Telugu cinema has captivated audiences with its fiery brand of action movies for decades. Tracing an intriguing journey from mythological to modern, Telugu action films have reinvented themselves constantly to match evolving audience tastes while retaining their massy spirit.
Advent of Stunt Films
Though stunt sequences featured in early Telugu folklore movies, the first recognized action hit was the 1955 film Donga Ramudu, directed by Vedantam Raghavaiah. It featured swashbuckling fights and exploits of a Robin Hood-esque protagonist played by N.T. Rama Rao. This triggered a wave of stunt films in the 1950s-60s starring action heroes like NTR, Akkineni Nageswara Rao, and Sri Krishna.
Filmmakers leveraged stunt choreography and action genres from Hollywood, the Orient, and Indian cinema to produce distinctive Telugu masala actioners during this era. myt
Rise of “Violence Fests”
The 1970s saw directors like K.S.R. Das and K. Raghavendra Rao amp up the action with raw, gritty cinema loaded with bloodier fights, gore, and racy imagery.
Movies like Manushulanta Okkate, Bhakta Kannappa, and Mosagallaku Mosagadu starring Krishna and Rojaramani starring Chandra Mohan gained notoriety as “violence fests” to attract the frontbenchers. Kannada action star Vishnuvardhan’s hits were remade in Telugu upping the action ante.
Age of Mass Masala
As leading men like Chiranjeevi, Balakrishna, and Nagarjuna rose up in the 80s and 90s, action movies transformed into full-blown mass masala entertainers blended with comedy, drama, and songs.
Directors like Ravi Raja Pinisetty combined Hollywood-inspired action with desi bombast in hits like Yamudiki Mogudu. Actors like Balakrishna brought their machismo onto the screen with flamboyant mannerisms and powerful fight sequences. Villains became prominent with actors like Satyanarayana specializing in menacing acts.
New Millennium Evolutions
As the 2000s dawned, new evolutions happened in presentation and themes – digital effects were used to upgrade action scenes in movies like Indra and Okkadu.
Under idol-turned-director Ram Gopal Varma, experimental crime actioners with raw violence like Kshana Kshanam and Govindudu Andarivadele gained acceptance.
With actors like Mahesh Babu and Prabhas gaining pan-India popularity, today’s Telugu action spectacles are mounted on lavish budgets and tailored for national and global audiences.
Impact of Legendary Action Stars Over the Years
N.T. Rama Rao
As the first superstar of Telugu cinema, NTR pioneered mythological and folklore movies with vigorous stunts aided by his energetic dance skills. Hits like Jagadeka Veerudu Athiloka Sundari made NTR the epitome of the Telugu action hero for decades.
Krishna embodied the concept of the angry young man in hits like Mosagallaku Mosagadu in the 1970s. His chiseled physique, martial arts skills and strong presence became a reference point for action heroes after him.
With his trademark swagger, Chiranjeevi rose to stardom in the 80s with macho movies like Khaidi. His mass popularity transformed action films into commercial potboilers with songs, comedy, and drama encapsulated in high-voltage fight sequences.
Balakrishna redefined mass action cinema in the 1990s with films loaded with machismo, punch dialogues, and electrifying stunts. His collaborations with directors like B. Gopal took violence and action to greater heights.
Displaying gravity-defying stunts and martial arts, Pawan Kalyan brought new energy into 2000s action movies like Thammudu. His youthful reinventions helped widen the appeal of actioners beyond frontbenchers.
Ushering a new era of urbane action movies blended with thrills and romance, films like Pokiri starring Mahesh Babu gained blockbuster status in the 2000s. His suave style attracted family crowds and classes alike.
As the action hero of Baahubali and its iconic war sequences, Prabhas embodies the magnetic charm and visual extravagance of modern Telugu action movies made for national and global consumption.
Why Telugu Action Movies Appeal Universally
- Larger-than-life machismo of Telugu mass heroes creates whistle-worthy moments
- Formulaic templates ensure loads of entertainment with drama, songs, comedy and romance
- Grand visual aesthetics with picturesque locales, extravagant sets and stylish technology
- Contemporary experiments with genres like crime, thrillers and sci-fi
- Celebrated music composers like Mani Sharma elevating background score
- Talented writers like Paruchuri Brothers amplifying mass sensibilities with powerful dialogues
- Renowned choreographers designing high-energy and flamboyant fight scenes
The Telugu action genre has witnessed a fascinating voyage – from stunt movies of the 1950s to present day slick urban thrillers made for digital platforms.
This evolution reflects the industry’s ability to transform itself periodically by imbibing fresh influences from world cinema and resonating with changing tastes.
But the larger-than-life machismo of Telugu heroes and quintessential massy drama remains at its core. As luminaries like Rajamouli take it global, Telugu action movies are poised for even greater glories in the coming decade.