Dear Readers, as we approach the New Year and another decade it’s time to recap the 2019 Telugu movie calendar. 2019 could easily be summed up as the worst year for Telugu movies this decade with barely any noticeable films and with the emergence of Amazon Prime and Netflix, the audience has stopped coming to theaters and encouraging good content movies in theaters. Nonetheless, let’s take a look at the movies that made an impact this year.
1) Hero of the Year- Victory Venkatesh. The award is for the most commercially successful actor of the year. In what could be called a roaring comeback for Venky, the veteran actor delivered two successful movies in F2 and Venky Mama. Many doubted him and wrote him off, but he proved his superstardom among the family audience once again. It could be argued since Malliswari back in 2004, Venky doesn't have a proper family entertainer that made the audience laugh out loud and was a solid entertainer and then came F2 directed by Anil Ravipudi and showed us his legendary comic timing once again. It’s a fact that without him, the film would not have become the sensation that it was grossing 80 crores share but at the same time the film benefitted from all the movies around it during the Sankranthi season becoming disasters. As for Venky Mama, it’s supposed to be one of the worst movies of the year, but hey what can you say about the Indian audience, they love dumb movies and don’t know the difference between good and bad. Overall, it’s Venky’s year and brings his career back on track again.
2) Best Actor- Nani for Jersey. Nani said in the Jersey pre release event that it will be the best film in his career and I thought he was overhyping the movie. Nani has always been known for different movies with good entertainment but Jersey was a step outside his comfort zone and he delivered a world class performance which is easily his career best. The various emotions that he shows from pain, to sadness, to happiness, to arrogance is incredible. The train station scene alone makes the case for why all the Best Actor awards next year should go to this man.
Special Mention- Chiranjeevi for Sye Raa. In his passion project, Chiranjeevi delivered an amazing performance as Narasimha Reddy and carried the movie throughout. Be it his costumes, stunts, or dialogue delivery, the Megastar did everything with the utmost sincerity and his performance in the climax was brilliant.
3) Best Actress- Samantha for Oh Baby. Even though I personally wasn’t a fan of Oh Baby and found the movie to be very overrated, I can’t deny that Samantha was outstanding in her role. It’s not easy to replicate the body language of an old woman in a young person’s body and she does a fantastic job. Be it her in the emotional scenes or comedy scenes, Samantha was really good in her role and delivered a solid performance all around. Her role in Majili could also make the case for why the Best Actress award should be hers next year.
4) Best Film- Jersey. Every now and then Telugu cinema comes around and makes a gem of a film. Initially skeptical of the reviews with a 3.5 rating from all the major Telugu movie websites, I decided to check out the movie for myself and I was simply blown away. As mentioned before, Nani said people will remember this movie for a long time and he was right. Commercial success aside, Jersey is a masterpiece. The movie talks about a former cricket player who sacrificed his career 10 years ago and wants to start his career again. While it seems like the movie is another redemption story, it’s actually a family drama with cricket undertones and the father-son relationship is portrayed beautifully throughout the movie. The climax had me in tears and the message of the movie really resonated with me and will resonate with everyone who watches it. It might not have gotten the box office response it deserved, but if you’re a true fan of cinema, you will always appreciate and respect the classic that it will go onto become and that’s why Jersey is my pick for the best film of 2019.
5) Best Director- Gowtham Tinnaruri for Jersey: After a divisive debut in Maali Raava, Gowtham Tinnaruri had this sort od directorial style and screenplay of telling a story through 3 time periods. It didn’t really work in Maali Raava. But it seems the director took the criticism into his stride and improved upon it immensely. In Maali Raava, the screenplay feels erratic. But in Jersey, it feels flawless. The way that Gowtham narrated the story was just simply amazing and showed a director who was in true command of his craft. The father son relationship, the cricket scenes, background score, cinematography, and the performances were all outstanding and it all stems from a good script and a good director. Movies like Jersey don’t come around too often and they rarely stay with us for a long time. But one could easily say that Jersey is Gowtham’s masterpiece and shows a director who’s in full command of his craft. Despite the film getting complaints that it’s too slow or too artsy, if the industry wants to go forward we need to start supporting more and more directors like Gowthan Tinnaruri and Venkatesh Maha who made Care of Kancharapalem. The future lies in the new directors of the industry.
