Rangasthalam, Bharat Ane Nenu and Mahanati emerge as biggest Telugu hits in first half of 2018
After Bhaagamathie and Tholi Prema saved the day in the first quarter, the Telugu film industry saw three more huge hits in the first half of 2018.
After a slow start in the first quarter of 2018, which was rescued by Bhaagamathie and Tholi Prema, the Telugu film industry bounced back in summer, thanks to the phenomenal run of three of its biggest films — Rangasthalam, Bharat Ane Nenu and Mahanati. There was a lot riding on the three films which ended up not only grossing more than Rs 450 crores (cumulative) at the box office across the world but also turned out to be the biggest hits in the respective lead actors' & directors' careers.
Among the three films, it was the Ram Charan and Samantha Akkineni-starrer Rangasthalam which took the pole position with its outstanding run that saw several box office records broken and how. Directed by Sukumar, the revenge drama set in the '80s revived the memories of a village life and culture in the hinterlands of Andhra Pradesh. Beyond all this, it was Charan’s enthralling performance as Chitti Babu which took everyone by surprise and needless to say, it was a career-defining role that earned him a lot of respect from critics and audiences alike. The film ran for more than two months in several theatres across Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, and by its 89th day, it finally broke a 12-year-old record set by Mahesh Babu-starrer Pokiri for being the highest grossing film in a single theatre in Andhra Pradesh. Trade analysts have pegged its box office run at close to Rs 125 crores (share) although the producers have officially went on record to say that it collected more than Rs 200 crores (gross). In the US alone, the film grossed more than $3.5 million which is a new record in the non-Baahubali category. Currently, Rangasthalam is the third highest grossing Telugu film behind Baahubali 2: The Conclusion and Baahubali: The Beginning.
Three weeks after Rangasthalam released, Mahesh Babu-Koratala Siva’s Bharat Ane Nenu continued the festive spirit at the box office. A lot was riding on the film due to the lackluster performances of Mahesh Babu’s previous films, including Spyder and Brahmotsavam. The superstar was quite confident about the film’s success before release and his optimism was not misplaced. The film opened to huge numbers and it went on to become the biggest blockbuster in Mahesh and Siva’s careers. With more than Rs 100 crores (share) to its credit, it found a place among the five highest grossing films in Telugu. In the US, the film grossed close to $3.5 million, making it the fourth film after the Baahubali series and Rangasthalam to cross the $3 million milestone.
And then in May, Nag Ashwin’s Mahanati, a biopic on the life of Savitri, took everyone by surprise. Made with a budget of close to Rs 25 crores, many saw it as a huge gamble since it predominantly focused on its lead actors Keerthy Suresh and Dulquer Salmaan, who are still relatively new to the Telugu film audience. However, none of this mattered once the film released. Not only was it termed as one of the best biopics to have been made in Telugu cinema, Nag Ashwin and his team won accolades from all quarters for paying a rich tribute to one of the greatest actresses ever. Keerthy, Dulquer and Samantha won rave reviews for their performances, and Mahanati not only raked in plenty of moolah, it also revived Tollywood’s interest in biopics of celebrities. Then, towards the end of the summer, Vishal and Samantha-starrer Abhimanyudu and Sudheer Babu and Aditi Rao Hydari-starrer Sammohanam made quite an impression on critics and audiences alike.
The success of Rangasthalam, Bharat Ane Nenu and Mahanati had revived hopes that the Telugu film industry will once again hit a jackpot, just like it did the previous year. However, Allu Arjun-starrer Naa Peru Surya fell short of expectations and did not quite hit the bull's eye at the box office despite tremendous performances by Allu Arjun. But the biggest reality check for Tollywood came in the form of two of the biggest disasters this summer, when Ram Gopal Verma-Nagarjuna’s Officer and Kalyanram, Tamannaah-starrer Naa Nuvve released within a gap of two weeks. In fact, RGV’s Officer performed so poorly at the box office that it cast a major doubt on RGV’s ability to draw crowds to his films in near future. In many areas, the film was pulled out of theatres within three days and the film is said to have collected a share of just over Rs 1 crore which is one of the lowest figures yet, for a film starring an A-list actor. Kalyanram-starrer Naa Nuvve too bit the dust as soon as it released and it did not even manage to take off after a poor start at the box office.
Ravi Teja-starrer Nela Ticket, Nithiin-starrer Chal Mohan Ranga, and Nani-starrer Krishnarjuna Yuddham were among other duds this summer. Trade analysts opined that distributors lost close to 30 to 40 percent of their investment on these films. Rajinikanth-starrer Kaala too was received poorly in the two Telugu-speaking states, thus making it Rajinikanth’s fourth flop in a row after Kochadiyaan, Lingaa and Kabali in Telugu. And Puri Jagannadh’s Mehbooba, starring Akash and Neha Shetty, too failed to click at the box office.
It was an action packed summer for Tollywood and there was no dearth of drama on screen. The phenomenal success of three of its biggest hits gave the industry a much needed boost. However, the failure of a bunch of other films came as a roadblock to the good run. In the next few months, there are quite a few big and small films vying for audience’s attention, and there is every possibility that there could be a few surprise hits considering that the next quarter will see films like Tej I Love You, Saakshyam, Taxiwala, Geetha Govindham, Srinivasa Kalyanam, Padi Padi Leche Manasu and a handful of others will slug it out at the box office. Only time will tell which one will have the last laugh.
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