New Delhi: Brave princes, coy maidens, cunning spirits and demons and demigods, inhabiting not just terra firma, but the heavens and the netherworld as well. Riding on seamless imagination and extraordinary visual effects, Tollywood's landscape is riddled with all this and more. And if you thought this was just a passing fancy, then think again.
In the last couple of years, there have been a string of fantasy-based movies like 'Yamadonga', 'Arundhati', 'Magadheera', 'Anaganaga O Dheerudu', 'Shakti' and 'Badrinath', to name a few. And, going by the box office collections, it seems the Telugu audience is lapping it all up.
Even now, socio-fantasies are the flavour of Tollywood. Take SS Rajamouli's (director of the super hit 'Yamadonga' and 'Magadheera') latest movie 'Eega' (Fly), which is attracting attention as much for the name as for the genre. Speculation is rife that the movie has been inspired by the Hollywood hit 'The Fly'. But Samantha, the film's heroine, hastens to clarify that it has nothing to do with the sci-fi adventure. "Sure there is an element of fantasy. I mean I talk to an invisible person in the film," she says.
Besides Rajamouli, another director who has managed to inject huge doses of mythology and history into his films is Kodi Ramakrishna. His 2004 movie, 'Anji', won the national award for best special effects. 'Arundhati', released in 2009, which revolved around female power and sacrifice, not only captured the audience imagination, but was also a box office hit.
Says Kodi, "In the movie, the protagonist (played by Anushka Shetty) sacrifices her life to de-stroy an evil spirit." As for the horror element, Kodi clarified that it was necessary to up the 'tension' levels. And now, into this potent brew, he mixes a bit of spirituality as well, with his latest film, 'Baba Sathya Sai'.
'Arundhati' and 'Magadheera', though blockbusters, are now old hat. The movie currently creating a buzz is the Srinivasa Reddy-directed 'Damarukam', an out and out fantasy film starring Nagarjuna , Anushka and Ganesh Venkatraman. For Nagarjuna, it is an attempt to experiment with a different role. His co-star Ganesh says, "Damarukam being made on a budget of Rs 35 crore, is bigger in every way. It has sci-fi, fantasy, with 55 minutes of special effects the film's USP."
Also, jumping onto the fantasy/history/ horror bandwagon is first-time director Venugopal, whose 'Kshetram', starring Jagapati Babu, Priyamani and Shaam, has both history and horror. "The story is based on a real-life incident that took place in Rayalseema 40-50 years ago," he says. Priyamani says, "In 'Yamadonga', I stirred not from earth, though the hero had many a battle in Yamlok (hell). In 'Kshetram', my character goes back in time."
For Shaam, this is one movie in Tollywood where he is not playing a taciturn cop!
One wonders why the Telugu audience is so partial to such films. Says Shaam, "Their motto is simple: keep us entertained."
Actor Ganesh, though, feels that Tollywood viewers love mythology and musicals. "Maya Bazaar and 'Devdas' are popular even today," he adds . Agreeing with him is Gunasekar K S, an ardent fan, who says his decision to watch a movie rests on a director's credentials (eg. Kodi, Rajamouli).
Director Venugopal says there is a time for everything and now the audience seems to find this genre fascinating. "That is the reason why even my debut film is based on this genre," he says all smiles.