10 South Indian Actors Who Made Headlines in Bollywood

Actor Dhanush (Left) alongside veteran actor Amitabh Bachchan in a still from his last Bollywood release Shamitabh
Actor Dhanush (Left) alongside veteran actor Amitabh Bachchan in a still from his last Bollywood release Shamitabh | © Hope Productions
Arun Venkatraman

Ever since its early days, Bollywood has always attracted talent from its regional counterparts, and in particular, the four major film industries of South India. However, success in Bollywood is extremely hard to find, especially when it comes to actors and actresses. Of the dozens of well-established names from South India that have forayed into Bollywood over the years, here are the select few that have turned heads and made headlines.

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Kamal Haasan

With a career spanning 50 years, there are few film industries in India where the veteran Tamil actor Kamal Haasan hasn’t found success. And when it comes to South Indian male actors making it big in Bollywood, Kamal Haasan is arguably the one who started the whole trend – making his Bollywood debut in 1981 in the blockbuster hit Ek Duuje Ke Liye. The actor has gone on to star in several critically acclaimed and commercially successful films over the years, including recent films such as Viswaroop.

Actor Kamal Haasan (Centre) with veteran Malayalam actors Mammootty and Mohanlal


Few South Indian actors who have forayed into Bollywood have found the kind of commercial success that Tamil actor Dhanush has. While he made his Bollywood debut with the box office hit Raanjhanaa, Dhanush had already made national headlines with his viral hit song ‘Why This Kolaveri Di’. He is one of the few actors that have successfully straddled a career in regional cinema and Bollywood at the same time.

Dhanush in a scene from the movie Maari

Rana Daggubatti

A massive star in his own right, Rana Daggubatti is one of the few Telugu actors over the years to have found success in Bollywood. While his debut film Dum Maaro Dum did not bring him commercial success, the film received critical acclaim and put Rana on the map. However, it was his immensely popular role as Bhallala Deva in the multilingual film Baahubali that gave Rana true Bollywood success.

Rana Daggubati in a still from the movie Baahubali


Prabhas is perhaps the only South Indian actor who has made headlines in Bollywood without having starred in a stand-alone Bollywood film. From being a regional superstar, Prabhas was almost instantly catapulted to nationwide attention after his titular role in the mega-blockbuster Baahubali and Baahubali 2, which together made more money than any Indian film in history.

Actor Prabhas (Left) on the sets of Baahubali: The Beginning


One of the most prolific Indian actresses, Asin began her career in Malayalam films before venturing into Tamil and eventually Bollywood films. While Asin’s Bollywood career was short-lived, the actress is one of the few South Indian stars to have starred alongside Bollywood bigwigs such as Akshay Kumar and Salman Khan in commercially successful films including London Dreams, Ready and Ghajini.


Madhavan is arguably the only South Indian actor who has found consistent commercial success in Bollywood in recent years. While he made his Bollywood debut with the classic Rehna Hai Tere Dil Mein in 2001, the actor’s Bollywood career rebounded after his breakaway from romance in the critically acclaimed film 3 Idiots, in which he starred alongside superstar Aamir Khan. Madhavan has since acted in a number of commercially successful movies such as Tanu Weds Manu and Tanu Weds Manu 2.

R Madhavan in a still from his latest Bollywood movie Saala Khadoos


A massive star in South Indian cinema, Trisha is one of the few actors to have landed a Bollywood debut alongside one of the bigwigs. Her first and only Hindi film to date – Khatta Meetha – was appreciated for its comedic strengths and also catapulted Trisha to national attention.

Dulquer Salman

A rising star of Malayalam cinema, Dulquer Salman has been making waves in Bollywood even before making his debut in the Hindi film industry. The actor played the lead in the commercially successful Tamil film OK Kanmani, which was remade in Bollywood as OK Jaanu with a different lead but did not find the same success. Now, the actor is anticipating his big Bollywood debut with his currently under-production venture Karwaan, in which he stars alongside popular actor Irrfan Khan.

Dulquer Salman with Nithya Menon in a poster from the movie OK Kanmani

Prabhu Deva

Actor, director and choreographer Prabhu Deva has been a popular name across the country for several decades, ever since he showed off his dance moves in the Bollywood movie Taal. However, it is only in recent years that the acclaimed dancer has found success in mainstream Bollywood, having acted in two extremely popular dance movies ABCD and ABCD 2. Prabhu Deva also found success in Bollywood as a director with his hit films such as Wanted and Rowdy Rathore.

Prakash Raj

This immensely popular character actor from the South Indian film industry has cemented his standing as one of Bollywood’s most popular villains with several hit ventures over the years such as Wanted, Singham and Dabangg. Over the last decade, Prakash Raj has starred in more Bollywood movies than most leading actors from South India who made a foray into the industry.

Actor Prakash speaking at an event in 2018
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