Beyond bollywood: rise of indian regional cinema

The last few years have proved that good content transcends language barriers as emotions are a shared human experience. As per KPMG’s 2017 industry report, the Indian film industry grew by 3% and while the earnings from theatrical reduced to 1.5 billion in 2016 (YTD 2016: 1.6 billion), this was largely attributed to Bollywood’s underperformance while regional language films did phenomenal business.

Regional films tell stories that are rooted in its native culture and the narrative sounds authentic; it offers relief and relatability and hence has a wider audience. Accessibility and increased mobility among the millennials is another reason that regional films have fared well. Content-driven regional films are no longer isolated by language. The involvement of established Bollywood names and top studios has even taken them overseas.

Let’s look at five of the most inspiring and evocative films in the last three years that have crossed over (domestically and internationally) and brought in more recognition for regional films.


1. Telegu

Baahubali, technically a Telegu film, pushed every boundary of filmmaking and went on to be one of the highest-grossing films of 2015, no small feat for a non-Hindi film. Baahubali – The beginning and end stood out for its unique story and the sheer magnitude of production, special effects, and set design, that showed the world India’s cinematic brilliance. With Baahubali’s success, came recognition for Telugu cinema and interest from Bollywood in collaborating with regional film-makers for production and distribution.


2. Marathi
Marathi film industry has seen a revival in the last few years with unusual and hard-hitting stories. In 2005’s Dombivli Fast, we saw a realistic take on a common man’s fight against the system while Sairat (highest grossed Marathi film ever) & Fandry, set to change the course of Marathi films as it explored the undercurrent of casteism classism prevalent to this day in India.


3. Tamil
Director Vetrimaran’s 2015 directorial venture Visaranai received international acclaim for its portrayal of police brutality in the current justice system. The 2016 film, Joker, is a hard-hitting political satire narrating the story of a man who is called a joker for his political thinking and revolutionary moves, chronicling the lives of rural Indians.


4. Assamese
A new wave of cinema has emerged from Assam with determined film-makers who tell their stories with conviction irrespective of the resources or budgets. Village Rockstars, the 2017 film directed by Rima Das, is a heartwarming coming of age story of a 10-year old, which went onto becoming India’s official entry for the Oscars.


5. Malayalam
Malayalam film has cinema has progressed in the last five years with stellar movies like the highly acclaimed Drishyam in 2013. Inspired by the Keigo Higashino’s Japanese novel, Devotion of Suspect X, an engaging thriller that unravels a murder. Anju Menon’s popular 2014 film is a breezy story on college and friendships, Bangalore Days was a runaway hit and was then remade in Tamil.


6. Bengali
Today, Bengali films have struck a balance between entertainment and aesthetics which has helped bring in the results at the box office. Movies like Zulfiqar, Byomkesh Pawrbo and Cinemawala. Zulfiqar is a 2016 crime drama film by Srijit Mukherjee, which retells two of Shakespeare’s famous tragedies Julius Ceasar and Anthony and Cleopatra. Directed by Kaushik Ganguly, the movie is a tribute to the single screen cinema halls that are increasingly becoming rare in India.