Essential Guide to Telugu Movies: Best 10 movies from all Time

This will be a quick introduction to Telugu Cinema, covering its journey from post independent India to its current size, producing most films per year after Bollywood. I have asked my friends to suggest their personal favourites for this list and got a huge response of 52 movies; all of which were box-office hits and mesmerized and entertained audiences. I further dug up many missing titles that might have been forgotten by the present generation but strongly stand to define societal and preferences (tastes) changes of that time and industry firsts in few cases.

The criteria for this list were simple; each of the movies should have master story telling, cultural significance and uniqueness. My task was further simplified as many good movies were remakes of films from neighbouring Tamil or Hindi film industries for which I chose to skip. My dear friend (Naga Varun Dasari) suggested I define one movie per decade to give a glimpse of the industry over time and I stuck to it filling the rest with movies in the new millennium.

While you are bound to disagree with my choice of a particular film for a particular time, the task at hand warrants me to project my preferences. Finally here it goes:

Mayabazaar (1957):

Tollywood has an enduring love for epics and mythological films and this film stands to be at the top of everything. This fictional take on Mahabharata with very strong and memorable characters, mind blogging visual effects (first Indian film to show moonlight, its 1957!!) that are way ahead of its time will leave you mesmerized all along. What else? A digitally remastered color version is now available.

Gundamma Katha (1962):

Part inspired by the Shakespeare’s Taming of Shrew, this movie with its strong female characters and memorable performances by NTR(his 100 film & 1st in India to do so many) and ANR is a classic family drama. Its songs like ‘Nidra Lechindi Mahila Lokam’ are forever etched in Telugu psyche.

Sankarabharanam (1980):

Probably director K.Vishwanath’s best, this musical is about a popular carnatic(classical) singer and a prostitute’s daughter with great interest in music and dance. Changing tastes of the audience and the injustice vested upon the female protagonist add great cultural depth making it a must watch.

Pushpaka Vimanam (1987):

This full length silent film directed by Singeetam Srinivasa Rao starring Kamal Haasan and Amala is a unique, critically acclaimed and box office hit. Even I choose to be silent and not reveal the plot and leave it for you to see. Since its silent film, I chose to put it here since its by a Telugu born director. :D

Pelli Pustakam (1991):

This list wouldn’t be complete without a Bapu film. This story about a married couple pretending to be unmarried for the sake of job, has the trademark Bapu style which brings out the telugu-ness and nativity of characters. An art movie in current parlance, with a strong female role and wonderful performances by both leads this movie is a must watch.

Nuvvu Naaku Nachav (2001):

This block buster comedy is slick and augurs the generation of ‘one-liners’ or ‘punch line’ comedy in to the Industry. Trivikram Srinivas’s writing is at its best and actors carry the simple family drama and romance story well providing wholesome entertainment.

Aa Naluguru (2004):

This choice might surprise some. It is a heart-touching and emotional tale of an honest and upright person and his relationship to his family and friends. Though it comes off too idealistic at places, it touches upon many major social issues of the day and is even more significant in the time of anti-corruption and other issues.

Bommarillu (2006):

This complete family entertainer is the first Telugu movie I would recommend to anyone. Its literally awesome. Story about a guy, his girl and his overbearing father is touching, characters are loveable and acting is solid. Just watch it.

Prasthanam (2010):

The intensity of the story is unparalleled. A political thriller touching on grassroots politics and with themes like ambition, greed and devotion running the characters it is a master story and storytelling. Sai Kumar’s performance as Loknath will forever stay with you. Prakash Jha can take a bite or two here :P

Vedam (2010):

This film marks a new era of modern, Hollywood inspired directors and film making. With 5 protagonists each with different background and unique story, whose fate is inexplicably linked and dependent on each other; is wonderfully presented by strong direction and screenplay.

This list obviously isn’t exhaustive. There is no Chiranjeevi or Nagarjuna or Balakrishna who defined the 90’s and 00’s generation in the movies listed above. Some would find many old classics aren’t properly represented. My friends would fume at Mahesh Babu and Pawan Kalyan not finding their rightful place here. Yes all of them made wonderful movies and have shaped the industry to where it is now. Not this list is what I can say for now. I will work on other articles exclusively for audiences who have some idea of Telugu cinema.

In case you haven’t watched any one of the above, go and explore. For those who are hungry for more, check my guide to Korean Cinema:

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