The annual government subsidy to 50 films to promote the Kannada film industry has come under a cloud this time, because of the allegation of bribe demand by a selection panel member.
The government-appointed eight-member panel, headed by veteran actor Shivaram, selected 50 of the 108 films it vetted. The government learnt to have kept the list in abeyance even as a probe by the Central Crime Branch (CCB) is being ordered. All this has deeply embarrassed Mr. Shivaram, who is highly respected for his work ethic. The veteran, who has put in more than half a century in the industry, speaks on the controversy.
What is the reason for your silence?
I did not want to react initially as the panel selected the films in a transparent manner. Though there were attempts to entice the members, they discharged their responsibility commendably. When the [bribery] allegation hit the headlines and everybody started questioning my silence, I have decided to clarify the panel's stand.
Do you admit money played a role in selecting the films?
I spoke to the panel member, Suresh Mangalore, who said it is a conspiracy against him.
He said a producer had offered him money as advance for his next acting venture. However, he has apologised in writing and admitted he had demanded money in my name in an inebriated condition. But I told him in the strongest possible terms he had erred gravely.
So do you want the list should be annulled?
No. Why should it be for the alleged mistake by one member? We watched 108 films over two months and meticulously selected the films strictly following guidelines. I still urge the government to release the subsidy for the films. However, accepting the list is the government's prerogative.
Do you think subsidy has helped in promoting Kannada films?
The Veerendra Patil government decided to provide subsidy for quality films to promote the industry which was in a crisis after migrating from Chennai. The amount, which was Rs. 50,000 for 20 films, is Rs.10 lakh each for 50 films now. The Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce is demanding subsidy for 100 films in view of the crisis in the industry. Whether the subsidy has helped the Kannada industry is a different question altogether as it is still dependent on neighbouring film industries.