South Indian film directors who won hearts with their Bollywood outings

An overview of South Indian filmmakers who tried their luck in Hindi cinema with varying degrees of success.

In the last few years, more South Indian film directors have been working with Bollywood stars. We have seen Prabhudeva directing the likes of Salman Khan and Akshay Kumar and Atlee directing the Bollywood Badshah Shah Rukh Khan in the recent blockbuster hit Jawan.

Not that this trend didn’t exist earlier; both Bapu and K Viswanath had directed nine films each in the 1980s and 1990s. Filmmaker K Viswanath remade his own classic Swathi Muthyam (1986) as Eeshwar (1989) with Anil Kapoor.

K Raghavendra Rao also directed quite a few Hindi films — all were remakes of his Telugu movies. He debuted in Bollywood with Nishana (1980) starring Jeetendra and Poonam Dhillon. It was a remake of the Telugu movie Vetagadu (1979).

However, Jeetender-Sridevi’s Himmatwala (1983) helped Rao make a mark for himself in Hindi cinema. It, again, was a remake of the Telugu flick Ooriki Monagadu (1981).

Raghavendra Rao followed it up with films like Tohfa (1984), Masterji (1985), Suhaagan (1986), and Aamdani Atthani Kharcha Rupaiyaa (2001), to mention a few.

In the later years, Mani Ratnam and Ram Gopal Varma carved their niche in Bollywood.

Following are some prominent South Indian film directors who went North starting from recent times to slightly old:


Atlee has established his credibility as a successful commercial director in a short period. His stories always have shades of other films, particularly the hangover of Shankar’s films.

But Atlee has mastered the art of mixing all the elements in the right proportion with strong political and social touches. A good example of this is his Hindi debut Jawan starring Shah Rukh Khan which has already become a bigger blockbuster than Pathaan (2023).

Shah Rukh has done mass films in the past too. But Atlee’s presentation of the actor is something that’s never seen before.

What also makes Jawan such a monstrous hit is the rousing manner in which Atlee dealt with several problems plaguing our society. The director’s conviction is such that the viewers don’t mind the not-so-subtle treatment.

Not surprisingly, Atlee has become a hot-shot director with whom many actors would want to work. There are already rumours of Atlee doing a film with the National Award winner Allu Arjun.


Before foraying into Hindi Cinema Prabhudeva directed two Telugu films — Siddharth-Trisha’s Nuvvostante Nenoddantana (2005) and Prabhas-Trisha’s Pournami (2006). The first one did well at the box office and the second one got critical acclaim.


Before foraying into Hindi Cinema Prabhudeva directed two Telugu films — Siddharth-Trisha’s Nuvvostante Nenoddantana (2005) and Prabhas-Trisha’s Pournami (2006). The first one did well at the box office and the second one got critical acclaim.

In 2012, Prabhudeva teamed up with Akshay Kumar for Rowdy Rathore, another remake. This time, it was the super-hit Telugu Film Vikramarkudu (2006) featuring Ravi Teja in a dual role. Rowdy Rathore went on to gross more than that of Wanted.

Post-Rowdy Rathore, Prabhudeva delivered movies that have largely missed the mark. The likes of R… Rajkumar (2013) were moderate successes, but his style of loud filmmaking has gone past its expiry date.

AR Murugadoss

AR Murugadoss is one of those filmmakers who want to entertain and enlighten.

Suriya-starrer Ghajini (Tamil, 2008) is a significant film in his career. Compared to his other works, Ghajini is cut from a different cloth as there is nothing political about it. It is a revenge drama revolving around a protagonist who suffers from a certain kind of amnesia due to a severe head injury.

Murugadoss remade the film in Hindi with the same name and with Aamir Khan as the protagonist. We all know how big a hit it is — more than the original. This was because of his skilful direction and also Aamir Khan’s dedication.

The director’s second Hindi film was also a remake of his own Tamil film Thuppaki (2012).

Akshay Kumar played Vijay Thalapathy’s role in Holiday: A Solider is Never Off Duty (2014). It was also a commercial success, but Thuppaki was more entertaining.


The duo of Puskhar-Gayatri remade their own Tamil film Vikram Vedha (2017) into Hindi in 2022 with Hrithik Roshan and Saif Ali Khan. What made Vikram Vedha a cut above the usual cop versus gangster drama was the moral ambiguities analysed through the Vikram and Betaal analogy.

A striking aspect of the Hindi remake was the more messy and flamboyant way in which Hrithik Roshan was presented as Vedha. This added a different dimension along with the Lucknow setting.

The Hindi Vikram Vedha wasn’t a box-office success, but Hrithik’s performance was vastly appreciated in terms of how he made Vedha his own.

Sandeep Reddy Vanga

Sandeep Reddy Vanga has already become a much-talked-about director despite making only two films — Vijay Deverakonda-starrer Arjun Reddy (Telugu, 2017) and its Hindi remake Kabir Singh (2019).

Kabir Singh starring Shahid Kapoor was a huge hit but the uproar was also equally big.

Now, he is making a straight Hindi film Animal with Ranbir Kapoor. There is a lot of curiosity and intrigue about this movie because of the title and also the violent depiction of the protagonist in the earlier one.

