Three back-to-back hits, even if they are as impressive as Pushpa: The Rise, RRR and KGF: Chapter 2, don’t prove anything. Among other things, celebrities, commentators and social media users—who claim that the ‘South film’ has decisively proved that “Bollywood is finished”—have conveniently overlooked two major disasters produced by the Telugu industry in the past couple of months: Radhe Shyam and Acharya. The latter’s failure is particularly striking: released in late April, the film co-starred Chiranjeevi—Telugu cinema’s biggest star—and his son Ram Charan, whose RRR was still running in theatres.
The 2021 box office was dominated by South Indian films: they earned thrice as much as Hindi films. But ‘South’ is not one industry: it is four different industries with very distinct identities. Moreover, it is too early to tell if these four industries have managed to overcome Indian cinema’s historical inability to recover production costs. Reports commissioned by FICCI indicate that success and failure rates had not undergone any dramatic changes in the years preceding the pandemic.