6) Best Supporting Actor - Allari Naresh for Maharshi: Allari Naresh has always been known for comedy movies and nonsense entertainers. But when given a chance, he can also be a solid dramatic actor as shown in Gamyam. When he was announced as the supporting lead in Maharshi, many questioned whether he will have enough screen time and be able to match up with Mahesh Babu. When watching the film, all our doubts got cleared and Naresh was simply amazing. The friendship between him and Mahesh Babu and the emotional connection that his character arc brings gave him a superb opportunity to showcase the varied emotions in his role. He made you laugh and he made you cry with his endearing performance and was arguably the highlight of Maharshi.
Special mention: Rajendra Prasad for Oh Baby. The veteran’s legendary comic timing and charm was on full display and his range in emotional scenes make him a strong contender for the award as well.
7) Best Supporting Actress - Lakshmi garu for Gang Leader and Oh Baby. I can’t really think of many other actresses who did a good job this year compared to yesteryear actress Lakshmi garu. It’s always nice to see a legend come back and enjoy their work and one could easily say she had a blast in both movies. Whether it be as a nagging grandmother in Oh Baby or a bamma that wants revenge in Gang Leader, Lakshmi garu delivered two very good performances and the award should be hers next year unless I’m forgetting a better performance.
9) Best Debut (Male)- Naveen Polishetty for Agent Sai Srinivas Athreya. After brief stints in Life is Beautiful and 1 Nenokkadine, actor Naveen Polishetty arrived on the big stage with his scintillating energy and amazing acting skills in a low budget crime thriller in Agent Sai Srinivas Athreya. With the film’s unique detective set up and comedy laced throughout the narrative, Naveen was simply hilarious in his role and has all the makings of a big star and a long career in Tollywood provided industry executives and nepotism doesn’t drag him down. Wishing him all the best and his performance in Agent Athreya literally wipes the floor with his competition for the award.
10) Best Debut (Female)- Sraddha Srinath for Jersey. After an impressive debut in Tamil with Vikram Vedha, Sraddha Srinath made the jump to Tollywood and was really good as Nani’s wife Sarah in Jersey. The strained relationship between the husband and wife was really well done and she was able to show her acting skills as a frustrated wife to the full extent. SHe has a nice screen presence and had good chemistry with Nani and left her mark in an already excellent film. Hoping she stays around and seems to be one of the few actresses with beauty and talent, not one or the other.
11) Best Music - Thaman for Ala Vaikuntapuramlo, Prathi Roju Pandage, Venky Mama, and Disco Raja: Given the fact that 3 out of these 4 movies release in 2020, it could easily be argued that it was ANirudh’s year but Thaman has made a late push and made a strong case for music director of the year with consistent hits in each of the 4 films. Once trolled for his repetitive songs, he’s now found his stride and is delivering fresh music with each passing week for each film. With Samajavagaramana and Ramulo Raamulo, both songs are extremely catchy and have gone onto to become record breaking songs in the musical space while Nuvvu Naatho Emmanavo, Venky Mama title song, Oh Baava, and recently Dilliwaala and Butta Bomma all being catchy and nicely composed songs too. Thaman has arrived and hopefully he continues this solid run of form he’s having for the next few years.
Special Mention: Anirudh Ravichander (Jersey and Gang Leader): The ace Tamil composer was trolled heavily for his work in Agnyathaavasi but made a solid statement with his background score and re-recording work in both Jersey and Gang Leader. Both movies had good albums and good background music and Anirudh did his best to ensure that even if the film fails, his output didn’t. And for the most part, it worked.
12) Biggest Surprise- Maharshi: After Bharat Ane Nenu, Superstar Mahesh Babu was looking to see if he could continue the streak of successful movies and joined hands with Vamshi Paidipally for a slice of life drama in Maharshi. Given the fact that Mahesh has been unable to crack the code of following up a hit and delivering a disaster right after, the talk for Maharshi looked like the writing was on the wall for the film. The film itself was pretty underwhelming and offered nothing new and had disaster talk from the audience and worst movie ever talk from the Telugu American audience. Yet somehow, the film defied all the odds and from a disaster emerged a hit and it grossed over 100 crores share, becoming Mahesh’s highest grosser as a result. If that isn’t superstardom, then I don’t know what is.
13) Best Song- Sye Raa title song (Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy): A very tough choice once again, but this song was simply goosebumps inducing stuff and the powerful vocals of Sunidhi Chauhan and Shreya Ghoshal made this song a winner. The lyrics speak of Narasimha Reddy’s valour and greatness made for a very emotional and powerful song that is sure to make a cat turn into a lion. The picturization was also superb on screen complemented by Tamannah and Nayantara’s screen presence and Ratanvelu’s visuals.
