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South Actors Crossing Regional Language Barriers to Make it To Hindi Films

That would mean universal acceptance and recognition which the Hindi film medium offers

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South, Actors, Regional
While, all South actors are content ruling the roost locally, crossing the regional language barriers only on rare occasions, they have aspirations and ambitions to make it to Hindi films. Pixabay

The Indian film industry may be the biggest in the world and the South film industry, combined in itself, outnumbers the Hindi films produced. The South has four main languages in which the films are made: Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada. While, all South actors are content ruling the roost locally, crossing the regional language barriers only on rare occasions, they have aspirations and ambitions to make it to Hindi films. That would mean universal acceptance and recognition which the Hindi film medium offers.

Similar is the case when it comes to female artistes. While in most cases, it was the Hindi film producer who sought out a South Indian female star, in the case of male actors, their Hindi foray came through some or the other South Indian filmmaker making a Hindi film. This was because, the familiarity between the two, the actor and the producer as well as the ease of communication. This also benefitted the producer in that, a Hindi film with a South actor in the cast, also opened up the South market which, otherwise, gave very limited exposure to Hindi movies.

Take the example of Kamal Haasan. He was brought to Hindi films by the legendary filmmaker, L.V. Prasad with “Ek Duuje Ke Liye”. Similarly, Rajanikant made his Hindi debut with another South producer, A. Poornachndra Rao with “Andha Kanoon” along with Amitabh Bachchan. The idea was that, as mentioned earlier, cast the best of both the worlds, North and South. Chiranjeevi, the Telugu superstar of his time, was launched by his brother-in-law, Allu Arvind. Mukesh Udeshi, who dubbed South films into Hindi among his other businesses, was the co-producer. His Hindi debut film was titled Gentleman, a big hit.

Dr D. Rama Naidu, a prolific filmmaker from Telugu Industry, produced around 150 films in various languages, over a period. He started off his Hindi film making in a joint venture with the reputed South banner, B. Nagi Reddi’s production house, Vijaya Productions with “Prem Nagar”. The film, starring the reigning superstar Rajesh Khanna with Hema Malini, marked the glorious entry of Dr Naidu into the Hindi films. Dr Naidu’s sons were doing well in the family business as the oldest, Suresh, looked after the production and the younger, Venkatesh (Venky) had turned out to be a successful hero. So why not launch Venky in Hindi films?

South, Actors, Regional
The Indian film industry may be the biggest in the world and the South film industry, combined in itself, outnumbers the Hindi films produced. Pixabay

Venky was launched opposite Karisma Kapoor in “Anari”, which was a hit. Next, Dr Naidu wanted to launch his grandson, Rana Daggubati. He wanted to see if Rana’s debut Telugu film was a success so the same could be remade into Hindi. That was not to be and Rana’s debut came with “Dum Maaro Dum” in 2011, where he did not lead the cast and the film went generally unnoticed. Rana now keeps doing an odd Hindi film. However, he played an important though a negative role in “Baahubali” which has brought him back in the limelight.

Another South actor ready to be launched was Nagarjuna, also from a renowned South film family of A. Nageshwar Rao. Ram Gopal Varma launched him in Hindi with “Shiva”, a remake of his acclaimed Telugu film, “Siva”. Having watched “Siva” one knew that even its Hindi version would be a hit, too. And, it was. The film also brought to Hindi cinema a stylised villain from the South in Raghuvaran. But, both could not go far in the Hindi cinema.

The trend was to play safe and launch a star in a Hindi film with the remake of a South language film. During this time, other heroes from the South also tried their luck with Hindi films. These included Ambareesh and Vishnuvardhan from Kannada industry and Mammootty from Malayalam films. The trend continues through the involvement of the South filmmakers in Hindi films is now almost non-existent!

The one-film wonder with the South stars continues as we have seen actors like Kamal Haasan, Rajnikant, Chiranjeevi, to the present day aspirants like Siddharth, Dhanush, Suriya and others. They come and go. Madhvan is the only South star who continues to get assignments though not as a solo hero. While the other South heroes could not make a mark on the Hindi screens, the one who survived for the longest time was Rajanikant. This is because, Rajanikant did most of his films with other, established Hindi film heroes. In fact, most of his films were multi-starrer. That helped. What also marred the careers of these stars from the South was that, after they gained some recognition in Hindi films, the market was flooded with their films from South dubbed into Hindi by those wanting to cash in while it lasted.

