How Jr.NTR propelled Magadheera’s success?
Note: The following post is just a figment of my imagination. I have no facts and figures to prove this theory. However, the observation is based on a peculiar trend which I have noticed in the recent few years. You are free to agree or disagree with my views.
History repeats itself in quite an unusual fashion as far as movies are concerned. Take a bunch of all-time blockbusters in Hindi, Tamil or Telugu cinema, you can come up with your own equation. It’s a striking coincidence that atleast 2-3 of the top 10 blockbusters have something in common. Most of the time, it’s either the actor or the director who play a key role in the film’s box office success. Telugu Cinema is no different to this trend. We have always had four top heroes and then another set of budding actors who have worked hard and waited for their turn to occupy the coveted throne. Earlier it was NTR, ANR, Krishna and Shobhan Babu who churned out some of the biggest hits along with the top directors. Then in 80s, when they were past their prime, a new set of heroes emerged who went on to rule the roost for almost 20 years. Chiranjeevi, Balakrishna, Venkatesh and Nagarjuna, have in a way been the four pillars of Telugu Film Industry for more than two decades. Their films had great openings and quite a few of their films were blockbusters. And everytime they were written off by the critics or the audience, they bounced back strongly. In the early years of this decade, the four pillars had entered their 40s and the new generation of audience, especially the youth were waiting for fresh faces. This was the time when Mahesh, Pawan Kalyan, Jr.NTR, Prabhas, Allu Arjun emerged as top contenders to occupy the throne. Few years later, Chiranjeevi’s son, Ram Charan Teja, Nagarjuna’s son Naga Chaitanya, Venkatesh’s newphew RaNa made their respective debuts. However, this post isn’t about the dynasties in Telugu film industry, which I promise to write about in detail later. This is about the role of Jr.NTR in the stupendous success of Ram Charan Teja starrer, ‘Magadheera’, which is also the biggest blockbuster till date in Telugu cinema’s history.
Before we talk about Jr.NTR and Magadheera, it’s important to look at two blockbusters which made news in the earlier part of this decade. Balakrishna’s ‘Narasimha Naidu’ and Chiranjeevi’s ‘Indra’. Balakrishna pulled off a coup when he made one of the greatest ever comebacks known to Telugu cinema aficionados. In the 90s, he had several hits like ‘Bhairava Dweepam’, ‘Aditya 369’ to name a few. However, a string of flops later on had kept him out of news for quite sometime. But he was back with a bang with a film titled ‘Samarasimha Reddy’ and how! The film rewrote almost all possible records and ran for over 150 days in several cinema halls. He repeated this feat with ‘Narasimha Naidu’ in 2001 which according to some estimates raked in Rs.35 crores which was a huge amount back in 2001. On the other hand, Chiranjeevi had a neat track record since ‘Hitler’ which released in 1997. However, he required one big hit to show everyone who’s the ‘Big Boss’ of Telugu cinema. So, what happens? He stars in a movie titled ‘Indra’ in 2002, just 17 months after the release of ‘Narasimha Naidu’. Note that, both the films were directed by B.Gopal. Both the stories, were written by Chinni Krishna and both had ‘Rayalaseema’ faction as a theme…they follow similar screenplay, similar flashbacks etc. But, ‘Indra’ went on to become a bigger hit and according to a survey done by ‘India Today’ magazine (Telugu editon: dated- March 30th, 2010), ‘Indra’ raked in Rs. 40 crores! It was almost as if Balakrishna had started a trend and Chiranjeevi used the same formula added it with his style and delivered a bigger hit. Not to forget, the ego clashes between fans of both the heroes had a huge role to play in the success of both the film. In earlier case, the fans of Balakrishna celebrated and thronged the theatres, which was almost like an open challenge for the fans of Chiranjeevi. Later, when Chiranjeevi delivered what was expected out of him, his fans adored him like the rest of us.
