Art of Telugu Cinematography

Telugu cinema has completed over eight decades of illustrious journey. Like any film industry, it has evolved dramatically from the early talkie days to the present digital era. Let’s analyze how Telugu films have transformed decade-wise since the 1930s.

Origins (1931 to 1940s)

  • The first Telugu talkie film Bhakta Prahlada was made in 1931, ushering in the talkie era.
  • Early Telugu films were folklore stories from puranas and mythologies like Sarangdhara, Mala Pilla and Dhruva Kumar.
  • Most films were made in Madras city since the infrastructure was concentrated there.
  • Prominent filmmakers of the decade were H.M. Reddy, Bommireddy Narasimha Reddy, and Kanchanmala.
  • The mythological/folklore movie era laid the foundation for the industry.

Golden Age (1950s)

  • This decade marked the ‘Golden Age’ when Telugu cinema became more sophisticated and diverse.
  • Filmmakers started adapting literary and social themes into movies.
  • Notable films were Pathala Bhairavi, Maya Bazaar, Missamma showcasing Telugu culture and values beautifully.
  • Stars NTR, Savitri, Anjali Devi rose to fame acting in folklore & socials.
  • The filmmaking and acting standards improved multi-fold.
  • The industry shifted base from Madras to Hyderabad.

Stylish 60s (1960s)

  • This decade saw an emphasis on stylishly produced family dramas and thrillers/crime films.
  • Studios like Vijaya Vauhini, Prasad Productions, Ramakrishna Studios emerged.
  • NTR, ANR, Savitri, Krishna, Rajasulochana ruled the roost with their versatile acting.
  • Modern technology like Eastmancolor improved the visual quality.
  • Music maestros like K.Vishwanath (Sakshi), Saluri Rajeswara Rao (Devatha) made their mark.
  • Overall, the general production values went up taking Telugu films to the national stage.
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Angry Young Man Era (1970s)

  • ‘Violent’ action films starring angry, rebellious heroes became the norm following the trend initiated by Amitabh Bachchan in Bollywood.
  • Actors Krishna, Chiranjeevi, Sobhan Babu played action-oriented anti-hero roles in commercially successful films.
  • K.Balachander’s cinema inspired bold sister films starring Saritha, JayaSudha and Sumalatha.
  • Directors K.Viswanath (Siri Siri Muvva) and Bapu (Sakshi) made progressive family dramas.
  • Overall, the films and heroes reflected the frustration of urban youth against the system.

Mass Mania (1980s)

  • This decade saw the rise of ‘mass masala’ films tailored for the new working class audience.
  • Chiranjeevi emerged as the first ‘mega star’ of Telugu films with his energetic dance moves and dialogues.
  • Directors K.Raghavendra Rao (Kondaveeti Simham), Rao Gopal Rao (Gangleader) specialized in commercial potboilers.
  • Ilaiyaraaja’s music was the flavour of the 80s with chartbusters in folk and western styles.
  • Video cassette technology drove distribution enabling pan-India reach for Telugu films.

Multiplex Wave (1990s)

  • The 1990s saw an expansion to new global markets as multiplexes arrived.
  • Ram Gopal Varma brought new-age filmmaking techniques through his Shiva and Kshana Kshanam.
  • Nagarjuna established himself as a successful romantic hero. Venkatesh, Chiranjeevi continued their success run.
  • Actresses like Soundarya, Simran, Roja became stars.
  • Mani Ratnam’s Telugu films Geethanjali and Bombay made waves.
  • AR Rahman’s entrance revolutionized Telugu film music.

Digital Age (2000s)

  • Advanced digital technology completely transformed filmmaking, distribution.
  • Films were shot on digital as editing techniques got modernized through software.
  • New story formats like anthologies (Chandamama), hyperlink cinema (Amrutham) gained popularity.
  • Actors Pawan Kalyan, Mahesh Babu, Prabhas, Ravi Teja emerged as big stars.
  • Rajamouli’s Sye, Yamadonga proved his technical brilliance which would peak with Baahubali series.
  • Telugu cinema consolidated its pan-India standing.
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2010s: Global Recognition

  • Telugu cinema received global recognition through Rajamouli’s Baahubali films’ box office dominance.
  • Contemporary themes portrayed in Vikram K Kumar’s films like Manam, 24 engaged the new generation.
  • Low budget films like Pelli Choopulu indicated the rise of indie cinema.
  • Genre movies like supernatural thrillers and zombie films hitherto unseen emerged.
  • OTT platforms like Netflix gave global reach to Telugu films.
  • Stars like Prabhas, Vijay Deverakonda gained nationwide popularity.

Decade-wise Summary

1930sBirth of Talkies
1940sFolklore Films
1950sGolden Age
1960sFamily Dramas
1970sAngry Young Man
1980sRise of Mass Films
1990sMultiplex Era
2000sDigital Age
2010sGlobal Recognitio

The above analysis summarizes how Telugu films have adapated stylistically and technologically through changing times over the past nine decades. The future looks bright for further evolution of India’s second largest film industry.

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