Does The South Indian Film Industry Serve As A Model For Bollywood?

By Nikhila P

When discussing India, its diverse cultures, societies, languages, food, and social roles are all taken into consideration. However, the movie is also receiving more and more attention today. Indian cinema currently holds a very prominent position in the global film industry. Even outside of India, Indian cinema enjoys enormous popularity. Such a large fan base hasn’t been developed because of Bollywood. But in recent years, there has been a significant change in the Indian film industry. The South Indian film industries, particularly Kollywood, Tollywood, Sandalwood, and Mollywood, have produced a number of successful films that have attracted international attention. But on the other hand, Bollywood’s failures and setbacks have prompted more discussions and corrections that are necessary to promote the healthy development of the industry. Why South Indian Movies are better? What distinguishes them from Bollywood? Let’s hear what Ohhnow has to say about it.

Why South Indian movies are better?

Considering the film industry, the work behind it is not small. This is an area that requires strong coordination in terms of manpower, creativity, and money. But spending more money is not the criterion for a film’s success. From pre-production to post-production, the filming process is complicated. The first factor is a strong foundational story and screenplay. A good movie is made by a good director. The primary ingredients were a great cast and a good production. The answer to why South Indian movies are better is to intelligently combine these primal elements within the constraints. Missing many of these factors is also the reason for the big failures in Bollywood in recent times. The level of viewer enjoyment is rising twice as fast as the quality of films. Now it is impossible to think that we can show something. Criticisms are well done, and they reach people through media, including social media. In the future, films should only be released with the understanding that even the technical aspects, which were alien to the audience in the past, are very clearly known to the audience. South Indian films quickly caught on to this perception, and South Indian films became references to Bollywood.

South Indian Movies Vs Bollywood

Over the years, Bollywood, a Hindi-language film industry based in Mumbai, has dominated the Indian film industry, but this dominance seems to be waning. South Indian cinema, which includes the Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, and Malayalam language industries, has recently outperformed its earlier, more glitzy Bollywood counterpart in terms of both content and box office. Mani Ratnam made a few films in Hindi before switching back to his native Tamil because his Tamil-language movies “Roja” (1992) and “Bombay” (1995) were pan-India hits in their Hindi dub versions in the 1990s. With S.S. Rajamouli’s “Baahubali” films (2015 and 2017), made in Telugu and Tamil, which together grossed $379 million worldwide with a significant portion coming from Hindi dubs, the idea of a pan-India hit, or films made in one of the South Indian languages becoming a hit across India and Indian diaspora markets, roared back to life.

One film from the Telugu film industry (RRR), two from the Kannada film industry (KGF 2 and Kantara), three from the Tamil film industry (PS1, Vikram, and Beast), and four from the Hindi film industry (The Kashmir Files, Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2, Brahmastra Part 1: Shiva, and Drishyam 2) are on the IMDB list of the 10 most successful Indian films (worldwide gross) of 2022. Four! Yes, that is a fact, but there is a catch, the south of India produced the most popular movies in 2022. The international top 50 films of 2022 include the blockbusters KGF Chapter 2 (from the Kannada industry) and RRR (from the Telugu industry), both of which have a worldwide gross of over INR 1,000 crore. Even the modestly funded Kantara (again, in Kannada) raked in INR 400 crore. However, both Bollywood and South Indian cinema has had their share of duds. 

As evidenced by the statistics, South Indian films experienced a meteoric rise beyond Bollywood during the pandemic years, when Indian audiences were exposed to a wide range of non-Bollywood content. According to the yearly EY media industry report, Telugu (204) and Tamil (152) saw the highest number of Indian film releases in 2021, while Hindi saw only 84 releases. After the pandemic, the Indian box office recovered to $472 million, of which South Indian films contributed $290 million, or three times as much as Hindi films did. The remaining money came from the myriad of other Indian languages. Bollywood had a difficult year in 2022 due to the underperformance of popular films like “Laal Singh Chaddha,” “Raksha Bandhan,” “Shamshera,” “Samrat Prithviraj,” and “Vikram Vedha,” all of which feature A-list talent. Only three of the top 10 grossing films at the box office so far in 2022 are in Hindi: “Brahmstra: Part One: Shiva” at No. 4, “The Kashmir Files” at No. 6, and “Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2” at No. 7. The remaining top 10 are all from South India, with the top three titles being “KGF: Chapter 2” in Kannada, “RRR” in Telugu, and “Ponniyin Selvan: Part 1” in Tamil.

Bollywood films’ underwhelming box office returns, according to Elara Capital analyst Karan Taurani, are due to their “poor content.” According to Taurani, “people really want to watch more content-driven films now, and not star-driven films.” Another factor is the higher ticket prices in Bollywood markets when compared to South India. Tickets were reduced to 75 rupees (90 cents) for the day on September 23 in India, which also saw 6.5 million people pack the 4,000 participating theatres. Why are we preventing so many people from visiting the theatres if they are so eager to do so? Is there any way we can change things so that we can attract people back to the industry, which is currently in peril? Asks R. Madhavan, an actor who works in both the South Indian and Bollywood industries and whose film “Dhokha: Round D Corner” benefited directly from the lower ticket price.

