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Stardom: The North-South Barrier

Stardom: The North-South Barrier

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?

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.

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.

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Tags: D Rama Naidu film industry Kamal Haasan Prabhas Rajinikanth Tamil Telugu