Mumbai: Cinema from way down India has captivated the audience world over. No wonder the big guns in Bollywood have jumped on this gravy train
"The most popular movies at the multiplex this past weekend included, 'The Lion King', 'Moneyball', 'Drive and Dookudu: Daring & Dashing'."
That was how Los Angeles Times introduced the Telugu flick to an American audience. Actor Mahesh Babu was sitting proudly right beside Ryan Gosling (one of the top contenders for the Oscar's next year).
Now if that doesn't indicate how rapidly cinema from South India is spreading its wings, we don't know what ever will!
Who knew that there'd be a time when the 'English' audience would google Tollywood to find out more about yet another industry that rhymes with Hollywood.
And it's not just about this one film. For the first time in decades, a Malayalam film 'Adaminte Makan Abu' (made in a shoestring budget) will be representing the country at the Oscars.
When 14 Tamil films bagged the biggest titles at this year's National Awards, the world sat up and took note.
From Fox to Warner, some of the biggest Hollywood studios are in talks with everyone from A R Murgadoss to Kamal Haasan for upcoming film projects.
Salman Khan obviously seems to have become the remake king of South films with every other star following suit.
From Wanted to Ready and now Bodyguard, the Southern remakes have seen Sallu miya laughing his way to the bank.
And there's little chance he's going to give up on this money mantra. Now buzz is that the star is all set to star in the Dookudu remake as well.
Says writer Kona Venkat, who worked on Ready in Telugu and Hindi, "When a South film comes to Bollywood, it's bigger and better.
It's clearly a phenomenon that will continue till the time people within South India make entertaining films that give value for money."
From John Abraham, who has managed to bag a solo hit ('Force') through a South remake ('Khaaka Khaaka'), to others like Akshay Kumar, Sanjay Dutt and Ajay Devgn, starring in an action-packed South Indian masala remakes seem to ensure best returns these days.
John says, "I wanted to explore the action space and when I saw Suriya's Khaaka Khaaka, I was completely blown away. The way they deal with action down South is pretty raw, a lot like Hollywood I think."
Not surprisingly, the trend has given a platform to Southern director.
When director Siddique makes 'Bodyguard' in Malayalam within less than 10 crores and he sees an opportunity to recreate his movie in a budget of over 50 crores, his creative canvas automatically widens.
From Siddique, who is now dreams of remaking his Mohanlal starrer Vietnam Colony, to critically-acclaimed director like Blessy, who will bring to life the hit film Pranayam with Amitabh Bachchan, to Srinu Vytla, who will direct his first Hindi film if the Dookudu remake materialises, a whole new crop of directors now seem to dominate the space.
Says Siddique, "Bollywood is any day big in terms of reach. That does not mean we will not make films in our own languages. But this is a step up for us."
However, for some reason South Indian heroes have never really managed to make it big in Bollywood.
Be it Vikram, who disappeared after the super flop Raavan, or even Suriya, whose much-anticipated Hindi debut with Rakthacharita managed to impress only a select group of Ramu fans, to even Rana Dagubatti, who hasn't really been inundated with offers since 'Dum Maro Dum', none seem to have cashed in on the Southern invasion.
Says R Madhavan, who will always enjoy a bigger stature in the Tamil space, "Eventually it's about doing good work.
Yes, everyone wants to be a superstar at the end of the day, but it's not possible to rule various worlds of cinema at one point.
As long as I am satisfied with my work, I will continue working in films from all different languages."