South Indian cinema continued to soar high in terms of the number of films released in 2012, prodding on, unmindful of the abysmal lack of quality in many of the films that made it to the silver screen. While the rise in the number of box-office hits in all the four languages was encouraging, the ratio of hits to flops remained low, as discerning audiences refused to patronise low-brow fare that was dished out generously.
Kannada cinema saw the return of period themes and two films, Krantiveera Sangoli Rayanna, directed by Naganna, and Katari Veera Surasundaraangi, starring Upendra and Ramya, did brisk business at the box-office. Darshan, who had a hit in Chingari, came up with an excellent performance in Sangoli Rayanna, which had Jayaprada as a queen in the cast. Upendra also tasted success with Godfather, and Kalpana. The spooky comedy also found Dialogue King Saikumar excelling in the role of a transgender. While Shivraj Kumar’s Shiva met with a lukewarm response, younger brother Puneeth’s home production, Anna Bond, was a big hit.
The heroine of the all-time hit Mungaru Male, Pooja Gandhi, shed her inhibitions to don the role of a savage killer in Dandupalya, a film directed by Srinivas Rao, based on the dreaded Dandupalya gang of dacoits who terrorised the city of Bangalore. Although the film ran into controversy, audiences gave it a thumbs up. There were a few surprise hits too, such as the breezy comedy Govindaya Namaha, featuring Komal, and Adhuri, introducing Dhruv Sarja, nephew of Arjun Sarja, with Radhika Pandit as the female lead. The Yograj Bhat-directed Drama with Yash, and Rambo with Sharan, brother of veteran actress Shruthi, playing the hero, also fared well. Crazy star Ravichandran was seen in films like Narasimha, Dhashamukha and Crazy Loka, but the popular star could not recreate the magic that he once wielded at the box-office. The much-touted debut of Malayalam superstar Mammootty in the film Shikari, directed by Abhaya Simha, came to nought as the film hardly created any ripples.
The superstars of Malayalam cinema, Mammootty and Mohanlal, continued their stranglehold over the industry with hits like Thappanna, Grandmaster, Spirit and Run Baby Run. Mammootty’s films, like the Shaji Kailas-directed The King and the Commissioner with Suresh Gopi in a parallel role, Cobra, Jawan of Vellimala and Face to Face, curried no favour with the audience while Mohanlal’s Casanova did not gel either. Mammootty’s son Dulquar Salman made a splash with Second Show and proved that his performance in his maiden film was no flash in the pan by matching strides with the late thespian Thilakan in Ustad Hotel. Dileep, with a riveting performance in a female role in Mayamohini, kept the cash registers ringing merrily. Director Lal Jose, who had a hit with Fahaad Fazil in Diamond Necklace, again proved that he is a force to reckon with in Malayalam cinema with the Prithviraj-starrer Ayalum Gnanum Thammil, which won critical acclaim.
Films shot on meagre budgets also fared well this year with Vineeth Srinivasan, son of actor-director Srinivasan, an accomplished playback singer, coming up with Thattathin Marayathu, a romantic entertainer with newcomers Nivin Pauly and Isha Talwar in the lead, and rocking the box-office in the process. Another film, Ordinary, with Biju Menon and Kunchako Boban, turned out to be a surprise hit. ’22 Female Kottayam, directed by Ashiq Abu, the man behind the hit Salt and Pepper, raised a few eyebrows with the female protagonist, raped and ruined by two rich guys, gets her own back, killing one and castrating the other. The petite Rima Kallingal enacted the title role with aplomb, and with her films like Nidra and Ayalum Gnanum Thammil also being noticed, a bright future awaits her. Good films that got rave reviews included Anjali Menon’s Manjadikuru and Madhupal’s Ozhimuri. The number crooned by Mohanlal, Aatu Manal Paayalil, in the film Run Baby Run, turned a chart topper.
Actor Vijay was by far the most successful star in Tamil cinema this year with back to back hits in the beginning and the end of the year. He began the year with Shankar’s Nanban, a remake of 3 Idiots, and ended it with Murugadoss’s Thuppakki, which stormed the box-office. The latter, an out and out commercial potboiler, had the actor singing the popular number Google Google in his own inimitable style. With Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan having no releases, second rung of actors like Vikram, Arya and Madhavan, impressed.
Yet the big hit of the year had an unlikely hero in Udayanidhi Stalin, a producer and scion of Tamilnadu’s powerful political party. The film, Oru Kal Oru Kannadi, clicked in a big way. 2012 also saw exceptionally good films in Tamil like Vazhakku Eenn 18/9, Aaravan, Pizza Naan, a crime thriller with music director Vijay Antony debuting as hero, Lakshmy Ramakrishnan’s Aarohanam, and Tamil cinema’s first 3D film, Ambuli. C Sundar’s comeback as a director in the laugh riot Kalakalappu and Sasikumar’s Sundarapandian also clicked at the box-office. Amala Paul, with Kadhalil Sothappuvadhu Eppadi and Muppozhuthum Un Karpaniyil, was the pick of the heroines in 2012. Films awaited include Gautam Menon’s Nee Thaane En Pon Vasantham, Bala’s Pardesi, Kumki and Samar, with the last named starring Vishal and Trisha as a pair for the first time. Rajinikanth’s daughter Aishwarya made her debut with 3, but despite Dhanush’s rendering of Kolaveri Kolaveri registering millions of hits on online sites, the film sank without a trace.
Pavan Kalyan, who had struck a lean patch came up with a blockbuster, Gabbar Singh, a remake of Dabaang. Prince Mahesh Babu also had a good year with films like Puri Jagannath’s Businessman, which did good business at the box-office. The other actors whose ventures also did well were Venkatesh, who played the hero in Bodyguard. Films that were expected to do well like the Raghava Lawrence-directed Rebel with Prabhas and Dhammu starring NTR Jr, however, did not come up to expectations. Nagarjuna had a hit in Dhamarukam and also impressed audiences with a brilliant performance in Shirdi Sai, for which the seasoned Raghavendra Rao wielded the megaphone. Ramcharan Teja was seen in the action thriller Racha, while his cousin Allu Arjun continued to dance his way into the hearts of the audience with Julai. The strapping six-footer Rana Daggubatti had a couple of releases in Naa Ishtam and Krishnam Vande Jagadgurum, and the old-timer Balakrishna played the hero in Abhinayakudu.
The multilingual Eega, directed by S S Rajamouli, which for the first time in Indian cinema had a fly as the main protagonist thirsting for revenge with its superb special effects, became a big hit. Kannada star Sudeep donned the villain’s role with elan and his performance met with all round approval. Dhoni, produced and directed by actor-producer Prakash Raj, stressing the need for encouraging children to pursue their passions, also merited attention.
South Indian cinema has been registering good progress and films with substantial budgets like Kamal Haasan’s Viswaroopam and Rajinikanth’s Kochadaiyaan are expected to hit the screens early next year. The most heartening aspect is that small filmmakers too are making an impact. The future certainly augurs well for the industry.