Flash Forward. Year-2007
The new blood had already shown its power and energy. Jr.NTR’s high voltage action film ‘Simhadri’ (released in 2003) had catapulted him to the big league and there was no turning back for him. However, after consecutive flops, Jr.NTR was back with a bang in a new (slim) avatar in ‘Yamadonga’. It was the modern adaptation of a highly successful film ‘Yamagola’ starring NTR back in the 70s. Directed by S.S.Rajamouli, ‘Yamadonga’ was the costliest film made till 2007. The film was a blockbuster, raked in more than Rs.45 crores but couldn’t beat records set by Mahesh Babu’s ‘Pokiri’. There are few interesting aspects which have to be considered in ‘Yamadonga’. Rajamouli, the genius he is, banked upon Jr.NTR’s brilliance especially the latter’s energy, dancing skills and dialogue delivery which played a huge role in Yamadonga’s success. Since the most talked about part of the film is the episode set in ‘Yamaloka’, we shall curtail this discussion to that 30-40 mins of the film. Jr.NTR’s command over his diction is impeccable. His lengthy dialogues in the film were mesmerizing and he packs a punch in that flashback episode. The combo of Jr.NTR-Mohan Babu was a huge advantage for ‘Yamadonga’. Both of them delivered good performances and at one of time, the entire focus of our attention was on what they are saying and not on where the film is set. The art decoration was amazing; however the actor’s performances took the frontseat. The best part about ‘Yamadonga’ is it awakened a sleeping giant, mythology. Period! We have always been infatuated by mythology, kings, sword fights, epics, fables. And after a really long time, Rajamouli succeeded in bringing all this onto the silver screen. The success of the film opened floodgates for more films of this genre to be made in future, as the formula had been derived and put on paper. It showed the film industry that there’s a huge market for such films and also that the audience is craving for more explosive action set in bygone eras. In a way, Jr.NTR along with Rajamouli started a new trend, which would go on to become a rage in future. Note that, the fans of Jr.NTR were very very happy that their hero had delivered a massive hit and gave them enough stuff to brag about, be it the grandeur, costumes, dances.
Flash Forward: 2009
The scion of Chiranjeevi’s family Ram Charan Teja had already made his debut in Puri Jagannadh’s ‘Chirutha’ in 2007. He had established himself as a brilliant dancer and had the athleticism to dazzle in action sequences. His second film ‘Magadheera’ took almost two years to be filmed and when it finally released in July, 2009, it took our breath away. Not only did the film entertain the audience, but it also raked in moolah which left many trade pundits baffled. It’s extremely difficult to arrive at a conclusion as to why or how ‘Magadheera’ went on to become such a huge blockbuster. When I interviewed Rajamouli (which lasted for a mere 8 minutes) back in September 2009 to ask him reasons for this huge success, he reiterated the same line which he had told to the media. “Perhaps, it was because people had never seen such a thing on screen before”. He was right; however, it’s too vague a line to interpret. If you have seen the film closely, then you will realize that Ram Charan Teja’s role as ‘Kala Bhairava’ is easy to empathize with. He sacrifices his love for the sake of the kingdom, yet he expresses his love with every action and expression he portrays. His dialogue delivery as the warrior had a tinge of forced expressions, but then it was just his second film and we can’t expect him to be an NTR while delivering those huge lines. But then, Rajamouli came up with a better idea. He made sure that Ram Charan Teja’s performance especially in action sequences was highlighted more than anything else with respect to the actor. This is perhaps, one reason why we were lost in the grandeur of Udaygarh. ‘Magadheera’ (especially the flashback) is also a good example of what a cinematic experience actually means. By having less emphasis on the dialogues, the action choreography, art decoration, background score and the adrenaline of the entire setting worked as a catalyst which overwhelmed us. And is it just a coincidence that Rajamouli was once again at the helm of affairs for this film? It’s almost as if, he went a step ahead from his previous venture (Yamadonga) because he had a higher budget, better team to do the CGI, special effects and a young star who had a good fan following? If ‘Yamadonga’ was how the whole phenomena began, then ‘Magadheera’ was the end result of that experiment. It shows us that there’s a huge demand for such films and for that Jr.NTR and Rajamouli must be given a lot of credit. So, is Jr.NTR indirectly involved in the success of ‘Magadheera’. I think so.
The more interesting thing to ponder upon is what if Jr.NTR had starred in ‘Magadheera’ and Ram Charan in ‘Yamadonga’? What if Jr.NTR’s ‘Yamdonga’ had released after ‘Magadheera’? Would the number game change? Would our verdict still be the same? That’s something which perhaps will never be answered.
P.S: I am really curious to see how Rajamouli’s next film with Prabhas turns out to be. According to the initial buzz, Rajamouli has come up yet another explosive action film set in Hyderabad just before independence in the 40s.
Follow me at twitter: http://twitter.com/crhemanth