'Pushpa' to 'King of Kotha': Gangster Films Down South Are Having a Moment

The latest film to release in this genre is Dulquer Salmaan's 'King of Kotha.'

South Cinema
2 min read

From Allu Arjun's Pushpa and Prashant Neel's KGF to Kamal Haasan’s Vikram and Rajinikanth’s Jailer, gangster films are having a moment in the south. Now, the recent addition to this genre are the latest release, Dulquer Salmaan's King of Kotha, helmed by Abhilash Joshiy, and the most awaited Vijay's Leo, directed by Lokesh Kanagaraj.

The storytelling, high-octane action sequences, and the intriguing graphs of the characters are resulting in the growing fan base for this genre. The Quint speaks to experts.


'There's a Growing Interest In Stories About The Underworld'

Weighing in on successive releases of gangster movies, trade analyst Ramesh Bala told The Quint, "The recent successes of gangster films have made it clear that there is a growing interest in stories about the underworld. Gangster films provide audiences with a glimpse into the underworld, exploring the dynamics of power, loyalty and betrayal. In these films, characters are not confined by societal norms, allowing for complex and morally ambiguous storytelling. At the same time, the intense action sequences and larger-than-life characters offer a sense of escapism."

Entertainment tracker Sreedhar Pillai added,

"The craze for gangster films in South India isn’t new. Kamal Haasan's 'Naayakan' and Rajinikanth's 'Baasha' are classics. These films are celebrated not just for their intense action sequences but also because of the performance of the actors."

He added, "With time, the popularity of gangster films began to grow. From Dhanush's Pudhupettai to more recent films such as Pushkar and Gayathri’s Vikram Vedha, Lokesh Kanagaraj’s Kaidhi, Atlee’s Bigil and Gautham Vasudev Menon’s Vendhu Thanindhadhu Kaadu – these films infused contemporary elements while retaining the essence of the genre."

'Gangster Films Delve Into The Region's Cultural Fabric'

The experts also explained that gangster films from the South often delve into the cultural fabric of the region, often resonating with the audience. Additionally, these films introduce audiences to characters who become legends in their own right.

"Whether it's Allu Arjun's Pushpa Raj or Rocky Bhai played by Yash in KGF, these characters become symbols of power. Gangster films tap into the cultural ethos of the region, offering a mirror into society's dark underbelly."
Ramesh Bala, Trade analyst

Added to that is the moral ambiguity of the characters. The complex portrayals leave room for both empathy and disdain towards the protagonists. Pillai said, "Gangster films blur the lines between the heroes and villians, making audiences question their choices. The charismatic and fearless portrayals become aspirational for viewers."

'Gangster Films With Pan-Indian Stars Amplify The Films' Reach'

The world of gangster films offers a rich tapestry of storytelling possibilities, including the exploration of sub-genres. Dark comedies like Karthik Subbaraj's Jigarthanda, Nayanthara's Kolamaavu Kokila and Sivakarthikeyan's Doctor are perfect examples.

Additionally, the potential for sequels is vast. Why would the makers come up with Pushpa-2 or KGF-2 if audiences did not like the prequel? Recent gangster films boast an ensemble cast featuring pan-Indian stars, which significantly amplifies the films' reach and boosts box office collections.

At this point, the fascination with this genre shows no signs of waning. Pillai said, "As long as the storytelling remains compelling and captivating, the genre's influence will persist."

The filmmakers will also have to innovate to keep the interest going.

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