Gowtam Tinnanuri

Gowtam Tinnanuri made his Telugu film directorial debut with Malli Raava (2017). But it was Jersey (2019) starring actor Nani that made Gowtam a successful director.

This sports drama won a lot of acclaim along with commercial success. In the year 2021, it won several national awards which include Best Director and Best Actor as well.

Gowtam tried to recreate the same magic with Shahid with a nearly identical storyline except for setting it in Chandigarh.

The Hindi Jersey had some good reviews but suffered on account of the remake fatigue. The Punjabi setting also didn’t add any new dimension to the story.

In short, Shahid Kapoor’s strategy of getting another remake hit bombed badly.

Vishnu Vardhan

Tamil director Vishnu Vardhan made his Hindi debut with Vikram Batra’s biopic Shershaah (2021). He was appreciated for not making the flick overtly jingoistic and showing a certain restraint.

Vishnu Vardhan’s directorial skills particularly come out in the second half when the war drama sets in.

Shershaah had a direct OTT release, but it should have been ideally released in theatres.

Not surprisingly, Siddarth Malhotra got some good reviews for his performance as Vikram Batra.

Now, let’s go to the slightly older ones Mani Ratnam and Ram Gopal Varma.

Mani Ratnam

Before the film Dil Se (1998), made directly in Hindi, Mani Ratnam was already a known face in the North, thanks to Roja (1992) and Bombay (1995) dubbed in Hindi.

Dil Se was the third one in the trilogy of Roja and Bombay as this film also had the backdrop of insurgency.

Over the years, the Shah Rukh Khan-starrer has acquired a cult of its own thanks to AR Rahman‘s scintillating music coupled with the intense performances of Shah Rukh Khan and Manisha Koirala.

After a long gap, Mani Ratnam simultaneously shot Aayutha Ezhutu (2004) in Tamil and Yuva (2004) in Hindi. Yuva was a significant game changer for Abhishek Bachchan before Guru (2007) and Sarkar (2005) happened. In Yuva, Abhishek Bachchan was brilliant as a ruffian with political ambitions.

After Dil SeGuru was Mani Ratnam’s second straight Hindi film. The film was loosely based on the industrial tycoon Dhirubhai Ambani. It won critical appreciation along with good money. It is easily the most memorable solo outing of Abhishek Bachchan.

However, their next collaboration Raavan (2010) turned out to be a disaster of epic proportions. Despite a solid storyline, the movie turned out to be a cringe-fest both in acting and direction.

Ram Gopal Varma

Ram Gopal Varma scored a sixer with his debut Hindi film Satya (1998), a cult classic. It was the start of many more movies dealing with organised crime and the nexus between politicians and the underworld.

The film focuses on the life of an immigrant Satya (JD Chakravarthy) who visits Mumbai in search of a job. He gets drawn to the underworld by the gangster Bhiku Mhatre (Manoj Bajpai).

Satya gave birth to a lot of new talent, the chief among them being Manoj Bajpai and Saurabh Shukla. Their characters are remembered more than the lead hero.

It was followed by an equally successful Company (2002). The film was loosely based on the fallout between Dawood Ibrahim and Chhota Rajan. Vivek Oberoi made a very promising debut as Chandrakant aka Chandu.

In both films, Varma was successful in humanising gangsters instead of painting them as cardboard cuts with no nuances.

He added more feathers to his cap with Sarkar (2005) and Sarkar Raj (2008). In these movies, the director combined Godfather (1972, 1974 & 1990) elements with that of Balasaheb Thackeray. Both the flick had the perfect mix of style and substance.

Ram Gopal Varma also directed the romantic-comedy Rangeela (1995) with Aamir Khan and Urmila.

Romance is the last thing that viewers associate Varma with. But to the director’s credit, he did pull off an enjoyable watch which also was a satire on the film industry.

But in the recent past, the filmmaker has been making one embarrassing movie after another. Sadly, the viewers are now more interested in what controversial remarks he would make rather than his works.


There was a period when Priyadarshan was a successful director in Hindi as well. Most of his Hindi films are remakes of his Tamil and Malayalam movies. But the director, more often than not, hit a jackpot.

He debuted in Hindi cinema with Muskurahat, a comedy-drama, which was a remake of his Malayalam film Kilukkam (1991).

Priyardarshan was a major reason behind the emergence of Akshay Kumar as a comic actor. In fact, many of Priyardarshan’s Hindi films featured Akshay Kumar.

The filmmaker delivered many flicks that have been both critically acclaimed and commercially successful. He delivered a good number of superhits like Gardish (1993), Virasat (1997), Hera Pheri (2000), Hungama (2003), Hulchul (2004), Malamaal Weekly (2006), Bhool Bhulaiyaa (2007), and Rangrezz (2013).

However, things have been going downhill, of late, with Priyadarshan not being able to reinvent himself. A good example of this is Hungama 2 (2021) which was released on Disney+Hotstar. It opened to negative reviews.

Well, this list is not exhaustive. I am sure many more South Indian film directors have done movies in Hindi earlier too. But Shah Rukh Khan’s Jawan is the latest and the most significant film in this trend.

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