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But when it comes to heroines, the South films sourced many. Besides their classy looks, what worked in their favour was that they were usually well trained in classical dancing which made them extremely expressive and just the kind the films made in those days demanded. Those female artistes who made it big in the Hindi film industry include Waheeda Rehman, Vyjayantimala, Leela Naidu, Padmini, Kalpana, Hema Malini, Rekha, Sridevi, Jaya Prada, Meenakshi Seshadri, Tabu, Zareena Wahab, Diya Mirza, Deepika Padukone among others.

While the actors from the Hindi film had no reason to seek work in the South, the Hindi film villains did find a lot of work there. The week past saw the entry of another South star, Prabhas, with the film “Saaho”. The film seemed more about cashing on the popularity of the hero post massive success of his “Baahubali” franchise. The film offered nothing else except Prabhas even while it boasted of a budget of a whopping Rs 350 crore. The moviegoer has not taken well to the film and this is no good news for Prabhas.

@The Box Office
* Much was expected from “Saaho” since the film starred Prabhas whose both earlier films, “Baahubali: The Beginning” and the sequel, “Baahubali 2: The Conclusion”, broke all box office records. However, “Saaho” lacked in purpose and content relying mainly on action. And, what good is a film which has a title which needs explaining! Considering the number of screens the film engaged, the opening day figures seemed to fall short by a few crores. The film had easy three days but, after the weekend was over, it started showing a marked drop. Monday, despite being a holiday in many parts for Ganesh Chaturthi, showed a drop of over 50 per cent compared to the previous day. The film has managed to end its opening week with about 113 crore.

South, Actors, Regional
The South has four main languages in which the films are made: Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada. Pixabay

* “Mission Mangal” continued to do well in its third week and added about 15 crore for the week taking its three week (22-day) tally to 188.5 crore.

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* “Batla House” has added about five crore to take its three week (22- day) total to 88 crore. (IANS)

Next Story

How did Comedians Disappear from Hindi Films?

The term comedian carried as much weight as the phrase hero in Hindi films.

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Comedy films
Back in the old times, no films were complete without a dose of comedy. Pixabay

BY VINOD MIRANI

The term comedian carried as much weight as the phrase hero in Hindi films. Almost no films, especially a family drama or even a romantic film, was complete without a healthy dose of comedy. Often, the comedy track had little to do with the main narrative and, if at all, a thin connection was devised to keep it relevant to the story.

Like every lead actor who enjoyed his place under the sun, had his period of glory, so did a comedian. There were leading comedians and then there were gap filler comedians. There were comedians who were superstars in their own right. There were comedians who could be loud and there were those who fitted the bill just in B or C-grade movies; loud and crass mostly. And, there were the suave type who made you laugh while not seen to be making an effort at all.

Not only Hindi, every regional language film had its own star comedian with a following of his own. There were a few female comedienne as well. But, they were given just a few minutes of footage and more than their acts, their very appearance made one laugh. The examples are Manorama or Tun Tun.

Bollywood films
Usually bollywood films were designed to cater to the family audience, the often heavy scripts needed to break away from the narrative and comedy was brought in. Pixabay

Usually, the films were designed to cater to the family audience, the often heavy scripts needed to break away from the narrative and comedy was brought in. This was called comic relief. The length of films being longer compared to the films now, this comic relief helped.

The comedy created its own superstars. But, going back to 1950s and ’60s, of course, there were other comedians but the one who ruled the roost was Johnny Walker. He became so popular that roles were written for him especially while giving him all the liberty to improvise as he thought fit. But, as best of filmstars fade out, so did Johnny Walker.

The other comedian actor was on the horizon: the era of Mehmood was here. While Johnny Walker had a typical style of his own with a shrill voice, Mehmood was more versatile. His career spanned to almost two decades and a film without Mehmood, was unthinkable.

Then there was Kishore Kumar. Again, a multifaceted actor who also produced and directed films, he also went on to become the most sought-after playback singer in the 1970s. Kishore Kumar may now be remembered more for his songs but he, along with his brothers Ashok Kumar and Anup Kumar, are always remembered for their evergreen comedy film, “Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi”.

