From Love Story to Cinema Bandi and Wild Dog: Best of Telugu cinema in 2021

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In 2021, the Telugu film industry continued to champion the commercial cinema space, but a few films such as Love Story, Wild Dog, Republic and Cinema Bandi managed to reinvent the formula and leave a lasting impact. We look at some of these films and what made them stand out.

Jathi Rathnalu

Directed by Anudeep KV, Jathi Rathnalu is a madcap entertainer that works because the film never takes itself seriously. It’s the kind of film that doesn’t boast of a story per se but still manages to leave you in splits throughout. The impeccable comic timing of the lead actors, their camaraderie and the writing work in favour of the film.

Wild Dog

Ahishor Solomon’s Wild Dog is the kind of film you’ll rarely see emerge out of Telugu cinema. It’s a largely satisfying film based on the NIA’s covert operation to nab terrorist Yasin Bhatkal. With no chest-thumping or needless heroism, this is a straightforward action thriller that’s elevated by realistic action stretches and a refreshingly pleasant performance from Nagarjuna, in one of his memorable roles in recent times.

Cinema Bandi

In 2021, if there’s one Telugu film that really stood out, it has to be Cinema Bandi. It is such a sweet film about the collective joy and pain of making cinema. It beautifully conveys the film’s message – anyone can be a filmmaker at heart – in the most realistic and rooted fashion. The climax can move anyone to tears. At a time when filmmakers and producers are running after making big-budget, pan-Indian movies, Cinema Bandi is a small film with a big heart.

Narappa

Venkatesh-starrer Narappa could have been dismissed as a safe remake of Dhanush’s Asuran. The best thing about the movie is that it doesn’t tamper with the original material and that’s an achievement by itself. As much as Narappa stays faithful to its source material, it makes a departure by underplaying the caste angle and depicting the clash between two families as a rich versus poor issue, making it less impactful. Nevertheless, it is still a satisfying watch when you see it as a standalone film and take notice of Venkatesh’s earnestness in portraying a character that’s devoid of any heroism.

Aakashavani

Debutant filmmaker Ashwin Gangaraju’s Aakashavani, an endearing tale about a radio being worshipped as a talking God, is the quirkiest film to have come out of Telugu cinema in recent times. Made mostly with newcomer actors and a plot that takes some strong belief to execute, Aakashavani is a novel attempt that deserves a lot of praise and is definitely one of the better films of the year.

Love Story

Sekhar Kammula is one of the most sensible mainstream filmmakers of the Telugu film industry today. With Love Story, he touches upon themes like caste, class divide, middle-class problems and sexual harassment in the most hard-hitting and moving fashion. In spite of the hurried climax and the predictable ending, the film works to a large extent because of its sensible treatment and earnest performances of Naga Chaitanya and Sai Pallavi, who complement each other so well.

Also read | Cinema Bandi movie review: Slice-of-life drama about the joy and pain of making films

Republic

Deva Katta’s Republic will go down as one of the most important Telugu films in recent years. It asks important questions about societal maladies – rigged elections, corrupt governments and caste prejudice. It’s been a decade since Deva Katta made a strong mark with his political film Prasthanam, and the very strong Republic shines the spotlight on the harsh realities of the system we live in. For a mainstream political film, Republic doesn’t take the escapist entertainment route to appeal to the masses. Sure, it has some scenes that play to the gallery, but it largely sticks to asking questions about honesty and corruption.

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