Filmmakers and writers in Telugu film industry are finding it extremely difficult to weave interesting characters for older actors. But dearth of ideas is not the only reason why films rarely feature actors past their prime. Postnoon finds out.
Films, which were once the reflection of the socio cultural changes in the society, have undergone a massive transformation, especially in the themes they explore. In the process, of late, the entire focus is on the youngsters and the fact that people between the age group of 18-30 form the major segment of the target audience has completely changed the way filmmakers think. No wonder, one hardly gets to see older actors in pivotal roles. At best, they end up being the voice of reason who inspire the hero to take the righteous path. This is a far cry from how Hollywood and to an extent even Bollywood treats the older actors.
Actors and directors like Clint Eastwood, Woody Allen are still playing lead roles, despite their age and in Bollywood actors like Amitabh Bachchan, Anupam Kher, Om Puri and Naseeruddin Shah carry the entire film on their shoulders. So why is Telugu film industry reluctant to write intriguing roles for elder actors? “Compared to Hollywood or Bollywood, the market for Telugu cinema is quite small, which hardly leaves us any scope to experiment,” screenwriter Gopi Mohan says. Elucidating more on the issue, he says, “Long ago, films used to spark debate about the social issues prevalent in the society. With the proliferation of media, I believe that people don’t expect cinema to raise issues which affect our lives. The focus has being shifted completely to young actors and they want the adrenaline rush every time they watch a film.”
Back in the 50s and 60s, actors like SV Ranga Rao, Suryakantham and Gummadi used to play vital roles in most of their films. Despite the presence of actors like NTR, ANR and later Krishna and Shobhan Babu, character artistes had their own space. That changed to a large extent in the 90s when Telugu cinema embraced commercial cinema completely. Would people like to watch a film where actors, who are past their prime, are cast in lead roles? In the past few years, there have been films like Aa Naluguru, Mee Sreyobhilashi, Sontha Vooru, Onamalu, Midhunam and Devasthanam which were completely driven by actors like Rajendra Prasad, LB Sriram, SP Balu and K Vishwananth.
Despite the critical acclaim, such films rarely make big bucks at box office. “Such films don’t get good screens which further adds to the number of issues which filmmakers already face to draw the crowds,” Gopi Mohan says, adding, “Let’s face it, we don’t have someone like Amitabh Bachchan in our industry who still has the charm, despite his age, to be widely accepted by the audience.”
Filmmaker P Sunil Kumar Reddy concurs with Gopi Mohan’s perspective and says, “These days, the stories in our films are completely aimed at youngsters from the age group 18-30. TV serials has taken over the onus of showcasing family dramas and when people come to watch a film, they expect something larger than life. So, it’s difficult to cast senior actors in pivotal roles and even the directors who do make family dramas, end up stereotyping elder actors.” Is there an alternative? “Luckily devotional films have been the saving grace. They have a specific target audience and there’s a lot of scope to write good characters for senior actors in such films,” Sunil Kumar Reddy says.
It’s not that roles for senior actors have completely disappeared from mainstream films, but it’s just not the same anymore for an entire generation of movie aficionados who grew up watching legendary actors like SV Ranga Rao play amazing roles even in the twilight of their illustrious careers. With time, most of the supporting actors from yesteryears are forgotten and they become vague memories of the past. Perhaps, it won’t be too late before they get lost in time.
About the Author (Author Profile)
Hemanth writes primarily about Telugu cinema, although he finds inspiration from the works of filmmakers like Woody Allen. Apart from writing, he spends most of his time on Twitter discussing about cinema, travel and life in Hyderabad.