It was after two years that Telugu superstar Mahesh Babu was having a movie release and that too a festival release. Directed by Trivikram Srinivas, Guntur Kaaram, starring Mahesh with Sreeleela and Meenakshi Chaudhary, was touted as a commercial entertainer, which would hopefully be a blockbuster. Unfortunately, the film hasn’t turned out to be the smash hit the filmmakers wanted it to be. Also read: Guntur Kaaram producer gets defensive at press meet
After day 10, Guntur Kaaram had managed to rake in a little under ₹118 crore at the domestic box office, as per a report by Sacnilk.com. In fact, the producer of the film, Naga Vamsi, said at a recent meet that having 1am special shows for the film had backfired as it was a family film and not like KGF or Salaar. Vamsi said, “This is a family cinema… a Trivikram film. I’m not comparing them, but it was a mistake to release a Trivikram sir film, a mother-son bond film, at 1am. It was not a good choice.” So, will the average response to this film make Mahesh Babu rethink his career strategy?
The highs and the lows
The Telugu superstar was someone, who liked to experiment with his films and as a star, who had the perfect combination of good looks, magnetism and acting prowess, he had the ability to bring the global audience to theatres. However, Mahesh Babu has been having a rough innings since 2017, when his magnum opus with director AR Murugadoss, Spyder, became a massive flop. After Spyder, the Dookudu star made some changes to his choice of scripts – he did Bharat Ane Nenu and Maharishi, where he played an NRI, who wanted to do good for his country.
Then in Sarileru Neekevvaru he played an army major and in Sarkaru Vaari Paata, a financier. While Sarkaru Vaari Paata released in 2022, two years after his last film, due to Covid 19, Guntur Kaaram was delayed due to a lot of issues and released in January 2024. There were reports of Mahesh not being happy with the original storyline, extensive reshoots, Pooja Hegde opting out, new actors being signed on, and so on.
A producer in the Telugu film industry, on condition of anonymity, states that Mahesh Babu needs a big hit soon. “He is the original Telugu superstar and has a huge fan following in the US too. But he needs a big blockbuster to once again put him on top. Guntur Kaaram was much-hyped and people thought it would gross ₹250 crore, at least. Trivikram is known for his family dramas and the team thought this film would click with the audience; but it didn’t. Now, he must be pinning his hopes on director SS Rajamouli’s pan-India film,” says the producer.
Time to go pan-India
Pan-Indian Telugu films – like RRR, Pushpa and Salaar – have been breaking box office records and stars such as Ram Charan, Allu Arjun and Prabhas from the Telugu film industry are now being hailed as those with the magic touch at the box office. Despite the experimentation he kept doing with his films to push boundaries, Mahesh Babu still hadn’t ventured too much into the all-out action hero or period film genres. He was likely hoping that a local hero act with romance and family sentiment in Guntur Kaaram would be a breath of fresh air for the audience in this scenario but it didn’t work. However, with SS Rajamouli’s film, this is all likely set to change.
It’s also important to understand that the Telugu audience had also evolved and was looking for more than run-of-the-mill stories of hero and heroine romance, family sentiment and hero saving the heroine from the villain. The advent of OTT and filmmakers giving them new types of cinema – like Karthik Varma Dandu’s Virupaksha, Sai Rajesh Neelam‘s Baby and Prasanth Varma’s Hanu-Man – has levelled up audience’s expectations drastically. In this scenario, presenting old wine in a new bottle is rejected by them outright.
But Mahesh Babu is truly a superstar because he has constantly adapted to the changing needs and took to experimenting much earlier than other actors in Tollywood. He has quickly reset his career and by signing on SS Rajamouli’s action adventure, the actor is well on his way to forging a new career path. Sources say that the SS Rajamouli-Mahesh Babu film announcement will be made soon and that Mahesh is already prepping for the role.
Now, all eyes are on this Indiana Jones-like adventure, which will definitely be a gamechanger in Tollywood and Indian cinema – and for Telugu superstar Mahesh Babu.