Popular Telugu film star Mahesh Babu is playing a character from Telangana in his latest release Dhookudu and delivering heroic punch lines in the region’s accent, perceived to have been made fun of in the past to invoke mirth on screen.
But the equation, for sure, is changing. The Telangana statehood movement is forcing the change in the Andhra Pradesh film industry, dominated by people from coastal Andhra.
After years of alleged stereotyping and hundreds of films caricaturing Telangana-based characters as comedians, villains and sidekicks for laughs, the industry is tacitly making the switch in the face or anger and sentiments sweeping across Telangana.
Now, even characters of villains based in Telangana are towering, like in the latest hit ‘Kandireega’. Business is also at the heart of the shift in the R1,500-crore industry, which churns out 225 movies a year.
The industry can’t afford to rub cinemagoers of Telangana’s 10 districts the wrong way. The state has 23 districts. Leading star Nagarjuna’s upcoming movie ‘Rajanna’ is based on the Telangana armed struggle against the Nizam.
In the recent past, pro-Telangana agitators have attacked movie sets to pre-empt stereotyped depictions. Movies of superstar turned politician Chiranjeevi’s family were boycotted in Telangana because he supported united AP.
Protests had forced a change in the title of Chiranjeevi’s brother Pawan Kalyan’s movie, from Komaram Puli to Puli (2010). Protesters had opposed the use of the name of Komaram Bhim, a tribal leader from Telangana who fought the Nizam, in the title.
Tirupati Yadav, 30, from Karimnagar district said, “We made them stars by watching their films but they went on ridiculing our accent and culture.”
Telangana leaders too have often hit out at lopsided depiction of the region. D Suresh Babu, MD, Suresh Productions, said: “All we want is peaceful atmosphere to carry on our projects.”