Thanks to OTT, films made in other languages have been discovered and celebrated like never before.

These few weeks are all about big films. Big Indian films. Released on March 25, ace director SS Rajamouli’s ‘RRR’ starring NTR Jr, Ram Charan and Alia Bhatt is still breaking box office records worldwide (collection at about Rs 1000 crores now) while another big film ‘KGF: Chapter 2’ starring Yash and directed by Prashanth Neel is set to hit theatres on April 13. Director Rajamouli is primarily a Telugu film director and Prashanth Neel, a Kannada one. But their films have broken regional language barriers and are hailed as some of the best Indian films ever.
Hindi films have always been regarded as the gold standard when it comes to cinema but the last decade has clearly shown that there is so much more to Indian cinema. Thanks to OTT, films made in other languages have been discovered and celebrated like never before. Technicians from south India have been working in Mumbai for years but it’s only now that acting talent is being exported from the south to the north rather than the other way round. Stars from the south like Samantha and Rashmika Mandanna are getting top billing in Bollywood and perhaps finally, their due. The opportunity to work in multiple languages simultaneously has opened up for many from south India.
But has regional cinema really gotten its due? While Telugu and Tamil films work with big budgets because of their wide markets, Kannada and Malayalam films still have not reached those heights. Malayalam films have always been known to be very realistic and content-driven riding on star power and performances rather than lavish sets and over-the-top action scenes. This has been their appeal and audiences across markets continue to favour this form of film-making. However, Kannada films have always been made for their niche audience. But with movies like the ‘KGF’ series, this is starting to change. India is starting to discover what their filmmaking is about.
What is required to make films from languages other than Hindi a success? All films are a visual story – any story with a universal theme can find a global audience. However, how well the movie is made is also important. Large investments into a project are sometimes required to make films and producers need to be willing to bet big. Unlike Bollywood, producers across the south don’t have deep pockets or ready access to large funding. This is where Bollywood can and should step in. Working on projects along with south producers will help create better and more appealing content for a global audience. Though corporate production houses have set up shop in the south and done their bit, it has not necessarily been a success. There are various impediments that they have created for themselves unfortunately.
‘KGF: Chapter1’ reportedly earned around Rs 250 crores at the box office and given what has been said by distributors that have seen the film, it will easily surpass this figure this time around. At the end of the day, films need to entertain and – whether Hindi or any language – as long as they do, the audience will throng theatres. It is time for the audience too to step up and start exploring all kinds of cinema and not just get swayed by well-known names. Renowned Bollywood producers can make a bad film spending several hundred crores, as we have seen many times. But a smaller producer and director in the south may deliver a gem of a film in just a few crores – sample, ‘Kaaka Muttai’, ‘Visaaranai’, ‘Premam’ and ‘Ayyappanum Koshiyum’. It’s time to be big on the south film industry.