With Bharat Ane Nenu, Saaho, 2.0, Sri Reddy's allegation of Bollywood actors dominating south films holds true

Devansh Sharma

Apr 18, 2018 09:16:54 IST

The #MeToo movement and the push for diversity are rapidly gaining heat in the West. But over the past few days, a spark has also been felt in India, in the form of Telugu actress Sri Reddy's multiple allegations.

She has not only pointed finger at big producers for encouraging casting couch but also brought to notice how actresses from north, including those from Bollywood, are being cast over the local talent. While her claims of casting couch in these cases can be contested, her observation of north Indian actresses bagging the better roles finds an echo among many quarters.

The most recent example is Bollywood actress Kiara Advani who will make her South cinema debut with Mahesh Babu-starrer Bharat Ane Nenu which is slated to release on 27 April. Advani is only three films old in Bollywood, with Fugly, MS Dhoni: The Untold Story and The Machine. Though she will also be seen in Karan Johar's short film in the Lust Stories anthology, for her to bag a big ticket film down south has definitely given her career the much needed shot in the arm.

With Bharat Ane Nenu, Saaho, 2.0, Sri Reddys allegation of Bollywood actors dominating south films holds true

Kiara Adavi and Mahesh Babu in a still from Bharat Ane Nenu

Similarly, Taapsee Pannu, who was born in New Delhi, did a host of Telugu and Tamil films at the start of her career in 2010 before she was picked by David Dhawan for his 2012 comedy Chashme Baddoor. Though she subsequently proved her acting prowess with Pink and Naam Shabana, she admits her comfort zone remains the masala potboilers that South cinema is celebrated for. Last year as well, she was seen in two successful Telugu films, Anand Brahma and the National Award-winning period drama Ghazi.

Mehreen Pirzada, born in Punjab, has starred in a host of Telugu movies like Raja The Great and C/O Surya. Anshai Lal's Phillauri remains her only Bollywood film. Abhishek Banerjee, casting director of Phillauri, told Firstpost in an exclusive interview that Mehreen's Punjabi roots played a crucial role in them envisioning her as a part of Phillauri, which is largely set in Punjab.

Top Bollywood actresses have often made that one-off transition to the South where they were cast opposite Telugu and Tamil stalwarts. Their names added to the pan-Indian appeal and packaging of these big budget films. Deepika Padukone (Kochadaiyaan), Aishwarya Rai Bachchan (Enthiran), Amy Jackson (2.0) and Radhika Apte (Kabali) have been cast opposite Rajinikanth in the past. This year, Shraddha Kapoor will be seen romancing Baahubali-fame Prabhas in his next trilingual Saaho, and Disha Patani as the lead in period drama Sanghamitra.

North Indian actresses have become all the rage in South cinema. But to attribute this to their place of birth would be far-fetched. Their talent and screen experience also pose as major factors in the casting process. South producers and heroes looking upward (geographically) for talent only shows they are willing to go beyond norm and cast fresh yet popular faces from other industries, particularly Bollywood.

This could be the reason why south films are hiring male Bollywood actors at a progressive rate. Interestingly, all these actors are being cast in negative roles. Whether it is Akshay Kumar, who is rumoured to lock horns with Rajinikanth in 2.0, Ronit Roy in Jr NTR-starrer Jai Lava Kusa, Vivek Oberoi in Ajith-starrer Vivegam or Neil Nitin Mukesh, the baddie-in-chief of Saaho, lead actors of Bollywood have been embracing negative shades in the South.

Akshay Kumar in a poster of 2.0

Akshay Kumar in a poster of 2.0

In fact, Saaho has an entire brigade of baddies including Jackie Shroff, Mahesh Manjrekar, Tinnu Anand, Murli Sharma, Narendra Jha and Mandira Bedi. Bedi, along with Kajol in Soundarya Rajiniknath's Velaiilla Pattadhari 2, seem to be the only Bollywood actresses offered to play antagonists, and not female leads with less meaty roles, in south films.

It is this mutual talent pool that has allowed both Bollywood and all the south Indian industries to choose the most appropriate actor for the given role, and bend the norms that dictated them when they functioned in isolation. South stars like Madhavan, Dhanush and Siddharth have made their mark in Bollywood, years after Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth enjoyed popularity in the northern belt. More south sensations like Dulquer Salmaan will make their Bollywood breakthrough this year.

However, we are yet to see a Bollywood star or an actor from the north take the South Indian film industries by storm. While pan-Indian superstars like Amitabh Bachchan do command huge numbers at the box office in the southern states, there has not been any Bollywood actor who could shoulder a south production all by himself.

As Prabhas gears up for his speculated Bollywood debut, producers are vying to get the now-global star on board their big ticket films. But the south Indian film industries are pretty content with their share of superstars, who boast of demigod status. They are only scouting talent from Bollywood to either spice up their romantic tracks, or make tall claims to dispose of the lead actor in vain.

All images from Twitter.

Updated Date: Apr 18, 2018 09:25:11 IST