Kathanayakudu (English: Hero) is a 2008 Indian Telugu.language drama film produced by both Aswani Dutt and G. P. Vijayakumar and directed by P. Vasu. Remake of the Malayalam film Kadha Parayumbol (2007), the film stars Jagapati Babu and Meena in lead roles and Rajinikanth in an extended cameo. The film, which released to positive reviews and was a commercial success, was simultaneously made in Tamil as Kuselan, which released to mixed reviews and was a below average grosser. Most of Rajinikanth's portions were dubbed from the Tamil version, except the climax scene with Babu.
The film revolves around a villager, who had shared a strong friendship with a popular cinema actor in their youth. However, due to their different pursuit in careers they eventually are forced to part ways, one becoming a national figure, the other, a village barber. Decades later, the actor returns to the village to participate in his film's shooting. Whilst the entire village become excited about the prospect of seeing the actor, the barber fears that his old friend would have forgotten him and would neglect him. The story explores the pressures of friendship.
The emotional tale, the story is about two childhood friends Balakrishna (Jagapathi Babu) and Ashok Kumar (Rajinikanth). Balu does not stop at anything to make his friend feel happy. As time passes by, they take different paths, and Balu becomes a barber in a small village called Siricilla. He gets married to Devi (Meena Durairaj) and has three children and leads a happy life. However, his finances are dry and he is often led to the door of Dharmaraju (Dharmavarapu Subramanyam), the financier. On the other hand, Balu has tough competition from the more smart and clever Shanmugam (Sunil), who has a saloon right opposite to his shop. Balu is a man with self-respect and honesty. His life continues to roll until one day there is news that a film shooting is going to happen in a place near their village and the hero of the film is Superstar Ashok Kumar. The news spreads like wildfire and Balu knows this but hesitates to show himself as a friend of Ashok Kumar. On the other hand, folks around get to know the friendship of Balu and Ashok Kumar and in this process, those who have been ridiculing him start doing favors for him only with the intention of meeting Ashok Kumar or at least watching him from outside. But hesitant Balu is unable to do what they want and soon people start shunning him, and even his own children start showing anger towards him but at last, Ashok Kumar says about Balu, his childhood friend who made him a super star, and he meets Balu.
The lead cast in the bilingual (Tamil/Telugu) included:
The soundtrack of Kathanayakudu was released on 30 June 2008. The soundtrack consists of five songs. The song Cinema Cinema commemorates the 75th anniversary of Telugu cinema. Archival footage of famous superstar actors N. T. Rama Rao (popularly "NTR"), Akkineni Nageswara Rao ("ANR"), M. G. Ramachandran ("MGR"), and Rajkumar are shown with each chorus of this song. The verse alternates between clips shot of an actual movie crew filming on location, intercut with real-life superstar actor Rajinikanth — who plays a fictional superstar actor in this film — spoofing blockbuster movies such as Zorro, Lawrence of Arabia, House of Flying Daggers, and the James Bond series.
Following P. Vasu and Rajinikanth's film, Chandramukhi in 2005, Vasu had been keen to re-cast Rajinikanth in another role and, before signing Kuselan, he had narrated a story titled Vettaiyan, which would have been a sequel of a character featured in Chandramukhi. Early in 2008, Rajinikanth signed up for S. Shankar's Enthiran, while Kathanayakudu was launched at the Taj Coromandel in Chennai on 14 January 2008 coinciding with Pongal. The director, P. Vasu signed up Rajinikanth and Jagapathi Babu to portray the lead roles, while director K. Balachander agreed to produce the Tamil version of the film along with G.P. Vijayakumar's Seven Arts Productions, while Aswani Dutt agreed to produce the film in Telugu. The film is a remake of the Malayalam movie, Kadha Parayumbol which was written by Sreenivasan who also played the lead role in the movie. The shooting lasted 82 days with the versions being shot simultaneously and that most of the movie was shot inside the Ramoji Rao film city, with other destinations including Kerala and Pollachi. The promotional event took place on 19 July 2008 at the Jawarhalal Nehru Stadium.
Vasu made it clear that Rajinikanth would not be doing an honorary role in the film, which Mammooty had portrayed in the original, but will play a full role, describing that "the whole story revolves around him [Rajnikanth]". The film's launch was halted on 7 March 2008 at the AVM Studios in Chennai with the leading artistes present. P. Vasu, while talking to the media mentioned that the shooting lasted 82 days with the versions being shot simultaneously and that most of the movie was shot inside the Ramoji Rao film city, with other destinations including Kerala and Pollachi.
In the Telugu version, comedy actors Sunil, Brahmanandam, Tanikella Bharani and Venu Madhav all signed up to play the roles of Jagapati Babu's fellow villagers. Ileana D'Cruz turned down an offer to act in the film, citing date problems. Like the Tamil version, it was said that several prominent Telugu actors had been approached to be a part of a song in the project, but none were selected.
Technicians were common in both versions in the two films with G. V. Prakash Kumar operating as the music composer, whilst Arvind Krishna was the cinematographer for the bilingual.