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2003 - Year of all-time hits & mega failures for Tollywood

K Rajani Kanth  |  Hyderabad 

The year 2003 was a tumultuous year for the Once a thriving industry after Bollywood, Tollywood, as the Telugu industry is popularly known, is now gasping for breath.
Though a few movies created all-time records, the overall Telugu film scenario for 2003 was not bright. In fact, it had a tough time, first with the 'World Cup fever,' and then with a string of flops at the box office, video piracy and huge costs of production.
The fact that the success rate of the Telugu films has come down to 15-20 per cent shows the state of affairs of the Rs 1,200-crore industry, which culls out 90-100 films a year, making it one of the leading film industry in the country after Bollywood and Kollywood (Tamil).
As per the statistics of the Andhra Pradesh Film Chamber of Commerce (APFCC), 97 straight and 24 dubbed films were released till December 19, as against 113 straight and 60 dubbed films in 2002.
According to the trade pundits, of the approximate Rs 350 crore invested on these films, nearly Rs 200 crore went down the drain, thanks to the 74 straight films that bombed at the box office.
The year 2003 started off on a high note with the release of Mahesh Babu-starrer 'Okkadu' on January 14. Produced by MS Raju, it created a sensational record, celebrating 100 days in 100 centres and fetching a distributors' share of Rs 25 crore.
Later, two-and-half-a-dozen films rolled out but failed miserably. The slump continued until NTR Jr starrer Simhadri's release on July 9.
NTR Jr created waves with his seventh film and the movie celebrated 50 days in 190 centres and 100 days in 150 centres creating an all-time record in Tollywood.
Among the high budget movies, Pawan Kalyan-starrer 'Johny' produced by Geeta Arts, and Jagapatibabu-starrer 'Dhum' produced by Radan Films, failed to impress the audience. Pawan Kalyan and Jagapatibabu almost lost their image with these movies.
Balakrishna-starrer 'Palnati Brahmanaidu' that hit the theatres with great expectations on June 5 turned out to be an average grosser, while Nagarjuna's 'Shivamani 98480-22338' recently completed 50 days in 116 centres.
The biggest sensation of the year, after 'Okkadu' and 'Simhadri', is megastar Chiranjeevi's 'Tagore' that was released on October 24.
The movie broke all the previous records and is galloping towards the 100-day milestone. The movie collected an awesome Rs 21 crore in just three weeks, says the trade pundits.
A sneak preview of technically superior Tamil industry. Kollywood had a mixed bag of fortune in 2003. Around 90 movies were released in 2003 as against 60 in 2002, of which nearly 15 movies proved to be money-spinners. The industry lost about Rs 125 crore and maintained a 12-15 per cent success ratio.
G Adiseshagiri Rao, a renowned Telugu film and TV producer and the president of APFCC, however, denies the trade reports. "It is true that the success rate has come down drastically. But the box office collections are satisfactory," he said.
He said that lack of original scripts, escalating costs of production and the video piracy had played a spoilsport.
"The hardcore Telugu film buffs have slowly shifted to the small screen because of the high admission rates in theatres, and are now opting for a rented VCD of a new film. The VCD piracy has been eating away the vitals - nearly Rs 300 crore - of the industry for the last few years. We urged the state government to include piracy in the Organised Crime Act that punishes the offenders with upto 3 years of imprisonment and a fine of upto Rs 1 lakh. It is time the government took stringent steps to curb the VCD piracy as it is losing 25 per cent of revenue byway of taxes," Adiseshagiri Rao observed.
"To top this all, the influx of new investors from other business concerns, who are foraying into film production without knowing the rudiments of film-making, is resulting in the escalating costs of production," he added.
Against this backdrop of flops outnumbering the hits, five mega budget movies - Jr NTR's Andhrawala (Jan 1), Chiranjeevi's Anji (Feb), Balakrishna's Laxminarasimha (Jan 9), Prabhas' Varsham (Jan 14) and the Rs12-crore budgeted Naani starring Mahesh Babu (Feb second week) - are slated for release in 2004.
According to industry sources, Jr NTR's double action flick Andhrawala will be launched with nearly 280 prints, and is likely to compete with Anji. Anji, which has been in production for more than seven years, is the costliest film ever made in Tollywood. Producer Shyam Prasad Reddy is said to have spent around Rs 25 crore for this film.
It remains to be seen if these films will provide a new fillip to flagging fortunes of the Telugu industry, and help Tollywood retain its past gloryof being next only to the Bollywood.

First Published: Fri, December 26 2003. 00:00 IST