15 Most Underrated South Indian Movies of the Last 20 Years

Similar to Bollywood, South Indian film Industries run on star power. There is a huge chunk of movies which go unnoticed and suffer huge losses commercially. And just like Bollywood, there are few exceptionally made movies which are almost ignored despite being great pieces of cinematic work. While some movies garner a cult status, critical acknowledgement and end up receiving several awards, there are many great movies which suffer with lack of recognition and popularity.

Here is the list of most underrated South Indian movies of the last 20 years. These movies didn’t receive the praise that they deserved at the time of their release.

15. Orange (2010, Telugu)

“Orange” was the big comeback of Ram Charan after an epic blockbuster “Magadheera”. Naturally there was huge hype surrounding the movie,  Chart-buster audio only increased the hype. “Orange “was perceived to be a candyfloss rom-com but contrary to the expectation, the movie turned out to be an honest take on love and relationships. It was hard for the audience and also the critics to digest it. But the movie’s, due to its realistic opinions and practical approach towards emotions, earned itself a cult following and respect among social media community. “Orange” is also said to be the best performance of Ram Charan after “Magadheera”.


14. Paradesi (2013, Tamil)

Ace director Bala’s “Paradesi” was ignored by audience. Ironically enough, it is hard to ignore the movie once you see it. A hard-hitting drama, set in 1930, “Paradesi” is a tragic story of an orphan laborer and his struggles in the British ruled Madras. Just like any other Bala movie, “Paradesi” dwells in poverty, and honestly sticks to the sole motivation to project realistic situations in a direct manner. Despite being a disturbing watch, the movie deserves a viewing for brilliant direction and natural performances.


13. Payanam/Gaganam (2011, Tamil/Telugu)

The Nagarjuna and Prakash Raj starter is a hijack thriller set in Tirupathi, Andhra Pradesh. A plane travelling from Chennai to Delhi is hijacked by a well planned and equipped terrorist group in an attempt to get their imprisoned leader freed. The rescue operation around realistically portrayed victims  forms the premise of the movie. Radha Mohan’s intense and gripping screenplay combined with stellar performances from the entire cast make the movie an exhilarating watch.


12. Ulidavaru Kandanthe (2014, Kannada)

The Kannada Neo-Noir is a drama set up around the investigation of a murder. “Ulidavaru Kandanthe” marked the debut of multi talented actor Rakshit Shetty who wrote, directed and stared in the movie. The movie is a realistic investigation thriller which didn’t fetch the big bucks due to lack of familiar faces. Despite being screened at Cannes, the movie is popular only among Kannada audience. But it deserves a recognition for its unique treatment and remains as one of the most underrated Kannada Movies.


11. Gamyam (2008. Telugu)

Krish’s “Gamyam” is a road drama which literally means destination. The heart-warming tale of love, friendship and self-discovery was moderately received by the audience due to lack of publicity and commercial value. A tragic and hard hitting ending was all but what the audience imagined. The movie’s honest approach towards society and humanity earned it several awards and lots of critical acclaim. But till date, the movies achievement falls short of what it deserves.


10. Kaaviya Thalaivan (2011, Tamil)

Featuring Siddarth and Prithviraj, the tamil comedy drama is about stage rivalry between two artists. The movie had the potential to do well all around South India due to Siddarth’s popularity in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, and Prithviraj’s Stardom in Kerala. Despite having big names, the genuinely artistic movie lacked commercial aspects which stopped it from achieving what it was supposed. The director wanted to cast Suriya and Vikram for the lead roles, which explains why the actors failed to own their parts. “Kaaviya Thalaivan”, despite all this is a well crafted movie and deserves to be watched.


9. Guru (1997, Malayalam)

The movie is stated to be well ahead of its time. At a time when audience expect a fun adventure from a fantasy, Guru delivered a drama and a social commentary through a fantasy. This caused a lackluster reception at the box office despite staring big names like Mohanlal. The movie received critical acclaim and was acknowledged by critics. Despite that, the movie remains one of the most underrated Malayalam movies and deserves national wide popularity for its content.