Special Mention: Samajavaragamana (Ala Vaikuntapuramlo), Kadallale (Dear Comrade), Spirit of Jersey (Jersey)
Best Singer - Sid Sriram: Once again 2019 was the year of Sid Sriram. With two contenders for song of the year in Samajavaragamana and Kadallale and many more solid songs like Intthena Inthena, Yemo Yemo, Nee Parichayumatho, and Ninnu Choose Anandamlo. Sid once again solidifies himself as the most popular singer in Telugu cinema.
Best Singer - Chinmayi: The dubbing artist and singer had another solid year with Priyathama Priyathama from Majili and Naalona from Manmadhudu 2 being the memorable songs along with a few more nice songs like Oh Kathala Kalala from Dear Comrade.
Worst Movie - Vineya Vidheya Rama and Saaho: It was really difficult for me to choose between the two movies but each of them were so bad and so many similarities before the release that it’s hard to differentiate between the two. For both stars Ram Charan and Prabhas, they were coming off industry hits in Rangasthalam and Baahubali 2 and naturally, the expectations were sky high for their next movies. And both of them required you to use zandu balm after, maybe even more than one container. From jumping on trains and going from Bihar to Gujurat in two minutes, sexually harassing heroines, vultures flying away with heads and using a shotgun to get them back, jumping off cliffs shirtless and catching parachutes with CGI six pack abs, a fat man outrunning 4 horses to send a signal to his brother to come rescue him, animals such as ostriches, black panthers just being around for no reason, and snakes biting humans and snakes dying as a result, falling from 3000 feet in the sky right into a conveniently placed body of water, both Vineya Vidheya Rama and Saaho took our intelligence for granted and were epic disasters rightfully so and tie for the award of worst movie of 2019 with their illogical sequences, insipid stories, and atrocious scene and performances. In the wise words of Angry Rantman: THERE WAS NO STORY, THERE WAS NO ENTERTAINMENT, THERE WAS NO ART OF REALITY, THERE WAS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING IN THESE F****ING FILMS.
Worst Director- Boyapati Sreenu (Vineya Vidheya Rama): The fact that this man even has a brand tells you how dumb Telugu movie fans are. The expectations on VVR were high due to Rangasthalam but we didn’t have many expectations knowing that it’s Boya. VVR is Boya’s masterpiece but a masterpiece of how bad a film is. I honestly don’t know what drugs Boyapati was taking or what script he wrote for the movie because there was none and nobody in the film unit actually watched the output because if they did, then they would have boycotted the movie from day 1 itself. Basically with an age old story, worst comedy, heroine introduction featuring her breasts and sexualizing her body, bad songs, and outrageously laughable sequences, Boyapati has come full circle with his madness and delivers the most entertaining bad movie of the decade. The train scene, vulture head catching scene, and the snake scene were the highlights. The fact that he thought he could take the audience for granted and make such a ridiculous movie shows how far we have fallen as an industry. There are not one but two flashbacks in the movie. Why are there two flashbacks? And was Prashanth actually around in the first half? What is the present and what is the past? A film like Inception can make you wonder what is real and what is not. But when a film like Vineya Vidheya Rama makes you question what is going on, that's when you know you have messed up royally. Not only the narrative but the actors expressions are also atrocious. The film is nothing but a series of illogical and violent sequences that come one after the other with no proper correlation or emotion. And the action sequences only add to the pain. They're nonsense and way too over the top. The 2nd half is the funniest 2nd half I've ever seen in a movie in a long, long time. It's unintentionally hilarious and will provide the trolls with unlimited content for years to come. We should seriously consider banning him from the industry and boycotting his films as a whole. There’s nowhere to hide from this one.
Recap: As mentioned before, this is probably the worst year for Telugu cinema this decade. Other than Jersey, Brochevaruevarura, Agent Sai Srinivas Athreya, and Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy, there weren’t many movies that made an impact in 2019. We can hope that the industry can be saved from the might of Amazon Prime and Netflix and hopefully producers start waking up and realizing that they’re killing their own industry by consistently selling their movies to them.
Lastly, some movies to look forward to in 2020:
RRR (SS Rajamouli- Ram Charan-Jr.NTR- Alia Bhatt- Ajay Devgan- MM Keeravani- DVV Danayya)
KGF Part 2 (Yash- Sanjay Dutt-Srinidhi Shetty- Prashanth Neel- Ravi Basrur)