Siddharth Suryanarayan finds words like ‘pan-India’ funny. “I was working in five languages 15 years ago. I’m happy people are using words like pan-India. But this is just a new word for something that always existed,” he told indianexpress.com. His comments came at a time when films such as Pushpa The Rise, KGF 2 and RRR blur the boundaries when it comes to languages and have found acceptance across the country.
On the sidelines of promoting his upcoming web show Escaype Live on Disney+ Hotstar, Siddharth also got candid about the latest fixation with pan-India films and the corresponding debate around why Bollywood films are lagging behind the south Indian movies.
Siddharth, who’s done work across languages like Tamil, Telugu and Hindi, said he’s always ensured he dubbed for his movies himself. “That’s been a very essential part of my career.” The south star, who won fans in the Hindi belt with his Bollywood debut in Rang De Basanti added, “Karan Singhania is Hindi speaking character, so I spoke in Hindi.”
According to Siddharth, the ‘pan-India’ tag holds no relevance as south Indian cinema has been making films across languages for decades. “My boss (Mani Ratnam) made a film called Roja 30 years ago. If that’s not a pan-India film, I don’t know what these people are talking about. Ask your family about Roja or Bombay and then who made it, they’ll say Mani Ratnam. They won’t say it’s pan-India. Such films don’t need any tag. They just reach their audience,” the actor opined.
SS Rajamouli’s Baahubali franchise was a massive success, which brought pan-Indian films in vogue. The ace director’s latest RRR starring Ram Charan and Jr NTR, along with Allu Arjun-starrer Pushpa have only cemented the position of regional cinema. While RRR made over Rs. 1,100 crore at the box office, Yash starrer KGF: Chapter 2 continues to unleash mayhem. Just in its third week, it has amassed Rs. 1000 crore, ensuring Bollywood releases like Runway 34 and Heropanti 2 face a hard time at the ticketing counters.
While Yash called KGF 2’s global success “just the beginning”, Kiccha Sudeep and Ajay Devgn’s Twitter exchange about ‘pan-India’ films and Hindi as ‘national language’ triggered a massive debate. Bollywood stars like Abhishek Bachchan, Ajay Devgn and Raveena Tandon also shared their opinion.
Siddharth further said, “I have great respect with what KGF and all these films have done. I’m very proud of what they’ve achieved as an industry. Terms like pan-India is a way of othering films which are not in Hindi. It means we are the main people. Whoever else comes is an outsider. You never say a Bollywood film is a pan-India film. You just call it Bollywood. Then why is a south India film a pan-India film? It’s a Kannada film, or a Telugu film.”
The actor drew parallels between the stardom in Bollywood and down south. He shared that Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan are so loved that the audience “don’t watch their films in dub because they are superstars.” South film industries also have its set of superstars.
“I think we should just be treated as Indian films. The ‘pan’ word needs to go. Bollywood and Hindi media has called me ‘south actor’. What does that mean? I’m an Indian actor. That’s what I’ve been saying since last 20 years.”