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Same Difference?

How do the Hindi and Telugu film industries stack up against each other?

Here’s an interesting analogy that describes the relationship between the Hindi and Telugu film industries. They can be compared to monsoon winds, sometimes blowing south to north and, sometimes, north to south.

There’s a phase when Telugu producers buy the rights to every successful Hindi film and remake these movies. Then, suddenly, the wind changes direction and the rights to every successful Telugu film sell like hot cakes. Right now, the South-West monsoon is ruling.

With 1,800 cinemas, Andhra Pradesh has the largest film-viewing audience. Films are the most popular source of entertainment for the Telugu population, more than in any other State. As filmmakers, we are forced to make all films ‘entertainment-based’. Some of the films we produce are blockbusters but many loose their impact by trying to fit into the entertainment-for-everyone genre.

With the growth of multiplexes in the last decade, the Hindi film industry has been able to segregate its films and cater to the tastes of niche audience as well as make films with a limited budget. This greatly helped the creators come up with diversified yet successful films. Now, the Telugu industry has embarked on this path and I see a great change in the coming few years.

The Hindi film industry has greatly benefited from the corporate style of functioning but the Telugu industry is still a little sceptical. We all know that making a film in a structured way helps the industry as a whole, and our initial hesitation is indication that we have taken the first step.

Aamir Khan and his approach to filmmaking since Lagaan has been a huge inspiration to me. The importance he gives to scripts, discipline in production and innovative publicity are truly exemplary. I look up to him as a teacher.

Raj Kumar Hirani and Anurag Kashyap are two of my favourite directors in the Hindi film industry. Both are completely different in their narrative style but both of them leave a very deep impact on the viewer. If 3 Idiots made me feel proud to be a human being, Black Friday prodded me to wonder how I could become a better human being. The flavour of their films linger for a very long time even after the credits roll. If the director is the captain of the ship, the star is the mast and the sails. The ship goes nowhere without either of them.

The involvement/interference of stars in the filmmaking process is a long-standing complaint in both industries. Personally, I don’t see anything wrong with them wanting to be involved. When a film sells solely because a particular actor has featured in it, he obviously has the right to check whether the story/film is catering to his strengths or not. The onus is on the director/writer/producer to convince him that the content is good enough. To date, I have never faced a problem with a star.

I have heard stories of Hindi film shootings starting very late. From other quarters, I have heard that they are extremely punctual and structured. I don’t know which is true. Maybe a bit of both. In Telugu, most productions start at 7 am sharp and pack up at 6 pm. Every unit member knows what is expected of him and goes about their duties accordingly. They help each other and the atmosphere is quite friendly.

But unconsciously, every member gets his drive from the director. The quality and quantity of output is directly proportionate to the energy and excitement of the director on that particular day or schedule or project. Everyone respects the director and he is revered almost like a God on the sets. It’s been a decade since I made my debut as a director but I still haven’t got used to the respect I am given. It’s a very complex feeling. I am both proud and humbled by this.


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