Decades ago it was the dream of every south Indian star to make it big in Bollywood. That would be the ultimate stamp of approval. But today that has changed. Now the norm is to make a mark in the south film industry before heading to Bollywood. From Katrina Kaif, Shriya Saran and Genelia D’souza in the past, to latest entrants Ileana D’cruz, Tammana Bhatia and Tapsee Pannu these women have all established their careers first in the south before turning to Bollywood to fulfil their filmi aspirations.
The reasons for this shift are many. The film industry in the south produces many more films annually, surpassing even Bollywood. With so much happening there, filmmakers are constantly scouring for fresh faces. Lack of home-grown actresses; compel filmmakers to look out for girls from Mumbai and other cities. Apart from the money being good actresses look at south Indian films as being a good training ground while waiting in the wings to take off to the Hindi film industry.
Delhi based model turned actor Tapsee Pannu received offers from south based filmmakers while preparing for her MBA. “The South Indian films were casting me with better names, so I made a debut there,” says the Punjabi girl who made it to the movies with 2010’s Telugu smash hit ‘Jhummandi Naadam’. Though David Dhawan’s Chashme Baddoor was her Bollywood debut, it was Neeraj Pandey’s ‘Baby’ with action hero Akshay Kumar that brought the girl into the spotlight. Currently Tapsee is one of the most in-demand actresses across the ‘woods’.
Another Punjabi actor who took a detour to the south before landing in Bollywood is Tamanna Bhatia. Films like ‘Sri’, ‘Happy Days,’ ‘Kalloori’, ‘Konchem Ishtam Konchem Kashtam’, ‘Kanden Kadhalai’, ‘Paiyaa’, ‘100% Love’ and ‘Rachcha’ propelled her to the top of south Indian actresses’ list. “Initially, it was very difficult for me to get through my lines in Tamil and I had to work really hard. In those days I used to mug my lines. But now I am more comfortable and can perform more easily. I now realize that language is not a barrier to emote,” she says. Despite her hugely forgettable Hindi debut ‘Himmatwala’ with Ajay Devgn Tamanna went on to do the comedy film Humshakals and ‘Entertainment’ both of which proved duds at the box office.
Unlike Tamanna, Goan girl Ileana D’cruz won hearts and pockets of cinegoers when she made inroads into Bollywood with Anurag Basu’s ‘Barfi!’ alongside heartthrob Ranbir Kapoor. Before that Ileana’s had a successful run in the south with super hits including ‘Pokiri’, ‘Jalsa’ and ‘Kick’.
Then there are actors who tried their luck in Bollywood, didn’t click with the audience and therefore, shifted focus to Tollywood. Despite their box office success the moolah they are offered in the south is far greater than what Bollywood would offer them. So the actors do not mind switching over to the South film industry. Mumbai based model Kajal Aggarwal made her debut in the hugely forgettable ‘Kyun…! Ho Gaya Na’, in 2004. Three years in the wilderness, the wide-eyed beauty turned to Telugu films and became a star overnight. Her girl-next-door image grabbed her many projects in the industry. She made a comeback in Bollywood with Singham which was a blockbuster while her next film Special 26 was also declared a box-office success. Kajal is clearly one of the best South imports in Bollywood.
Sonal Chauhan too shifted her base down south after her films ‘Jannat’ opposite Emraan Hashmi, ‘Buddha Hoga Tera Baap’ with Amitabh Bachchan and ‘3G’ with Neil Nitin Mukesh failed to ignite the box office. The pageant winner continued to churn blockbusters down South after her Telugu debut film ‘Rainbow’. According to industry watchers, the south Indian film industry is far more forgiving. The fact that these girls had a national launch and are known faces works in favour of their regional films. That’s the reason actors attracted to the shine and shimmer of films have a have a swift rise to stardom in the south.
NIVEDITA JAYARAM PAWAR