After a gloomy and forgetful 2020, Tollywood looked set to get back on track this year as films like Krack, Uppena, Jathi Rathnalu and others minted big bucks at the ticket counters. But the onset of Covid second wave wreaked havoc and the makers of many A-lister projects including Acharya, Radhe Shyam, and Pushpa had to alter their release plans as film shootings had to be halted and cinema halls shut operations. The second wave of Covid outbreak showed adverse effects on medium and low-budget films as well and consequently, a few of them joined the OTT bandwagon and released directly on Amazon Prime, Netflix, ZEE5 and other digital streaming services. Here is a half-yearly report pertaining to the box office performance of theatrical releases and the reception garnered by films which premiered directly on OTT.
Quite a few Telugu films premiered on OTT platforms since the start of 2021 but only a handful of them actually managed to impress the audiences.
Pitta Kathalu – The first anthology in Telugu web space premiered on Netflix amid good buzz and anticipation but it failed to leave a lasting impression. It received a thumbs down from Telugu digital audiences.
Ninnila Ninnila – This new-age love drama starring Ashok Selvan, Ritu Varma, and Nitya Menen appealed to urban viewers and is one of the better films which released on OTT this year. It is streaming on ZEE5.
Cinemabandi – A soulful rural drama almost entirely featuring newcomers stuck a chord with a section of the viewers. Backed by the men behind The Family Man series, Raj and DK, Cimema Bandi is directed Praveen Kandregulu. It is streaming on Netflix.
Ek Mini Katha – This comedy caper is the only mainstream Telugu feature film which premiered on OTT. It stars Santhosh Shobhan and Kavya Thapar in the lead roles and banks on its unique plot. The film is available for streaming on Amazon Prime.
Theatrical: A total of 76 Telugu films hit the big screens this year and a only a handful of them managed to rake in the moolah at the ticket counters.
Krack, starring Ravi Teja is the first real box office super hit of the year and it rejuvenated the veteran actor’s career when he needed it the most. Ram’s Red, which released during the Sankranthi holiday window fared reasonably well at the box office despite garnering a lukewarm response. Small screen personality Praveen Machiraju’s 30 Rojullo Preminchadam Ela garnered attention with its chartbuster audio single Neeli Neeli Aakasam and it did a fairly decent job at the box office, despite the negative reviews.
Zombie Reddy, Tollywood’s first zombie-based film proved to be a profitable venture at the box office. Here comes the most prominent film on the list – Uppena. The Vaishnav Tej and Krithi Shetty starrer went on a rampage at the box office and posted exceedingly good numbers through the course of its theatrical run. It gave a stellar start to the careers of debutantes Vaishnav, Krithi and the director Buchi Babu. It is the highest grossing Telugu film featuring a newcomer in the lead role.
Naandhi – Allari Naresh put an end to his flop streak which lasted for 8 long years with Naandhi. The realistic social drama is now being remade in Bollywood with Ajay Devgan reprising Naresh’s role. Jaathi Rathnalu – This comedy caper created a sensation at the ticket counters and paid rich dividends to everyone involved. It is the biggest hit of the year in terms of investment-returns.
Vakeel Saab – The Pawan Kalyan starrer is the first and also the only mainstream Telugu biggie which hit the big screens in the first half of 2021. It managed to put up solid numbers at the box office but ended up as a loss venture due to various factors including the not-up to-the-mark content.
Tollywood is hoping for a fruitful 2021 second half as several biggies including Acharya, RRR, Radhe Shyam, Pushpa: Part 1, Liger, and others are gearing up for theatrical release.