‘Gurudev Hoysala’ to ‘Kabzaa’: Are Kannada films facing the heat of IPL 2023?

The ongoing Indian Premier League, and the frenzy for the upcoming Karnataka assembly elections, have put the Kannada film industry in a spot of bother; but some believe that it isn’t an unsolvable problem

Published - May 02, 2023 01:49 pm IST

Dhananjaya in ‘Gurudev Hoysala’

Dhananjaya in ‘Gurudev Hoysala’ | Photo Credit: @Anand Audio/YOUTUBE

The all-important IPL trophy has remained elusive for Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) for 15 years, but the cricket franchise club’s faithful fans have always remained optimistic. The eternal bridesmaids’ inconsistent performance in the ongoing edition hasn’t stopped fans from filling the venue to the brim and chanting their favourite slogan ee sala cup namde (The cup is ours this time). However, while the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru has witnessed fanatical celebrations, movie halls across Karnataka have worn a despondent look since April due to the craze for the Indian Premier League (IPL). On-field action has outdone drama on the big screen, say representatives from the Kannada film industry.

IPL’s threat to the Kannada film industry this year was first visible during the release of Vijay N’s Gurudev Hoysala. Released on the eve of IPL, the cop drama was important — it was actor Dhananjaya’s 25th film and his second with KRG Studios (sister concern of Hombale Films) after the OTT-hit Rathnan PrapanchaYet, the film failed to reach its potential, notwithstanding its decent run in North Karnataka, say industry insiders.

The IPL did pose a challenge to the film, admits the film’s co-producer Yogi G Raj“RCB has the biggest fan base in the tournament. Matches returned to Bengaluru following pandemic-induced restrictions, and this time, RCB played a string of games at home in the tournament’s first half, unlike previous seasons,” he points out.

Yogi’s argument is valid. Among RCB’s eight matches in April, six took place in Bengaluru. In fact, the team played three consecutive home matches. Hence, there has been a sustained curiosity among fans at the start of the tournament, unlike the usual scenario where the buzz drops after initial games before reaching its peak during the business end of the league.

“Even the SSLC and pre-university final exams proved to be deterrents to films released in theatres. Gurudev Hoysala did well despite these roadblocks but it deserved more love,” says Yogi. 

Perhaps the masses were in the mood for a simple entertainer they could resonate with, like Raghavendra Stores, which, despite mixed reviews from the critics, has gotten off to a decent start in a long weekend (April 28-May 1). The film’s real test begins now in the second week.

Jaggesh in ‘Raghavendra Stores’.

Jaggesh in ‘Raghavendra Stores’. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

ALSO READ:‘Raghavendra Stores’ review: A hotchpotch of a Jaggesh film with few bright spots

There is no doubt that the April-May period is a dreadful one for the film fraternity. This year, the assembly polls in Karnataka have further dented the prospects of the tinsel town. “We are hardly seeing 40 per cent occupancy in theatres for Kannada films. People seem keener on going for election rallies,” says Muttanna, manager of the popular single-screen Kamakya in Bengaluru.

The Kannada audiences believe in the ‘wait-and-watch’ approach to films. If the early reports are negative, they are brutal in cold-shouldering the film. “Kabzaa opened well, but after the first weekend, it fell flat at the box office,” informs veteran producer and owner of Bengaluru’s iconic single-screen Navarang. Pentagon, a five-film anthology, bit the dust as well.

“It’s becoming harder to sustain people’s interest in movies,” opines senior film writer S Shyam Prasad. “There are so many distractions for them, and IPL is easily one of the biggest forms of entertainment. For that matter, cricket has always been a big threat to films. Before the advent of IPL, Kannada producers wouldn’t dare to release their films during the World Cup or important bilateral series,” he adds.

For years, IPL, coupled with rains, has dented the film business, stated film distributor Bharadwaj. “RCB fans are predominantly Kannadigas. They are the same people who watch Kannada movies. So when they prioritise IPL over films, the industry takes a hit,” he says, adding that the election fever has gripped the state this year, keeping film personalities occupied with campaigns and other poll-related activities.

Contrary to popular opinion, director Santhosh Ananddram feels the IPL “isn’t an unsolvable problem”. “During this time, it’s about taking your product to an organic crowd, which involves women and the family audience in general. For them, cinema is the biggest form of entertainment.”

Akash Srivatsa echoes Ananddram’s opinions to explain how his film Shivaji Surathkal 2 has withstood everything to enter the third week in theatres. The Ramesh Aravind-starrer is a sequel to the 2020 detective drama.

Ramesh Aravind in ‘Shivaji Surathkal 2’

Ramesh Aravind in ‘Shivaji Surathkal 2’ | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

“We weren’t entirely wary about IPL. We took the tournament as a blessing, as we promoted the film on Star Sports Kannada. The film’s trailer was played on the channel on the IPL opening night. I feel Shivaji Surathkal is thriving on word-of-mouth,” says Akash. Moreover, the makers seem to have planned the release well; the film came soon after the commencement of the fifth season of Ramesh’s hit talk show Weekend with Ramesh.

Elsewhere, the Nani starrer-Dasara from the Telugu industry did wonders at the Karnataka box office. Mani Ratnam’s Ponniyin Selvan - 2released on April 28, is the film to beat in south India. “For Telugu and Tamil fans, films are as important as food and sleep. IPL can’t stop them,” says Yogi.

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