Emerging stars: Telugu cinema’s new wave of actors takes centre stage

An overview of how a handful of Telugu actors broke through the dynastic 'herodom' and carved a niche for themselves.

ByPrabhatha Rigobertha

Published May 07, 2024 | 10:00 AM Updated May 07, 2024 | 11:08 AM

New-age Telugu actors Naveen, Suhas, Adivi Sesh, Siddhu, and Priyadarshi

Many new-age actors from outside the film industry have made their mark as heroes in Telugu cinema in the last few years. Their success augurs well for the industry.

They might not be ‘mass’ heroes but they played roles that resonated with different types of audiences. They also endeared themselves to the audiences with their multiple skills.

Actors like Naveen Polishetty and Siddhu Jonnalagadda would never enjoy the mass patronage of an Allu Arjun or a Jr NTR.

The reason is the market dynamics coupled with their backgrounds. So, they have chosen a different path for themselves by playing underdog characters in the case of Suhas. Or doing movies where both comedy and thrills are intermingled.

There is also a certain sense of self-depreciation in the roles. Let’s go one by one:

Naveen Polishetty

Naveen Polishetty's Miss Shetty Mr Polishetty was a hit

Naveen Polishetty’s ‘Miss Shetty Mr Polishetty’ won audiences’ hearts. (X)

Naveen Polishetty started his career with Shekar Kammula’s film Life is Beautiful (2012), where he played a negative role.

This was followed by D for Dopidi (2013) and Sukumar’s 1: Nenokkadine (2014).

However, Agent Sai Srinivasa Athreya (2019) gave him a much-needed break in his career. Naveen was the leading man in the film and also the co-writer.

The movie minted money at the box office and also won critical acclaim; a promising new talent was born.

Naveen further consolidated his status as a hero with the nonsensical comedy Jathi Ratnalu (2021).

The flick also featured Rahul Ramakrishna and Priyadarshi, but Naveen was the star of the show. He embraced the tonality of the film with zero inhibitions.

What additionally made Jathi Ratnalu special was the backing of Nag Ashwin, the director of Yevade Subramanyam (2015) and Mahanati (2018). It was a big promotion for Naveen.

Though the film was released at a tricky time, right after COVID-19, it became a huge success.

Naveen Polishetty scored a third consecutive hit with the romedy drama Miss Shetty Mr Polishetty (2023), directed by Mahesh Babu P. His role demonstrated that he was also an emotionally intelligent actor.

Naveen has a striking screen presence and an energy that makes him endearing. He has impeccable comic timing that can lift the most bizarre of situations, as we already witnessed in Jathi Ratnalu.

Related: ‘Miss Shetty Mr Polishetty’ Telugu movie review 

Siddhu Jonnalagadda

Siddhu Jonnalagadda delivered a blockbuster with Tillu Square

Siddhu Jonnalagadda delivered a blockbuster with ‘Tillu Square’. (X)

Siddhu Jonnalagadda is another new-age Telugu actor who proved himself as a writer and a hero, too.

He wrote both DJ Tillu (2022) and the superhit sequel Tillu Square (2024).

Siddhu thoroughly entertained the viewers with his antics. His comic punches often left the viewers in splits.

But what made DJ Tillu and the sequel a big success was how the actor-writer integrated the elements of comedy and thriller.

Apart from the above-mentioned film, Siddhu Konnalagadda was also the co-writer of Krishna and his Leela (2020). It was a breezy romantic film that dealt with contemporary relationships.

Siddu’s strength as an actor majorly comes from his ease in front of the camera and a certain style with which he delivers his dialogues.

Sure, his dramatic skills have not been tested yet, but characters like Tillu are a perfect fit for him.

Related: Tillu to get superpowers in ‘Tillu Cube’?

Adivi Sesh

Adivi Sesh will next be seen in Goodachari 2

Adivi Sesh will next be seen in ‘Goodachari 2’. (X)

Unlike Naveen and Siddhu, Adivi Sesh is someone who comes with the looks of a dashing mainstream hero.

He also has a literary family background. His grand-uncle Adivi Bapiraju is a famous novelist and a playwright. However, that does not mean he had it easy in the industry.

It has taken a while for him to establish his space after playing small roles in big films; a case in point is SS Rajamouli’s Baahubali: The Beginning (2015).

Sesh’s good looks and strong physicality helped him gain a strong base. But, apart from his looks, the actor impressed everyone with his acting and writing skills.

He became a thriller specialist with the likes of Kshanam (2016) and Goodachari (2018).

The actor‘s speciality is strong characterisations. For example, Anasuya Bhardhwaj and Satyam Rajesh in Kshanam or Vennela Kishore in Goodachari.

Adivi Sesh made the well-known story of Sandeep Unnikrishnan a hugely engrossing film both with his acting and writing abilities in Major (2022).

As a director, he has done only one movie — Karma (2010), which unfortunately was a big dud.

Hope he proves himself a good director, too, one day!

Related: A whopping ₹150 crore riding on Adivi Sesh!


Suhas is on film signing spree

Suhas is on a film signing spree and has become a bankable actor. (X)

The physical structure of Colour Photo (2020) and Ambajipeta Marriage Band (2024) actor Suhas is very similar to Tamil actor Dhanush.

Of course, the young Telugu actor does not have the mass image of the latter, but still, there are certain similarities in the underdog roles he has chosen.

Suhas also started with supporting roles in Agent Sai Srinivas Athreya and Prathi Roju Pandage (2019), among others.

However, he got his first break as a leading man in Colour Photo.

In the National Award-winning film, he played the role of a milkman’s son and won appreciation for his awe-inspiring performance.

This was followed by Writer Padmabhushan (2023) and Ambajipeta Marriage Band. Both these movies also had Suhas as an underdog.

But, in Ambajipeta Marriage Band, his character is fierier in comparison to Colour Photo, which belongs to the same terrain. In the second half, the actor pulled off scenes of aggression proficiently.

Related: Suhas opens up about ‘Ambajipeta Marriage Band’

Priyadarshi Pulikonda

Priyadarshi is coming up with Save The Tigers 3

Priyadarshi is coming up with ‘Save The Tigers 3’ web series. (X)

Priyadarshi Pulikonda is another bright talent in Telugu cinema who has proved himself beyond comedy.

His performances in Mallesham (2019) and Venu’s Balagam (2022) are solid examples.

The actor also proved his mettle in the digital space with both seasons of Save the Tigers (2023 & 2024). The makers are soon coming up with the third season.

Priyadarshi was seen in the role of a dairy farm owner Ghanta Ravi in this web series. He was spot-on in capturing the nuances of the Telangana dialect.

The second season of Save the Tigers had some good father-and-daughter scenes.

What made the new-age Telugu actor successful is his imbibing the body language of the roles he portrays — in Mallesham or Save the Tigers web series.

Well, this is a brief account of some of the new-age Telugu actors who found success despite not having a filmy background.

There are also the likes of Raj Tarun, who started promisingly but could not sustain due to poor choice of roles.

Let’s hope many more actors outside the dynasties will try their luck in the Telugu film industry!

Related: Priyadarshi dissects and reflects on the success of ‘Balagam’