Santhy Balachandran feels that it was the budget and the backing behind the Ram Charan and Jr NTR starrer that helped team RRR campaign for their film in Los Angeles.
Jallikattu actress Santhy Balachandran exclusively tells News18 that between her film and RRR, a lot has changed for Indian cinema as far as global acceptance is concerned.
In 2020, the Malayalam action thriller Jallikattu (2019) was chosen as India’s official entry in the Best International Feature category at the 93rd Academy Awards. Directed by Lijo Jose Pellissery of Angamaly Diaries (2017) and Ee.Ma.Yau (2018) fame, the story of Jallikattu follows a bull that escapes from a slaughterhouse in a hilly remote village and how men from the entire village come together to hunt down the animal. However, it failed to make it to the top 15 films that were finally chosen for the aforementioned category.
And now, filmmaker SS Rajamouli’s Telugu language epic action adventure RRR (2022) has created a new record as it has grabbed a nomination in the Best Original Song category at the 95th Academy Awards, which is slated to air tomorrow (March 13). The only female actor from Jallikattu, Santhy Balachandran, exclusively tells News18 that between Jallikattu and RRR, a lot has changed for Indian cinema as far as global acceptance is concerned. She says, “Some very interesting content is being made that’s more rooted and in a local space. That’s what worked in favour of Jallikattu. It was a universal story but had a very local flavour to it. People connect to universal human emotions no matter what the setting is.”
Attributing this paradigm shift to the Covid-19 pandemic, she explains, “Since the pandemic, the world has opened up more in terms of entertainment. People are watching movies and series made in different languages. The director of Parasite (2019) had famously said that once you overcome the one-inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films. It’s a good time in that sense.” The actor, who recently made her Bollywood debut with Gulmohar, adds, “More regional language films are being discovered and more languages of cinema are being explored. I think there’s more of an openness when it comes to people accepting different kinds of storytelling that are rooted.”
RRR is yet another film rooted in Indian culture. But it wasn’t India’s official entry to the Oscars initially. Then Rajamouli initiated a campaign to join the Academy Awards race. Ask Balachandran if she wishes the makers of Jallikattu would have followed a similar route after it was out of the Oscars race and she says, “It’s all easy to say that in hindsight. Our team did the best with the resources that they had. It’s a different world when you go to campaign for a picture at the Oscars. There was no template as for us as such.”
However, she feels that it was the budget and the backing behind the Ram Charan and Jr NTR starrer that helped team RRR campaign for their film in Los Angeles. “RRR is a film that’s backed very well and so, the chances, I guess, are greater for people to take note and understand that there’s something happening and be aware of the film in general,” the Tharangam (2017) actor states. As per reports, Rajamouli spent about Rs 83 crores through the process.
As all eyes are set on how RRR fares at the Oscars, Balachandran is happy that the success of the film has helped shift the focus of the world to the commercial cinema market in India. “We’ve had a long history of Indian cinema being acknowledged abroad. From the time of Satyajit Ray onwards, there has been an interest in Indian cinema. But what has happened with RRR is that there has been more interest in commercial Indian cinema. That’s the distinction that we could see now,” she remarks.
Prod her further and she elaborates, “There’s more of an interest about what happens here in the entertainment industry and who are the major players are. People are keeping an eye on the work coming from India from the commercial film space. It’s interesting because Indian commercial cinema makes for a different form of storytelling compared to a mainstream Hollywood film. I think people are expanding their interests, which is always nice.”
She further points out that Hollywood noticing Indian cinema’s song-and-dance rituals was long due. “Hollywood did have a history of musicals. We’ve sustained our love for music, dance and drama throughout our existence. It’s great that Hollywood is really discovering some of those things about us,” Balachandran shares.