what Tollywood has churned out this year, the question is — Did we really make great films? Or were conditions more favourable this time compared to previous years? It surely has plenty of scope for a well-informed debate, but then, isn’t ‘great’ a relative term in itself? 2017 reminded us what the joy of watching films feels like, starting from January with Khaidi No 150 and Shatamanam Bhavati all the way to December with Vikram Kumar’s Hello. We may or may not have made great films in 2017, but what we certainly made great again was the notion that cinema is bigger than any individual. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that the script of Telugu cinema in 2017 was akin to that a blockbuster action drama. To infinity and beyond.


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Suriya at Thaanaa Serndha Koottam success meet: ‘The film has shattered a lot of stereotypes’

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The success meet of Suriya’s Thaanaa Serndha Koottam was held in Chennai on 18 January. Suriya, who was conspicuous by his absence during the beginning of the event due to food poisoning problems, made a sudden entry towards the fag end of the function to the surprise of everyone.

“I haven’t missed any event for Thaanaa Serndha Koottam. That’s why I decided to come down despite asking for an excuse. The road trip in Andhra Pradesh took a toll on me, especially the spicy food (laughs). We traveled nearly 1000 KMs covering Rajahmundry Vijayawada, Bhimavaram, Guntur and visited some 10 to 15 theatres. It’s my first multi-city theater tour in Andhra Pradesh although my films have been regularly getting a Telugu release in the past twelve years,” said Suriya.

Suriya in Thaanaa Serndha Koottam.

Thaanaa Serndha Koottam has become an important film in my career,” says Suriya

Talking about the extremely encouraging positive feedback from across the board, Suriya said, “TSK has become an important film in my career. Although it’s my 35th film, I’ve received a lot of responses that it’s a completely different movie in my career. The unanimous feedback, from audiences to the media, is that TSK is quite unique from my previous outings. Everyone opines that a lot of stereotypes concerning my makeover have been shattered in this film. The entire credit goes to director Vignesh Shivan. He meticulously took care of all the minute details.  He kept exploring various options, which made me convinced.”

Suriya said he’s happy with the film’s performance at the box-office although he doesn’t delve into exact numbers. “I usually don’t go into box-office collections. But somehow the information reaches my ears. The Sunday figures are higher than the opening day (Friday). And the Monday numbers are said to be higher than Sunday. It’s mainly because of the family audiences who watched the film, after the opening,” he said.

“Anirudh’s songs have taken this film beyond borders,” says Suriya

Suriya showered praise on composer Anirudh Ravichander for delivering a great album and excellent background score for the film. “Anirudh’s songs have taken this film beyond borders. Every technician has played some crucial role in the movie’s success. Everyone was lifting the whole experience by contributing something. We all had a lot of positive vibes while shooting the film. We were very sure that the film should be a celebration because it’s been eight years since my last festival release. And, I witnessed all the celebration in theatres firsthand by visiting screens like Kasi and Brinda, where people were enjoying everything on screen. For every film, there will be an inevitable difference between how the media and public respond. But, for Thaanaa Serndha Koottam, there was a unanimous opinion,” stated Suriya.

“There was a lot of pressure on Vignesh Shivan to deliver an entertaining film,” says Anirudh Ravichander

Composer Anirudh Ravichander talked about his magical working experience with Vignesh Shivan and reasoned why their combo clicks. “When Vignesh Shivan decided to do a film with Suriya sir after Naanum Rowdy Thaan, there was a lot of pressure. NRD was a small-scale film, and it opened up the opportunity to bag Thaanaa Serndha Koottam. So, the fate of Thaanaa Serndha Koottam would decide his future since it’s a big-star film on a big canvas. Despite the considerable pressure, Vignesh utilized the offer correctly and delivered an entertaining movie, which didn’t receive any negative reviews at all. I don’t know how our combination works. He extracts the best of out of me very casually. We used to keep chatting something, and in between, he will take the right scores from me. Our sessions have always been candid and very nonchalant.”

“Though the music was a hit, we wouldn’t remember the experience fondly if the end product is not good. It’s what I’ve learned in my small career. If the film doesn’t work well, we won’t have any pleasant memories associated with it even if the album was a chartbuster. I thoroughly enjoyed watching the movie with audiences in theaters,” added Anirudh.

“Suriya sir gives his 100% to the script, and that’s his biggest strength,” says Vignesh Shivan

Vignesh Shivan said Suriya’s absolute commitment to the character he plays was one of the reasons for producing the output he had desired.  “When I received this offer, I was a little hesitant about the ‘remake’ part. But, it’s a precious opportunity to direct a big hero. So, I did my best to make the film more interesting. Suriya sir gives his 100% to the script, and that’s his biggest strength. He understands the role thoroughly and gets into the skin of the character with utmost commitment,” said Vignesh.

