Basking in the success of Dasara, Telugu star Nani shares why he finds the South vs Bollywood debate passé and insists on focusing on content
SS Rajamouli is a force to be reckoned with in Indian cinema today. Not only is he credited as the biggest director in the country, but the Oscar win for RRR has catapulted him to become India’s cultural ambassador globally. However, for actor Nani, who collaborated with him on the hit fantasy actioner Eega (2012), much before Rajamouli broke out as a pan-India director, the filmmaker was as big as he is today for the rest of the country. “Rajamouli sir had already become big by the time we worked with him in Eega. Our respect and adulation for him have always been there. The only change is that his list of achievements has grown,” says Nani.
Rajamouli is also credited with awakening India to the rich talent of South cinema with his action epic Baahubali franchise. Ever since, South films have begun to find takers in the Hindi film audience, with successes like RRR, Kantara, and KGF: Chapter 2 registering mammoth success at the box office. Bollywood’s less than average performance and failures at the box office—before Pathaan’s release—were put against the successes from the south, with chatter on social media declaring that Bollywood was over and south cinema was the only future for Indian entertainment. Nani, whose latest release, Dasara, has become his career’s best opening yet, says people should not indulge in negativity but celebrate the fact that audiences have more diverse films to choose from now. “Pitting south Indian films and Bollywood against each other will always keep happening as long as there is social media and media. As kids, we used to watch a lot of Hindi films. In fact, south [audience] have contributed big collections to Bollywood. [I believe] we are all equal. Now, it will be about who makes the best film,” insists Nani, adding that given that lines are blurring, someday he would like to work with “my favourite director, Rajkumar Hirani”. “I am a big fan, and I would love to do a film [with him]. There were times when a few things came my way, but they didn’t excite me much.”