Spyder is Mahesh Babu's first Telugu-Tamil bi-lingual: Will it help take his stardom to greater heights?

Karthik Keramalu

Sep 12, 2017 11:28:53 IST

Eighteen years after he made his debut as a leading hero, Mahesh Babu is set to have yet another 'first' in his career: his upcoming thriller Spyder, directed by AR Murugadoss, is a Telugu-Tamil bilingual. (It is also scheduled for a release in Kerala, in a dubbed Malayalam version.) While the Telugu superstar's films have been dubbed into Tamil before, this is the first time the actor will have a direct Tamil release.

In a sense, however, Mahesh Babu has had multiple 'debuts' in his career thus far.

As a child artiste, he starred alongside his father, Krishna, in about a handful of films. He stayed away from the arc lights in the early '90s and made a comeback as the lead in Raja Kumarudu, 1999.

K Raghavendra Rao, who had introduced another industry product, Venkatesh in Kaliyuga Pandavulu (1986), paired Mahesh opposite Preity Zinta, with a script reflecting the quintessential commercial elements of Telugu cinema — a group of friends who double up as comedians, filial sentiments, colorful romantic songs, and high-octane action sequences.

Spyder is Mahesh Babus first Telugu-Tamil bi-lingual: Will it help take his stardom to greater heights?

Mahesh Babu in a still from Spyder

Raghavendra Rao’s name and the buzz surrounding Krishna’s son’s debut made audiences flock to the theatres. The title of the film, Raja Kumarudu (which means prince) became a sort of prefix for the lead actors name, speaking as it did, of his charming looks and persona. Thus, Mahesh Babu became ‘Prince’ Mahesh Babu.

Dream debut aside, Babu did have a few missteps in his career — hitting his stride with Krishna Vamsi’s Murari (2001). The film proved to be immensely successful, and is still so much a fan favourite that the song 'Alanti', from its soundtrack, is still played at weddings, a decade-and-a-half after its release.

Between 2001 and 2005, Mahesh starred in a slew of forgettable flicks and blockbusters. While Takkari Donga, Bobby and Naani weren't much beloved by audiences, Okkadu, Arjun and Athadu were.

Puri Jagannadh’s Pokiri, in 2006, was another gamechanger. It saw Mahesh Babu adopt a different look, and style of dialogue delivery (replete with biting sarcasm). Even though Pokiri's remakes in other languages (in Tamil, Hindi, and Kannada) became money-spinners in their own right, none of these could match Mahesh Babu's charisma in the original.

With Pokiri, he touched the hearts of the masses. Women nursed crushes on Mahesh Babu, men had cases of hero-worship.

Mahesh's fandom spread beyond the Telugu-speaking base. Filmmakers began tapping into his star power in curious ways: For instance, in 2008's Ashta Chamma, Lavanya (Swathi Reddy) tell her aunt that she’ll only marry a person named Mahesh.

Cut to 2017, as Mahesh prepares for the release of Spyder. In Chennai, fans were in tears at the film's audio launch.

When the bilingual was announced, Tamil fans wanted to know if Babu would dub for himself. The answer hit YouTube in August. His Tamil, in the teaser, carries no trace of an accent. It does sound a bit different, as we haven’t seen heard him talk in Tamil on screen (in his own voice). However, his fluency should come as no surprise since he studied in Chennai.

The Spyder teaser received about 9.5 million views in Telugu, and 3.1 million views in Tamil. One can't say if the YouTube hype is an indication of what the film's box office collections will be. It would be a stretch to assume that Spyder's Tamil language opening weekend collections will be the same as the Telugu version's.

Apart from its leading man, Spyder has several other advantages — the AR Murugadoss brand of filmmaking (as seen in Ramana, 7am Arivu, Thuppakki and Kaththi) and the presence of actors SJ Surya (who turned in a critically acclaimed act in Karthik Subbaraj’s Iraivi last year, and seems to be positioned as the villain in Spyder) and RJ Balaji.

Mahesh’s pairing with Rakul Preet is also a point of interest, as they haven't acted together before.

With a Rs 125 crore budget-film, Mahesh Babu is all set to put his best foot forward in Tamil cinema. Can he pull it off?

Updated Date: Sep 12, 2017 11:50:55 IST