The Rise of the South Indian Commercial Entertainers

The countdown to superstar Rajinikanth’s latest cinematic offering, Jailer,” has ignited a frenzy that’s reaching a fever pitch online. As someone who is chronically online, I chanced upon the data from GrabOn’s survey, which hints at the fact that the world collectively hit peak Rajinikanth search madness on August 9th, a mere few hours before the movie’s anticipated release. If you are looking for numbers as proof, the digital chaos was captured in a resounding Google Trends value of 100, a symbolic nod to the zenith of popularity a search term can achieve.

A South Indian film is doing so well! Definitely a moment of pride for all of us, but when I say the searches around the film are doing well, it’s not the usual theatres-full, critics-favorite, whistle-blowing audience enrapturing moving-going gymnastics I am talking about. This is a different level of insane, and I am definitely here for it!

The Rise of the South Indian Commercial Entertainers

The Number Game: How Many Searches Did Jailer Get?

In the global search sweepstakes, Singapore claimed the coveted top spot with a perfect search value of 100/100, as revealed in the report. The quest for all things Rajinikanth reverberated across the world, with Sri Lanka (96), Qatar (83), the United Arab Emirates (82), and Bahrain (78) rounding out the top five. Remarkably, India, the beating heart of Rajinikanth’s fandom, secured the sixth spot with an impressive average value of 74 during the preceding week. 

Unveiling their findings, GrabOn also showcased how India’s regional enthusiasm unfolded. At the helm of this Rajinikanth craze was Karnataka, leading the charge. The fervor then rippled through Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala. However, a plot twist emerged in Tamil Nadu’s case, where offline ticket purchases seemed to outshine their online counterparts.

This got me thinking, South India has been coming up with a few incredible action-based commercial entertainers, and they all seem to be doing well. It’s like our directors and writers have finally managed to perfect the secret to keeping the audience hooked to their seats while they throw in some “mass” gravity-defying action, a few fun, smartly-choreographed dance moves for social media posts, a simple yet riveting story and a cliche one-dimension villain whose defeat is cathartic enough to keep the audience entertained. Clearly, this is the formula, but let’s look at four movies from the South, shall we, to truly learn what these films have done differently? 

Sukumar’s Pushpa: The Rise (2021), Prithviraj’s Lucifer (2019), Neel’s K.G.F (2018-22), and Nelson’s Jailer (2023) are a representative collective of commercial entertainers from South India over the past few years. One only needs to mention their names publicly, and a fan or two will peek from their camouflage mundanity to celebrate with you. However, these films share a few common features. Basically, I am looking to extract the secret of the fail-safe way to create a perfectly-successful film. 

Also Read: 5 Malayalam Movie Characters Who Could Possibly Have Their Own Spin-off Movies

A Star-Studded Cast

This is a no-brainer! You want people to flock into theatres? Get their favorite actors and actresses to collaborate in a massively-budgeted film that shows them off at their best. South Indians are committed to their favorite heroes, and what is better than seeing them beating down hordes of villains (most of the time, other industry favorites themselves)? We experience a feeling of unconscious catharsis. Let’s consider a simple example of Lucifer. We witness an ensemble of Malayalam’s favorite actors and actresses, starting with veterans like Mohanlal, Manju Warrier, and Indrajith to newcomers (but fan favorites) like Tovino and Vivek, all gracing the big screen at the same time. We are left with a feeling of satisfaction, a sort of relief that is similar to the emotions evoked when someone, somewhere, yelled, ‘Avengers, Assemble!’. 

The Rise of the South Indian Commercial Entertainers

Think of Jailer as well. Sure, we have a mass entertainer at hand, but a lot of its fame and popularity is associated with the unification of the best of the veteran actors from the South-Indian industry. As if the accolades and attention weren’t enough, Rajinikanth’s search supremacy stood firm compared to his previous milestones. The data revealed that his online presence had witnessed an upward trajectory, both nationally and internationally, over the course of one year, one month, and one week, painting a vivid picture of his continuous reign.

