August 14, 2008

Tollywoods Borrowed Baddies

Shalini P and Suresh Kavirayini

There's a special place for villains in Telugu films as films here still promote iconic actors - a trend that's passe in Bollywood.

With Telugu villains like Jay Prakash and Kota Srinivas Rao aging and Prakash Raj unable to make an appearance in every movie, there's a dearth of local villains in the industry. Filling up the gap are the baddies, imported especially from Bollywood! And for some reason, they seem to be doing a good job of it.

Sayaji Shinde, who shot to fame with the Hindi flicks Shool and Dhool, is in great demand in Tollywood. Sources tell us that he commands around Rs 14 lakh and sometimes more per film. He is so busy with Telugu films that he has no time left for Bollywood now. "Although he was roped in to play the role of a sincere police commissioner in the Hindi version of Pokiri, starring Salman Khan, he refused the offer as he could not give the dates they required," adds the source.

Aashish Vidyarthi is another sought-after villain, who for the last seven years has been busy doing films in Telugu and Tamil. Aashish, for whom "A villain's role is more fun than the hero's", has done more number of Telugu films than Hindi and has carved a niche for himself in Tollywood. His role as a bad cop in Pokiri got him critical acclaim.

Interestingly, some of the erstwhile top-notch Bollywood actors and top ramp models are also game for the villainous act. Rahul Dev is one such. He looked impressive with rippling muscles and long hair in Mass. In fact, the filmmakers were keen to sign him because they felt only he could have played the baddie opposite the stylish Nagarjuna.

Jackie Shroff is another actor who plays a villain in Bank, which is yet to be released. The latest to join the bandwagon is Milind Soman. When asked what attracts them to Tollywood, Rahul Dev said it was the scope of the role, while Milind Soman said, "I opted to play the bad man because I have never done a Telugu film and this character looked interesting."

However, critics feel that it is the dearth of good work in Bollywood that is making them down search for roles in the South. Says Jalapathy, a film critic, "With heroes playing villains in Bollywood, there's tough competition for these roles. In contrast, Tollywood still loves the concept of heroes and villains. Some are attracted by novel roles while others because they get paid well down here. Most of the Telugu villains have aged and cannot be cast opposite younger stars like Mahesh Babu and Prabhas. Moreover, we have only a couple of young villains like Ajay and Subbaraju, who still need to prove their mettle."

Kota Srinivas Rao, who played antagonist in many films, disagrees. "There's no dearth of local talent. It's just that directors are opting for villains outside Tollywood, for reasons best known to them!" However, directors have their own take on the issue, "We wanted a new face to play the villain, which is why we opted for Milind Soman," reasons Jeevita Rajasekhar.

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