Explained: The Phenomenon of “Pan-Indian” Films, Their Circulation and Success


With the release of the trailer for Puri Jagannadh’s sports action drama ‘Liger’ today, the focus is once again on ‘pan-Indian’ films.

“Liger”, starring Vijay Deverakonda, Ananya Panday, Ramya Krishnan and Mike Tyson, will be released on August 25 in five languages: Telugu, Hindi, Malayalam, Kannada and Tamil. This simultaneous multi-language release will ensure that the film reaches a wider audience across the country, making it pan-Indian.

The phenomenon of pan-Indian films, and the social media buzz surrounding them, has featured prominently in conversations around Indian cinema in recent years. Whether it’s interviews with film personalities, discussions of box office numbers, or discussions among moviegoers, the idea of ​​pan-Indian films has become ubiquitous.

The success of SS Rajamouli’s ‘RRR’ (featuring Ram Charan and Jr NTR) and Prashanth Neel’s ‘KGF: Chapter 2’ (featuring Yash, Raveena Tandon and Sanjay Dutt) in the first half of this year added to the excitement. around this orient themselves.

What is a pan-Indian film?

To put it in the simplest possible way, a pan-Indian film is a film that caters to the tastes and sensibilities of people and communities across the country.

At promotional events, the cast and crew of recent and upcoming pan-Indian films have claimed that all sections of society will find something relatable and resonant in their film, thus highlighting a banality that will appeal to moviegoers. from all over India.

When did this trend start?

Overall, the rise of pan-Indian cinema can be attributed to the success of SS Rajamouli’s “Baahubali” films. Since the first was released in 2015, Indian audiences have seen every other big-budget movie advertised as “pan-Indian” in bold letters.

This phenomenon transcends languages ​​and industries. Telugu superstar Allu Arjun-starring ‘Pushpa’ (2021) has become a blockbuster in every language it’s been released in. He even managed to put aside the native films of the languages ​​– mainly the Hindi film ’83’, which was about the historic cricket of 1983 World Cup victory. One could, in fact, argue that ’83’ was on a much more pan-Indian subject than ‘Pushpa’, which concerned the smuggling of red sandalwood in Andhra Pradesh.

More recently, the lead single from Ayan Mukerji’s upcoming “Brahmāstra” (2022), featuring Alia Bhatt and Ranbir Kapoor, generated arguments on social media about which language the song sounds better in – and which language version with more meaningful words.

What about pre-Baahubali national successes?

Indian films have a rich history of being dubbed and remade into other languages: Prabhu Deva’s first film, ‘Nuvvostanante Nenoddantana’ (2005), a Telugu film, was remade into nine other languages. In 1959, “Mahishasura Mardini”, featuring Kannada cinema legend Dr. Rajkumar, was dubbed and released in seven more languages.

The difference now is that the films are specifically – and aggressively – marketed as “pan-Indian”. According to Payal Patel, a film studies student, while pan-Indian films have always existed, the term itself became popular after Baahubali. She says it’s obvious there’s a lot of money to be made with movies like this, so this phrase is hyped for all it’s worth.

What other factors could be influencing this trend?

It could be that with a focus on overt nationalism having overtaken nearly all other narratives in recent years, the idea of ​​films that draw in and unite audiences across the vast country sounds appealing. Many of these films have Hindu mythological themes – for example, Prabhas, the lead actor in ‘Baahubali’, is going to star in an adaptation of the Ramayana called ‘Adipurush’.

Another popular theme is the struggle for independence – which is usually presented in a very masculine way, as in the global super hit RRR. And then there are action movies with male leads, like “KGF: Chapter 2,” the sequel to “KGF: Chapter 1” (2018). Some commentators have said that KGF films have sparked renewed interest in ‘Sandalwood’ as the Kannada film industry is sometimes called.

What role did women play in so-called pan-Indian films?

Recent pan-Indian discourse has failed to consider female actors and characters.

Historically, Sridevi was probably the first “pan-Indian” star. She had a cult fan base across the country, and her filmography is a testament to the fact that it is possible to achieve success with both hard-hitting social dramas like K Balachander’s Tamil film “Varumayin Niram Sivappu” (1980) and masala films like K Raghavendra Rao’s Telugu film ‘Devatha’ (1982) and its Hindi remake ‘Tohfa’ (1984).

Sridevi’s contemporary Jayaprada was also popular across multiple industries. More recently, Tabu has had blockbusters in different languages.

Interestingly, few male stars have made smooth transitions to other industries – even though most pan-Indian films have focused on a lead male character and the male superstar has become the face of the project.


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