From Vijay Kumar to Hemanth Rao: Southern directors who impressed in 2016

As the southern film industry continues to be ruled by stars and hit filmmakers, a wave of new generation movie makers — including first-timers as well as those with a film or two to their credit — caught the attention of audience and critics alike with their work in 2016.

Vijay Kumar: His impressive Tamil directorial debut “Uriyadi” sent chills down the spines of the audience for its raw and extremely violent portrayal of action. He still managed to win hearts because the action in the film was well justified. Even though the film didn’t make a killing at the box-office, it hasn’t been forgotten unlike a bevy of southern releases this year. Made with absolutely no commercial compromise, the film is about caste-based politics and how the lives of a few students change forever when they cross paths with a politician.

Johnpaul George: Malayalam drama “Guppy” was well received for its interesting take on human relationships, though it is addressed in an unconventional manner. It was aided by a sturdy screenplay that never gave in to commercial trappings. Johnpaul George made a solid debut as a director and proves that he is here to stay.

Arun Kumar: In Tamil actioner “Sethupathi”, director Arun Kumar showed his khaki-clad hero Vijay Sethupathi in his coolest avatar till date. While being a regular police drama, the film stood out because of its treatment and for giving us heartwarming familial moments to celebrate. This was Arun’s second film and he displayed great maturity and finesse in the way he handled the story.

Ravikanth Perepu: Ravikanth’s Telugu thriller “Kshanam” came as a whiff of fresh air and it succeeded in reaching out to audience beyond Telugu filmdom. Until the last minute, it gave the audience an edge-of-the-seat experience and it achieved it with the help of a few highly underrated actors. The film was raved for its tight screenplay and suspense which it managed to maintain till the end.

Lakshmy Ramakrishnan: Her slice-of-life drama “Ammani”, about free-spirited women, was extremely well-received because of its uncomplicated approach to filmmaking, where it’s all about writing a solid script. There’s so much about life the film teaches us, in ways we never get tired of watching. Though this is her third directorial venture, Lakshmy deserves to be credited because she’s getting better with each film and her work leaves an impact, every single time.

Tharun Bhascker Dhaassyam: Like it or not, you will fall in love with Tharun’s highly successful and instantly likable Telugu debut “Pellichoopulu”, which showed us that even a simple story, when told with conviction and passion, can strike a chord among audiences of all sections. Amidst all the romance and laugh-aloud humour, the film makes a gentle, intelligent case for women empowerment.

Rajeev Ravi: Cinematographer-turned-filmmaker Rajeev Ravi, in his third directorial “Kammatipaadam”, throws the spotlight on a slum in Kerala, and captures it very realistically in this Malayalam crime saga about urbanisation at the expense of dalits. Dulquer Salmaan delivers a cracker of a performance in what could be termed as a role of a lifetime.

Hemanth Rao: Engineer-turned-filmmaker Hemanth’s Kannada directorial debut “Godhi Banna Sadharana Mykattu” will steal your heart. With its extremely competent cast and stimulating music, the film works beautifully because of its writing and well-etched characters. Veteran actor Anant Nag is a treat to watch as plays an older character suffering from Alzheimer’s, and he played his part with ease.

(Haricharan Pudipeddi can be contacted at

By Haricharan Pudipeddi


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