8. Okkadunnadu (2007, Telugu)

From one of the most underrated directors of South India, Chandrashekar Yeleti, came one of the most underrated movies, Okkadunnadu. The novelty of the concept of “Okkadunnadu” failed to reach the audience as it was supposed to. The movie revolves around protagonist with a rare blood group and the ironically, the movie is one of those rare attempts where all the usual norms of Indian thrillers were broken. Till date, the movie is not even well appreciated even among Telugu audience. “Okkadunnadu” is a rare cinematic experience and deserves to be watched and recognized.


7. Lucia (2013, Kannada)

Another thriller in the list, but Lucia is not among the regular thrillers we witness. The Pawan Kumar’s directorial “Lucia” is an Inception type thriller which involves an insomniac who is lost in a dream caused by a drug. It is the first crowd funded Kannada movie which was made and released on a small scale, which caused the failure of the movie to receive wide ranged appreciation. Despite being remade into Tamil, the original version remains one of the most underrated movies of South India.


6. Vedam (2010, Telugu)

Another one of Krish’s movies, the drama ‘Vedam” makes it to the list. Tollywood stars like Allu Arjun, Anushka Shetty and Manoj Kumar shed their popular image and attempted to make the under appreciated movie. Revolving around various lives which connect in a breathtaking, emotional climax, Vedam failed to pull audience to the Cinemas. Despite widely lauded by critics and having considerable star attraction, the movie remains underrated. It was remade into Tamil as “Vaanam” which also sadly suffered the same fate.


5. Munnarippyu (2014, Malayalam)

“Munnariyippu”, is classic which will only be acknowledged after the release of its torrent or DVD. The investigation crime thriller is about a criminal who believes he’s wronged and a writer who tries to project the reality, which she is uncertain of. Mega Star Mammotty’s star image is totally non-existent in the movie which might probably be the reason for the mediocre commercial response it achieved. The subtle acting and thrilling screenplay makes the movie a riveting watch.


4. Manjadikuru (2008, Malayalam)

“Manjadikuru” might be one of the least popular movies in this list, and that is probably why it has made it this high. It’s amazing how much a movie can offer from its limited scale and not-so-grand setting. What simple emotions and life-like characters do through this movie is nothing less. Featuring one of the most underrated actor Prithviraj, the movie suffers the same fate as the rest of the movies in the list. “Manjadikuru” definitely deserves a better recognition for the nostalgia it creates and for the beautiful cinema it is.


3. Kanchivaram (2008, Tamil)

Yes, the movie was widely loved by the critics. Yes, the movie got several awards and was screened in popular film festivals. But no, the movie fails to exist in the conversations of movie lovers across the nation, which it truly deserves. Unlike “Kaaka Muttai” or” Visaranai”, “Kanchivaram” didn’t garner the respect among cinema enthusiasts. Honestly, I was shocked that I didn’t know this movie existed before I came across its DVD. The movie is surely underrated and deserves a spot in this list.


2. Hey Ram (2000, Tamil)

Neither is the movie popular enough in the South despite the presence of Kamal Hassan, neither is it recognised in North despite the presence of Shah Rukh Khan. “Hey Ram” comprises a stellar cast, in addition to aforementioned stars, including Om Puri, Rani Mukerji, Hema Malini, Naseeruddin Shah, and so on. The movie is lost somewhere in spite of having the potential to become a national hit. The bold content and atrociously long run-time might’ve been the factors that stumped the growth of the movie. But “Hey Ram” remains one of the most underrated movies ever.


1. One Nenokkadine (2015, Telugu)

Probably one of the most underrated movies of entire Indian film fraternity, “One Nenokkadine” could’ve been the Indian answer to Hollywood action thrillers. A mysterious tale of a rock-star who is haunted by the visuals of three men whom he believes have killed his parents. While the world believes that his parents never existed and all the visuals he is seeing are fragments of his imagination, his sub-conscious drives him towards the truth. A psychological thriller which always keeps you guessing presented by maverick writer-director Sukumar, along with edge of the seat, breathtaking action and some sublime cinematography is a movie every Indian must watch. But it was a debacle in terms of commercial success and remains underrated.

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