Darshan case: Why it is unfair to blame the Kannada film industry at large

Social media has been abuzz with talk of reputation of the Kannada film industry receiving a blow due to the murder case involving Darshan. Is it right to criticise an industry for an individual’s act?

Updated - June 27, 2024 11:56 am IST

Published - June 19, 2024 09:39 am IST - Bengaluru

Darshan in ‘Kaatera’, his last film before his arrest in connection with a murder. The movie was a huge blockbuster.

Darshan in ‘Kaatera’, his last film before his arrest in connection with a murder. The movie was a huge blockbuster. | Photo Credit: Anand Audio/YouTube

Two days after the arrest of Kannada star Darshan in connection with a murder, four Kannada films hit the theatres, oblivious of what to expect from an audience hooked to television news channels reporting the crime incident. With the channels unravelling the case in a sensational manner, the crime saga became irresistible for people, who already, filmmakers say, are reluctant movie-goers.

Of course, a high-profile murder case warrants continuous scrutiny from the media. But, it becomes a problem when an individual’s act for a personal motive has a bearing on the reputation of an entire industry. Social media was abuzz with the narrative of “Kannada cinema’s reputation receiving a blow” due to the murder case. It’s a loose and far-fetched conclusion, say people in the industry. Any opinion on an industry must arise from the content it produces, and its culture at large, and if there was one film that merited attention amidst the crime saga, it was Shivamma, the newly-released Kannada movie.

Sharanamma Chetti in ‘Shivamma’.

Sharanamma Chetti in ‘Shivamma’. | Photo Credit: Rishab Shetty Films/YouTube

Directed by debutant Jaishankar Aryar and produced by Rishab ShettyShivamma had made the Kannada film industry proud by clinching the top prize at the Busan International Film Festival in 2022 and enjoying a dream run across reputed festivals in the world. With a small percentage of the family crowd and cinephiles celebrating the movie, Shivamma has been able to bring back some semblance of normalcy in the industry, which has been clearly jolted by the arrest of Darshan. People urging others to encourage quality movies like Shivamma is a sign that the show must go on, and no one star is the face of the entire industry. Dhananjaya’s Kotee, which tells the tale of a middle-class man’s struggles, is another film important release of the week that deserves a visit to theatres.

Spare the flak

Talking to reporters, actor ‘Kiccha’ Sudeep made a focused observation on the entire scenario. “The victim’s family must get justice, and that should be our only concern. It’s not about taking sides. More importantly, the industry must be spared of the flak it’s receiving. An industry isn’t made up of one person. There are thousands of people working hard to keep it running, and every time a problem arises, the entire industry gets dragged into the issue,” he said. The actor’s comments put the onus on the investigation and the legal system to serve a solution to the case.

Actor Darshan Thoogudeepa being taken to a medical test after he was arrested in connection with a murder case in Bengaluru on June 11, 2024.

Actor Darshan Thoogudeepa being taken to a medical test after he was arrested in connection with a murder case in Bengaluru on June 11, 2024. | Photo Credit: Murali Kumar K

The controversy has exposed one major negative side of the film industry. Clout and influence run deep in the industry, explaining why many big names have decided to stay silent on the case, with some exceptions. Actor Ramya/Divya Spandana slammed Darshan for “taking the law into his own hands”, while actor and director Upendra called for more transparency in the investigative procedures. It will help the industry’s cause if such reputed names voice their opinion against other deep-rooted problems as well, such as the lack of good writers and the need for a safer and more democratic environment for women, given how the industry responded to #MeToo allegations from female artistes.

Transitional phase

The Kannada film industry is in a phase of transition. Propelled by the OTT boom and extreme competition from other industries, young filmmakers have dared to make different, original movies (Shakhahaari, Blink). An unexpected row, triggered by a seemingly personal motive, shouldn’t push the industry to the wall, denting the confidence of these young filmmakers. The onus is on the Kannada fans to recognise the efforts of these filmmakers, assuring them that they belong here, plead industry insiders.

From their end, artistes must gain people’s trust by responsibly handling fame. The incident is a sharp reminder for several rising stars that popularity isn’t everlasting, especially when you don’t do enough to safeguard it.

Ironically, Kaatera, starring Darshan, is the biggest hit of the year so far. Released on the last Friday of 2023, the rural action drama celebrated a 100-day run in theatres. Following a pretty ordinary six months, the second half of 2024 looks exciting for Kannada cinema.

Need for balance

The industry is ready with a nice balance of content-oriented films and big-budget, star-driven movies. However, the promotion of films remains the biggest challenge for filmmakers, given how social media platforms are flooded with content related to the murder case.

On June 17, amidst the tense atmosphere, actor-filmmaker Rakshit Shetty announced the premiere date of the maiden web series (Ekam) from his production house Paramvah Studios. In the promotional video of the series, showrunner and filmmaker Sumanth Bhat says, “Good cinema can be born anywhere, and most definitely it can be born in Kannada.” It is with this positive spirit that artistes, fans, and filmmakers must slowly move past a condemnable incident.

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