Filmmaker Mahesh Narayanan believes that the excessively long time it takes for Bollywood films to get the green light robs them of their freshness. Mahesh Narayanan, who works in both the commercial (“Malik”) and arthouse (“Ariyippu”) sectors of the Malayalam film industry, will make his Hindi-language debut with “Phantom Hospital.” Additionally, he believes that many of those movies are not relevant to Indian viewers. As Narayanan noted in an interview, “some of the Hindi films, when you look at them, are written with a Westerner’s mindset, and they are not looking at the Indian scenario.” “What is the origin of these characters?” Is there a source? —Are they restrained? “Even if it’s commercial cinema, that’s what Malayalam movies typically concentrate on.” Even the outsized South Indian hits like “RRR” and “K.G.F. Chapter 2,” according to Narayanan, have a “core emotion” that is relatable to viewers. 
Producers have found a workaround by turning to pan-Indian films with actors from both Bollywood and South India. The box office failures of “Radhe Shyam,” starring Prabhas from “Baahubali,” and “Liger,” starring Vijay Deverakonda from “Arjun Reddy,” this year showed that this is not a guarantee for success. Neither the Hindi nor Telugu versions of these films were well received by viewers.

Bollywood’s future is not entirely bleak; according to Taurani, the business will recover in 2023. Om Raut, the director of the biggest Bollywood hit of 2020, “Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior,” and the upcoming “Adipurish,” starring Prabhas, compares the current dip to a sine wave. According to Raut, this is just a dark cloud that will pass. It is a sine wave and will eventually turn upward. 
“It’s a transitory phase, and I believe it has already passed; the good times have since returned to the nation,” says Prabhas.

 Prithviraj Sukumaran, an actor, director, producer, and distributor who primarily works in South India but will soon return to the Hindi film industry, claims that all Indian industries, not just Bollywood, experience ups and downs. Because they only hear about the gold, “Film lovers in the North feel that everything from the South is turning into gold,” Sukumaran told Variety. “Numerous less-than-stellar events are also taking place here.” “We don’t necessarily have a 100% success rate with the movies we produce,” he added. 

The “Vikram Vedha” and “Tanhaji” star Saif Ali Khan believes that the Bollywood box office is cyclical and will rebound. “To get people back to investing with greater assurance, we need some nice hits. I’m sorry to say, but I don’t believe very good movies have been seen. “We simply need to make better movies,” Khan explained. 

Examine the facts.

KGF2 and RRR, for example, are two South Asian films that are barely registered on international radars. Lost in the Bollywood versus South Indian cinema debate is the fact that “South Indian cinema” is actually a conglomeration of four distinct film industries (Tamil or Kollywood, Telugu or Tollywood, Kannada or Sandalwood, and Malayalam or Mollywood). Comparing the Hindi film industry to four other equally capable South Asian film industries is a little unfair. “The idea that all South Indian movies are excellent has recently become deeply ingrained in the minds of viewers.” The percentage of successful movies hasn’t increased significantly anywhere, not even in the South. “It is still less than 10% of what it was previously,” said Atul Mohan, an Indian film industry expert.

Misses and hits 

To be fair, the Kannada film industry dominated last year. Two of the biggest box office successes across the board, not just in Sandalwood, were KGF Chapter 2 and Kantara. Out of the 202 Kannada films that were released last year, these were the only two. When all 200 films were combined, their earnings did not come close to matching those of these two blockbusters. Has the Kannada film industry been predicted to die off? Many Kannada movies that vanished into obscurity are not discussed. The post-Covid era and the emergence of OTT have significantly changed how people watch movies. Audiences may be drawn to pricey theatres by the immersive experiences offered by escapist films and larger-than-life spectacles. 
Films like KGF Chapter 2, RRR, and Pushpa were able to transcend regional and linguistic boundaries while capturing the scope of India. It was also accomplished by Karan Johar’s Brahmastra, though not to the same degree as a KGF 2 or RRR. In order to create a biassed narrative, expensive star vehicles from the South like Radhe Shyam, Liger, Godfather, Cobra, Monster, and Maaran that bombed in 2022 are forgotten while big disasters like Samrat Prithviraj, Shamshera, and Laal Singh Chaddha are relentlessly hammered into Bollywood.

A game of perception 

It appears that Bollywood is losing the box office battle as well. How and why did perception change so dramatically to support the story of the South’s cinematic “dominance”? And no, the solution is not some unanticipated turn of events brought on by the astronomical success of S.S. Rajamouli’s Baahubali: The Beginning (2015). Much earlier than Baahubali: The Beginning, the Hindi-dubbed versions of his two previous blockbusters, Magadheera (2009) and Eega (Makhkhi in Hindi), had attracted huge television audiences and built a base of devoted Hindi-speaking viewers.

South Indian cinema had at last been discovered by Hindi audiences, with its unbridled energy, fresh stories, splendour, and formula executed perfectly. In addition to television, these “South action films” were also dubbed in Hindi and shown in the single-screen cinemas of North India over the past 15 years as they struggled to remain in business in the face of multiplexes. The affordable print prices worked for them and kept the audience interested.

Not a “sudden revolution”

It wasn’t a “sudden revolution,” as it is being portrayed; rather, it was a silent, protracted, steady march into the Hindi heartland. The rise of the “Indian film” is (finally!) the best result of the altered environment. In the same way that Brahmastra is a Tamil movie and Shah Rukh’s Pathaan is a Telugu movie today, Allu Arjun’s Pushpa is a Hindi movie. RRR is an Indian film, not a Telugu one, that has been nominated for an Oscar. The barriers of languages, regions, and stardom may have finally been broken for the first time. Beyond the limitations of Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, or Malayalam, our cinema has grown. The term “Indian film” can now be used with genuine authority.

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