Gabbar Singh - the Telugu remake of Salman Khan's Dabangg - was one of the biggest hits last year, grossing nearly Rs 150 crore. Made on a budget of Rs 30 crores, it catapulted its little-known producer Bandla Ganesh to the status of a hotshot filmmaker. Gabbar Singh is also one of the biggest hits in the career of Chiranjeevi's brother, actor Pavan Kalyan, also popularly known as 'Power Star'.
Which is perhaps why no one cried "Bahut naainsaafi hai'' when Income-tax sleuths came knocking on Ganesh's door on Monday and subjected him to grilling the next day at Aaykar Bhavan, the Income tax office in Hyderabad. Such raids either before a big release or after a successful project are pretty routine in Hyderabad's Filmnagar.
But the whispers haven't stopped in Ganesh's case because of his links with the high and the mighty that are the talk of film circles in Tollywood. Ganesh was considered a front for a powerful Congress politician from north coastal Andhra Pradesh who is rumoured to have diversified into the cine industry after his activities in another business came under the scanner of the Anti-Corruption Bureau. The raids on Ganesh are therefore seen as an indication that the politician's stock is on the wane and that someone even more powerful is gunning for the neta.
Like a typical Tollywood potboiler, the Ganesh story is not without its share of masala. Starting as a junior artiste and doing odd jobs as a gutka dealer and in a political party, Ganesh produced two films - Anjaneyulu and Teen Maar. Both flopped at the box office. No wonder then that eyebrows went up when he announced Gabbar Singh, fuelling rumours that two plus two did not quite add up to four.
After the success of Gabbar Singh, Ganesh announced two big films - Badshah with Junior NTR (N T Rama Rao's grandson) and Iddarammayalatho with Allu Arjun (Chiranjeevi's nephew). Srinu Vytla and Puri Jagannadh - both directors with a reputation of delivering big ticket success - were roped in to helm the two projects respectively. Simultaneously, the grapevine has it that Ganesh will also do films with Ram Charan Tej (Chiranjeevi's son) and Shiva, who directed the super-hit film Mirchi. Needless to say, all would be big budget films.
In an industry where how you project yourself matters a lot in how the others look at you, Ganesh's over-the-top gesture last October got much attention. He gifted director Puri Jagannadh a diamond-studded cigarette lighter worth 44 lakh rupees. The lighter reportedly contained 1455 diamonds.
Sources in the industry also point out that most people believe Ganesh is the most loaded producer in town. And how he represents the new breed of producers, who want to make it big.
The traditional producers are uncomfortable with this go-getter bunch. They point out that their entry has altered the dynamics of the Telugu film industry. It has changed from one where the producer was king to a system which revolves around the star and the director.
"Stars are the dominant force on location so they prefer to have a producer who they can control. Hence stars do not choose equals. They only choose a rich guy who can pay more and also will do anything else for him,'' says a producer who has been in the business for the last 25 years.
Not that rich friends who would want to produce a film, attracted by the glamour, did not inhabit the industry before. But earlier, a hero would do, say 3-4 films in a year with established producers or studios, and may be a couple to humour his friends.
But now with top heroes and directors doing only one or two films in a year, they prefer total control over the project and a non-interfering producer with an ability to meet commitments comes in handy. As a result, the producer has fallen off the pedestal. He is no more than a production hand and brings no cinematic value to the table.
New producers however find nothing wrong in a success story like Ganesh. "After all, there is no entry barrier in this industry and just about anyone can make a film. Ganesh's strength is that he goes all out to get whatever is best for his film and negotiates well,'' says a producer who is launching his first film this summer.
However, in an industry that has seen conservative production houses like Suresh Productions and Geetha Arts last the distance, there is a lesson for the new producers. While their ability to bulldoze their way in has brought them a rush of success, they shouldn't surge ahead so fast that they miss the roadblocks that lie in their way and the rules of the game.