Mythology to action entertainers, Telugu cinema aims high in 2023 – Samantha’s ‘Shaakuntalam’, Nani’s ‘Dasara’, Prabhas’ ‘Salaar’ and more – The Hindu

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January 10, 2023 03:08 pm | Updated 09:33 pm IST
(Clockwise) Nani in ‘Dasara’, Samantha in ‘Shaakuntalam’, Teja Sajja in ‘Hanu-Man’, Naga Chaitanya in ‘Custody’, Shruti Haasan and Balakrishna in ‘Veera Simha Reddy’, Chiranjeevi in ‘Waltair Veerayya’ and Prabhas in ‘Salaar’
In 2022, Telugu cinema witnessed a few memorable larger-than-life films and smaller ones. Some big-budget films with staid storylines bit the dust. Filmmakers had to begin reorienting themselves to a post-pandemic audience that was ready to consume cinema with fresh storylines, cutting across languages, more than ever before. The 2023 slate looks bigger and varied with a bunch of films vying for nationwide attention — director Gunasekhar’s Shaakuntalam headlined by Samantha Ruth Prabhu, Nani-starrerDasara by debut director Srikanth Odela and director Prashanth Neel’s Salaar starring Prabhas among them. There are several smaller, promising films that might spring pleasant surprises too.
In 2017, when Chiranjeevi returned to the screens — after a 10-year hiatus — with Khaidi No. 150 for Sankranti, also in the fray was the Balakrishna-starrer historical fiction Gautamiputra Satakarni directed by Krish Jagarlamudi . For Telugu film buffs, it felt like a throwback to the 1990s and early 2000s when these stars, then younger, had ruled the roost. 
Little has changed for Sankranti 2023. Chiranjeevi and Balakrishna continue to call the shots with their respective films — Waltair Veerayya (January 13) , directed by K S Ravindra aka Bobby and Veera Simha Reddy (January 12) directed by Gopichand Malineni. Waltair Veerayya also stars Ravi Teja whose recent film Dhamaka marked his return to box office form. 
Vaarasudu (January 14), the Telugu dub of Vijay’s Tamil film Vaarisu directed by Vamsi Paidipally, and Thegimpu (January 11), the Telugu version of the Ajith-starrer Thunivu directed by H Vinoth, will also be jostling for box office space during Sankranti. 
Santosh Soban and Priya Bhavani Shankar in ‘Kalyanam Kamaneeyam’
The romance drama Kalyanam Kamaneeyam (January 14) starring Santosh Soban and Priya Bhavani Shankar by debut director Anil Kumar Aalla, backed by UV Creations, is the smaller film that will hope to draw family audiences with its story involving a newly-wed couple.
The nationwide releases expected in 2023 range from mythology to action entertainers starring actors from different languages. 
The first among the action entertainers will be the Telugu-Tamil film Michael(February 3) headlined by Sundeep Kishan and co-starring Vijay Sethupathi, directed by Ranjit Jeyakodi. Sundeep will return to the screens after nearly two years, sporting a chiselled look in this action entertainer that will release in Hindi, Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam and Kannada. Divyansha Kaushik plays the female lead and cast in crucial roles are Varalaxmi Sarathkumar and Anasuya Bharadwaj; director Gautham Menon is cast as the antagonist.
Divyansha Kaushik and Sundeep Kishan in ‘Michael’
Director Gunasekhar’s retelling of the mythological story of Shakuntala and Dushyant, Shaakuntalam, will arrive in theatres in both 2D and 3D formats on February 17, spearheaded by Samantha Ruth Prabhu and Dev Mohan. The film is pitched as ‘mythology for millennials’ and will present veteran actor Mohan Babu as Durvasa maharishi and actor Allu Arjun’s daughter Allu Arha as young prince Bharatha.
Director and actor Vishwak Sen’s Das ka Dhamki will release on February 17 in multiple languages, along with Dhanush’s Tamil-Telugu bilingual Sir directed by Venky Atluri. 
Vishwak Sen in ‘Das ka Dhamki’
At the fag end of March will arrive Dasara, with its story in the vicinity of Singareni coal mines of Telangana. Directed by debutant Srikant Odela, Dasara will showcase Nani in a rugged avatar with messy hair and coal soot-laden look, a departure from his man-next-door persona so far. This working-class rebel story stars Keerthy Suresh as the female lead and Malayalam actor Roshan Mathew in a pivotal part. With Santhosh Narayanan’s music, Dasara will release in all four southern languages and Hindi on March 30.
Director Prasanth Varma’s Hanu-Man, billed as a superhero film inspired by the story of lord Hanuman, is casting a larger net with a worldwide release on May 12. The Teja Sajja-starrer is high on visual effects and has Varalaxmi Sarathkumar and Amritha Aiyer on board. Hanu-Man is set in a fictitious place named Anjanadri and the story will explore how the protagonist gets the power of Hanuman and fights for Anjanadri. The ambitious film will release in English, Spanish, Korean, Chinese and Japanese apart from multiple Indian languages.
Hanu-Man’s release is likely to coincide with director Venkat Prabhu’s Tamil-Telugu actioner Custody (May 12) starring Naga Chaitanya and Krithi Shetty, which will have music by father-son duo Ilaiyaraaja and Yuvan Shankar Raja.
Krish Jagarlamudi’s period drama Hari Hara Veera Mallu starring Pawan Kalyan, Ravi Teja-starrer Ravansura directed by Sudheer Varma and Ravi Teja’s Tiger Nageswara Rao directed by Vamsee, Akhil Akkineni’s Agent directed by Surender Reddy, Chiranjeevi’s Bhola Shankar directed by Meher Ramesh are also expected this year. 
Later this year, all eyes will be on director Prashanth Neel’s Salaar starring Prabhas, Prithviraj Sukumaran and Shruti Haasan. The film produced by Hombale Films, which powered the KGF series, marks Neel’s first Telugu film and Prabhas is said to play a violent character in it.
Among the other star-led Telugu language releases, actor Kalyan Ram who reinvented himself with the 2022 fantasy entertainer Bimbisara, directed by debutant Mallidi Vasishta, will look to consolidate his new innings with Amigos (February 10), in which he reportedly plays three roles. The film is directed by Rajendra Reddy.
Suhas in ‘Writer Padmanabham’
Release dates for director Sukumar and Allu Arjun’s Pushpa – the Rule, Mahesh Babu and director Trivikram Srinivas’s new project, the Samantha-Vijay Deverakonda Khushi directed by Shiva Nirvana, and the DJ Tillu sequel by Siddhu Jonnalagadda are yet to be announced. Two films expected to go on floors soon are Adivi Sesh’s slick action thriller G2 to be helmed by first-timer Vinay Kumar Sirigineedi, which will be the sequel to Goodachari, and an untitled family drama starring Nani and Mrunal Thakur directed by debutant Shouryuv.
The welcome surprises often come from non-starry movies. Look out for director Nandini Reddy’s family drama Anni Manchi Sakunamule starring Santosh Soban and Malvika Nair, Writer Padmabhushan starring Suhas and directed by Shanmukha Prashant, director Sai Rajesh’s musical film Baby starring Anand Deverakonda, Viraj Ashwin and Vaishnavi Chaitanya, Allari Naresh’s Ugram by director Vijay Kanakamedala, and director Srikanth Nagoti’s Month of Madhu starring Naveen Chandra and Swathi Reddy.
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