Well-Choreographed Fight Sequences 

Honestly speaking, gone are the days when fight sequences were just fillers to extend the film’s running time. Background punching noises and slow-motion walking interludes are no longer necessary to keep people glued to their seats. Partly owed to the introduction of VFX and better technology in the editing and music department and partly to cleverly choreographed sequences by professional stunt masters and actors themselves claiming ownership of their performances, what we have in South Indian films is truly a violent, intense, passionate movement of limbs which can only be referred to as a lethal combination of sharp dance moves. Fight sequences, quite ironically, also help tell a story. As Christian, from MovieWeb claims,

“When well-executed, fight scenes like this can act as a sort of diorama for the story, striking many of the same beats and chords as the plot to demonstrate or foreshadow where the story will go and how it will progress.”

Fight sequences often reveal character traits and add to the story. Think of ‘Pushpa,’ a local thug, and ‘Rocky’ from KGF, a more seasoned criminal and mercenary. There is a noticeable difference in the way the two fight. Imagine if our local thung wielded a gun or two in between his fights in the forest or a mercenary used a random sickle or hammer as his primary weapon. It disrupts the flow of the story, does it not? Often fight sequences are used to establish characters’ personality traits without providing much exposition. The audience learns about their protagonists without having to sit through flashbacks and flash-forwards. 

The Musical Showdown

If you have any plans of directing or writing a commercial entertainer, you need a few different types of songs. Obviously, the hero’s background theme, then a rowdy, racy romantic one that has you humming away for the next few weeks, an emotional, tear-jerker, and finally, the item song. Many people have already spoken about all of these, but I think it is necessary to highlight the significance of the last one to the success of a commercial entertainer. Item songs, regardless of the criticism it receives, are a tactical marketing move. 

Think of ‘Kaavalaaa’ from Jailer or ‘Raftaraa’ from Lucifer, or ‘Oo Antava’ from Pushpa for a second. I am sure, at least a few of you already started humming the song under your breath. The catchy lyrics and the easily memorable tune are meant to affect your subconsciously; it is meant to keep the film in your mind. Secondly, the choreography of the song is also equally important. Unlike mass entertainers of the past where heroes are involved in performing complex dance moves, item songs in today’s commercial entertainers have a quirky, fun, catchy hook step that anybody and their grandmother can easily pull off. 

The result? Quickly open your Instagram or YouTube. The kind of promotion catchy hook steps and comprehensible lyrics provide a movie is worth a study of its own. If you have been on social media in the past few days, I am sure you have probably already seen the sexy appeal of Tammanah Bhatia’s expressive call to the audience and her freely but elegantly moving limbs to the chorus of Kavalaa

Multiple Language Releases 

Yet another technical aspect of the movie we often forget about is the hype surrounding its release. Sure, the writers, directors, and those involved in casting have done their part and gotten the best of the best across the industry for us to engage with. And yes, the ardent fans of these actors will definitely go and watch the movie on the first day itself. But promotions of films rarely target ardent fans. They are primarily meant for the in-different middlemen who can be and must be influenced.

Releasing films in multiple languages other than the original is a simple yet subtle way to do this. It encourages fans to see the theatre in its original glory and then a second time, in their own language, for better comprehension. It leaves the movie-goers feeling included in every way possible, giving them a full-rounded watching experience while contributing to the box-office claims. A win-win indeed! 

Has the South Indian Film Industry Created the Perfect Mass Entertainer?

As I had initially begun with Jailer, it is only safe to say that this movie captures both the hearts of the audience and the box office for the next few weeks. Like its other counterparts, it throws at us a mass entertainer, which keeps us anticipating and wanting more of the veteran actor on screen and his formidable companions. 

However, the bigger question remains, has South India indeed cracked the code to make a mass entertainer worth watching? Well, I’ll leave you to arrive at a solid answer to that as you leave the theatre for the fifth time after watching Jailer

Check it out: 5 Reasons Why Malayalis Are The Ultimate Cinema Fans

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