Extensive dance sequences, vibrant colours and explicit action sequences. To all those who are well acquainted with South Indian cinema, these traits would seem unanimous with this unique and underrated industry. It’s an industry where many of the reigning stars and acclaimed talents of Hindi cinema hail from. Be it the comic king Priyadarshan, the dance guru Prabhu Deva, the music maestro A R Rahman or the ultimate diva Sridevi, over the years South cinema has given Indian cinema some of its biggest legends. However, despite a large portion of Hindi cinema’s talent hailing from down South, the audience at large is still awaiting to be officially introduced to this cinema of never-ending talent and potential. BollySpice now brings you an introductory course in South Indian cinema. The top stars, must see releases and specialties of this unique world of cinema will be gradually unveiled to you over the next few weeks. This week we begin with a basic introduction about what is so special to this industry that you will not find anywhere else!
Elaborate dance sequences
If you thought “Hai Ke Sara Sara” was amazing, then you will love a cinema in which each song is as, if not more, impressive. Prabhu Deva is given the title of the dancing God or guru in Indian cinema, but wait till you come into a world of cinema where there resides several choreographers with an equally impressive and unique style of choreography.
Ask any actress or actor, who has taken a detour to South cinema, and they will without a doubt have a comment to make on the dance talent required of them during the making of particular film in comparison to Hindi cinema. In addition, if you are forever awestruck by the talents of Hrithik Roshan and Shahid Kapoor in their respective dance sequences, then wait till you arrive in the South scene where each actor has the talents of a Hrithik or a Shahid. Regardless of age (years and in terms of movies), each actor is demanded to have a very high caliber of dancing talent. Hindi cinema has only started placing an increased emphasis on male leads dancing extensively since the beginning of this millennium. However, to South cinema this was something that comes quite naturally and almost seems to be a part of the culture that is embedded in their cinema.
In addition art directors, costume designers and set designers accompany these elaborate sequences with elaborate sets and costumes. From colour coordination of sets to costumes, everything seems to be out of a Broadway show most of the time. Outdoor locations are still in use with the typical around-the-tree locations. However, an extensive use is made of closed sets, which are ornately designed and coordinated in some of the most exquisite styles possible.
Item numbers remain in demand down South as they do in Hindi cinema with stars like Maumith Khan and Malaika Arora making their presence felt in some of the biggest releases of recent times. However, male leads are quite actively utilized in these very item numbers, which is something we don’t see often of in Hindi cinema.
South cinema is home to some of the biggest musical talents of the nation. With composers who are never afraid to try something new, it almost seems that this is an industry full of A R Rahmans. Of course, his brilliance is incomparable. However, let’s just say that down South A R Rahman has much more competition than he may seem to have up North. Harris Jayraj, Illaraya, Mani Sharma, Devi Sri Prasad and M M Keeravani are some of the top composers and are constantly seen to be trying something new, music being quite an integral part of its culture just as dance sequences are.
Even the best of our playback singers are constantly taking trips down South to deliver some chartbusters there as well. Shaan, Kay Kay, Sunidhi Chauhan, Shreya Ghosal and Kunal Ganjawala, who are the popular names in the Hindi music industry today, all have extensively sung down south with Shankar Mahadevan making his presence felt more than other! In addition, Vishal and Shekhar are heard to be making a debut down South soon as are Shankar, Ehsaan and Loy.
When it comes to action one may say that South cinema may be still frozen in the 90s in comparison to Indian cinema where action sequences were quite extensive in length and somewhat explicit as well. Elaborate action sequences are as imperative to South cinema as its elaborate dance sequences are. With more and more releases modernizing their action sequences, there still remains an extra emphasis placed on the use of props in chase sequences and lengthy action scenes. Story lines are still very much based on themes such as revenge, local mafias and a rising hero amongst all this.
Whilst Hindi cinema snapped out of this phase much earlier on with more releases being penned as romantic comedies, South cinema audiences are still enthusiastic action film goers, and some of the biggest releases in the past few years have been quite action packed with only a few rare non-action movies still making the mark, such as Bommarillu (starring Genelia D Souza and Siddharth).
Speaking about emphasis on action sequences down South, one is reminded of the difference in popular genres between the two industry.
Hindi cinema is quite favourable to romantic comedies and mass family entertainers that provide a way of escape at most times. South cinema, on the other hand, fancies up some of these issues much less. The stories that seem too popular are less sugar-coated than those of Indian cinema but not in a crude manner. Of course, even this trend is changing in Indian cinema now where there is more of a demand for realistic entertainers.
Despite these differences, the one thing that remains common to both movements of cinema is its love for a typical romantic angle. Like Hindi movies, South Indian movies seem to always find a place for a romantic angle regardless of the main direction of the script. The “hero” and “heroine” tags still stick strong and firm. Unfortunately, this at times proves to be a disadvantage for female leads that are simply roped in for this angle in a film and aren’t given anything else of substance. However, with times slowly changing and scene-stealers like Genelia D’Souza, Shriya Saran and Trisha Krishnan emerging, this trend will surely head for a reform in no time!
This is perhaps a trait relevant to Telugu cinema only where it’s a sign of affection and appreciation to be crowned with a title upon making a mark in the industry. These titles are as important as names and even appear in the opening credit of the actors respective releases. They’re somewhat similar to tags like King Khan, Big B however a lot more official.
Allu Arjun started the trend of style and youthfulness in Telugu cinema and even adorned a somewhat John Abraham look for Puri Jaganath’s Desamuduru and because of these very traits he’s commonly referred to as Stylish Star Allu Arjun. Then there is the current reigning star of Telugu cinema, Mahesh Babu, who is the son of the legendary star Krishna. He was given the title of Prince Mahesh upon his debut since his father was very much considered to be the king and commonly was referred to as Superstar Krishna. And so the trend of title giving continues with Young Rebel Prabhas, Victory Venkatash, Yuva Samrath Nagarjuna and Power Star Pawan Kalyan. To someone who’s new to the South scene, this trend may seem a bit odd, but in the industry it’s considered as a sign of stardom and a measurement of star power.
This is perhaps a trait of South cinema that fans of Hindi cinema would really appreciate being reflected in Bollywood. That is that South Indian actors all give an extra importance to fans than Hindi film stars do. They understand that these people on the streets who stand hours to simply get a glimpse of them are the very reasons they reside on the thrown that they do. So it’s quite common to read an interview of megastar down South where he or she states that they’ll do movies that please their fans or will remain loyal to their fans no matter what happens. And don’t think that this may be something only found in the rising stars or the newcomers of the industry, but in fact it’s present in all stars despite their status. Superstar Krishna, who is considered one of the biggest legends of Telugu cinema, celebrated his birthday earlier this year at a public event predominantly attended by fans. This may seem quite uncommon for Hindi film fans but it’s something that happens quite frequently for the satisfaction and enjoyment of fans. At the end of the day, this trait ensures humbleness and most of all appreciation of their status in the industry. It’s very common and often that stars forget that fans are the people who make them what they are today. So if correctly analyzed, it is with them that an actors priorities must lie first and foremost.
Well that was just an introduction to South cinema and some very unique traits of this amazing world of cinema. Over the next few weeks BollySpice will continue to take you deeper into out journey down South so stay tuned and keep visiting!