Mehmood did not stick to comedy alone. He loved to indulge in emotional content. His aspirations to make films the way he wanted them, made him start making his own films, some independently and some in joint ventures with other established production houses. Among his most memorable films are “Padosan” and “Bombay To Goa”, which have proved to be evergreen. Mehmood is also remembered for his triple role of father, son and grandfather in “Humjoli”. His three roles are a take on the Kapoors: Prithviraj, Raj and Randhir. Not to forget his character in “Padosan”, which is etched in the memory even today.

Mehmood became so popular that some of his co-stars, the lead actors, felt insecure and thought Mehmood was hogging the limelight in their films and became reluctant to work with him, forgetting that often it was Mehmood who made their films popular and successful.

Writing scenes for comic situation was a job not many could justify. In the case of Johnny Walker and Mehmood, the written script was just an indicator, it was these comedians who made them clapworthy.

Then came a time when writers came at a premium and the filmmakers who believed that a major star was enough to make and market a film, never thought much about a writer who could give him a solid, tight script. The quality of writing was deteriorating. The scripts were poor, forget writing a track for comic relief.

The actor who did comic roles and stood a class apart at that time was Deven Verma. His expressions were always deadpan and yet he could evoke the laughter among the audience from all, the frontbenchers as well as the balconies. While, Verma was a universal choice for all makers, he remained very popular with filmmakers like Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Basu Chatterjee and others who preferred subtle comedy the over loud kind that the others delivered.

Deven Verma’s mantle was taken over by Paresh Rawal. Again, a deadpan face and the way he delivered his lines, did the job for him. Irrfan Khan, Boman Irani and Anu Kapoor are such actors in the presentday Hindi film industry. Their films are always looked forward to.

Johnny Lever can safely be called the last comedian who enjoyed, one may say, a connect with the audience.

In earlier films, buffoonery was not part of the routine. The exception was comedian Rajendranath. He usually played the hero’s sidekick and he would be paired with the heroine’s ‘saheli’. He resorted a lot to buffoonery. Vulgarity and double meaning dialogue had yet to invade the filmmaking.

The 1980s saw a flood of South remakes in Hindi. The remakes followed the original where a pack of villains also served as comedians. They were sinister in intent but comic at the same time. These films would have six to seven comic players at the same time, with Kader Khan leading the pack.

Kader Khan, originally a writer who wrote satire skits, specialised in oneliners and repartees, and usually kept the best lines for himself. He was so busy acting in films that he wrote his scripts/dialogue while shooting. He dictated the dialogue on a Dictaphone and had an assistant transcribe them.

Kader Khan films
Kader Khan was so busy acting in films that he wrote his scripts/dialogue while shooting. Wikimedia Commons

The Kader Khan Gang included lesser comic stars like Asrani, Ranjeet, Jankidas and CS Dubey, while Shakti Kapoor and Amjad Khan, Prem Chopra, Jagdeep, and Tej Sapru alternated between villainy and comedy.

There were those limited-footage comedians like Mohan Choti, Paintal, and Jugnu but the one who drew maximum laughter among them was a teetotaller, Keshto Mukherjee, who specialised in playing a drunkard. People lapped up his act. And there was Bhagwan Dada, who was added to a dance number in many films only to repeat the dance steps he did in his own film “Albela” (1951). It so happened that “Albela” was re-released in late 1970s or early ’80s and proved to be a huge success. Still, Bhagwan Dada was financially not secure and some makers added him so that he got work.

Then, there were Satish Shah, Rakesh Bedi, Satish Kaushik, Tiku Talsania, Deven Bhojani, Dilip Joshi, Krushna Abhishek, and Kapil Sharma who went on to do better on the television.

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But soon, this breed of comic stars became extinct. What drew them away? There were no slots for them and, to start with there were no writers who could create side-tracks for them.

Most of all, the lead actors, from top down, had resorted to doing comic roles even while playing the lead. From Amitabh Bachchan to Govinda, and from Anil Kapoor, Ajay Devgn, Salman Khan and Akshay Kumar to Ranveer Singh and Ranbir Kapoor, the present lot is more into comedy or comic movies.

They leave no special category for comedians. (IANS)