Published Date: Jan 19, 2018 12:16 PM | Updated Date: Jan 19, 2018 12:16 PM


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Supreme Court upholds acquittal of Peepli Live co-director Mahmood Farooqui by Delhi HC in rape case

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The Supreme Court on Friday upheld the acquittal of Peepli Live co-director Mahmood Farooqui in a rape case by the Delhi High Court, after hearing a plea by an American woman challenging the high court verdict.

During the hearing before the apex court, the woman’s counsel told the bench that a new argument of alleged consensual relation was advanced by Farooqui’s lawyer before the high court and claimed that this issue was not raised before the lower court during the trial.

The bench, however, observed that it was not a case where strangers came, met and did something as both Farooqui and the woman were known to each other.

File image of Mahmood Farooqui. GettyImages

File image of Mahmood Farooqui. GettyImages

“This is a very hard case. We would like to say that it has been decided extremely well (by the high court),” the top court said.

When the woman’s counsel said the issue was whether there was any consent, the bench observed that there appeared to be a “positive response” which, according to her, was faked by her. “People give false smiles. How would the other person know that it’s a false response? This is very difficult to understand,” the bench said, adding, “she appeared to have responded in a positive manner”.

When the petitioner’s counsel referred to the email conversation between the woman and Farooqui, the apex court said the record reflects that they were good friends. The bench also referred to one of the communications between them and asked whether she had said “I love you” to Farooqui in one of the emails after the alleged incident.

“How many rape cases you have gone through where the prosecutrix (woman) has said I love you to the alleged accused much after the alleged incident,” the bench asked the counsel and also posed several other queries including how many times the woman had visited Farooqui and had drinks together.

The bench was not satisfied with the answers given by the counsel and dismissed the plea, saying no question of law was involved in the matter.

“We will not interfere with the high court verdict. It is a well-written judgment,” PTI quoted the Supreme Court as saying.

In September 2017, the Delhi High Court had acquitted Farooqui, saying he was entitled to benefit of the doubt as the testimony of the victim was not reliable.

Justice Ashutosh Kumar had set aside the trial court order which had awarded a seven-year jail term to Farooqui after convicting him for the alleged rape of a 30-year-old American researcher at his south Delhi residence in March 2015.

The high court, in its 85-page judgment, had directed that Farooqui be released forthwith.

It had held that the woman’s testimony was not reliable and the accused can be given the benefit of doubt. “Whether such an incident happened, if it has happened, it did happen with the consent of the prosecutrix. This remains in doubt,” the court had said.

Farooqui had challenged his conviction and the sentence given by the trial court.

During arguments, Farooqui’s lawyer had denied the allegation of rape levelled by the woman and had said, “no such incident took place on that day”.

His counsel had referred to messages exchanged between his client and the woman before the case was lodged and contended that the two were in a “relationship” since January 2015.

The argument was opposed by Delhi Police’s counsel, who had said that rape had taken place and the trial court had given reasons while convicting and sentencing 45-year-old Farooqui.

A trial court on 4 August last year had sent him to jail for seven years, observing that he had taken advantage of the situation when the victim was alone in his house.

The court, which on 30 July, 2016, had held Farooqui guilty of raping the American woman in 2015 in a drunken state, had also imposed a fine of Rs 50,000 on him.

The police had on 19 June, 2015, lodged an FIR against Farooqui on the woman’s complaint after which he was arrested.

On 29 July, 2015, the police had filed its chargesheet against Farooqui, alleging he had raped the research scholar from Columbia University at his Sukhdev Vihar house in South Delhi on 28 March, 2015.

With inputs from PTI

Published Date: Jan 19, 2018 12:46 PM | Updated Date: Jan 19, 2018 13:48 PM


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Naya Rivera’s estranged husband Ryan Dorsey drops charges of domestic violence against Glee actress

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The charges of domestic violence against Glee star Naya Rivera by her estranged husband, actor Ryan Dorsey, have been dropped after he decided not to press charges, as reported by Daily News.

Naya Rivera and Ryan Dorsey. Facebook

Naya Rivera and Ryan Dorsey. Facebook

Rivera had been arrested and charged with domestic battery last year following a complaint by Dorsey when she had struck him on the head and the bottom lip while on a stroll with their two year old son. The charges have been dropped by Kanawha County Magistrate Court’s office, as reported by Daily News.

The incident had occurred on 25 November, 2017 and the actress was believed to be intoxicated at the time. The fight between the couple had erupted over an argument over their son. At the time the actor known for his role on Pitch had tweeted a statement, “This is a difficult time for everyone in the family especially for Naya and I. This isn’t some reality show, this is our life, and I ask that everyone especially ‘the media’ please respect our privacy and treat us/this situation how you would want a loved one to be treated. Perhaps with kindness, respect, without judgement, and as negative a situation like this is, with positivity and love. Thanks,” as reported by US Weekly.

After her arrest, Rivera had filed for divorce a second time, from Dorsey since November 2016, which she had dismissed, as reported by Daily News.

Published Date: Jan 19, 2018 12:48 PM | Updated Date: Jan 19, 2018 12:48 PM

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