This decade has indeed been eventful for the Kannada film industry on many counts – be it an explosion of new voices working with different narratives, a big shift to digital technology, arrival of dubbed films or burgeoning of multiplexes in the State capital. All these have slowly but decisively changed the viewing culture as we understood it at the turn of this century. Over 1,500 films (of the 4,000-plus films released in eight decades) have been released till date in this decade.
A definitive movie trend that has solidified over the last 10 year is blurring of lines between categories such as commercial, art and experimental cinema, and emergence of youngsters who have pushed the boundaries with their talent. Quite a few of them did well at the box office and won critical acclaim too, sometimes even crossing the borders. Some have proved their mettle in new avenues such as Netflix and Amazon.
Middle of the road cinema
The decade saw the flagbearer of alternative cinema and much-feted director Girish Kasarvalli releasing Kanasemba Kudureyaneri and Koormaavataara. A different wave began with Pawan Kumar’s Lucia , which was noted as much for its novel financial mechanism in the form of crowd-funding, as it was for introducing the non-linear narrative technique.
Thereafter, there was no looking back for Kannada cinema with many new voices taking to film making in their own right, even giving up cushy jobs. Inspired by Akira Kurosawa, Rakshit Shetty brought a whole new idiom to Kannada cinema through Ulidavaru Kandante. It was followed by Rangi Taranga of Bhandari brothers, which is rooted in the local milieu and local folk tradition.
From the past four years, several off-beat, middle of the road cinema have been made. Besides Pawan Kumar’s urban thriller U-Turn , Hemanth M. Rao come up a slick and savvy Godhi Banna Sadharana Mykattu and Kavaludaari , while D. Sathya Prakash made the road trip movie Rama Rama Re .
Women filmmakers, including Sumana Kitturu, Champa Shetty and Roopa Rao, gave significant films such as Edegarike, Kiragoorina Gayyaligalu, Ammachi Emba Nenapu and Gantumoote . One film that stands out when it comes to breaking the mould, and winning both national and international acclaim, was Raam Reddy’s Thithi .
Audience also welcomed Pradeep Varma’s Urvi and Adarsh Eshwarappa’s Shuddhi , which put the spotlight on the atrocities on women, even while adopting the thriller format. There were also blockbusters like KGF.
Multiplexes, dubbed films
When looked at from the prism of viewing culture, the closure of a series of single screens has brought a sea change. The cost of film viewing (given both the price of tickets and the eats that go with them for most movie-goers) has changed with the arrival of multiplexes. A whole new genre of films – suited for multiplex-going middle class – has emerged as well.
At the same time, a nascent but definitely revolution movement, is brewing in the online space of Kannada entertainment. Web series are slowly catching up with the audience. While the young breed of talented filmmakers are now betting big on the emergence of web series, its impact on film-making and viewing is a hot topic of debate.
The decade also saw a clear sign that films dubbed from other languages into Kannada are here to stay. Though the Competition Commission of India directive to film bodies has removed all legal bar on films being dubbed into Kannada, the last few years have seen clear signs of this being carried through. Now the big budget Dabang 3 has been released in Kannada. This is a trend that the Kannada film industry had resisted for decades, saying that it destroys the native film culture and economy.
One significant feature of the decade, that exposed gender stereotypes in cinema, was the ‘MeToo’ movement of 2018. Talented actor Sruthi Hariharan fought multiple battles to make the Kannada film industry understand the need for gender sensitisation. It underlined the need for an Internal Complaints Committee in accordance with the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Rules 2013. She deserves special mention for fighting the battle, undeterred by the pressure mounted on her by the patriarchal Kannada cinema industry. In fact, one could argue that, she even had to pay the price for it in terms of her career in films.
BIFFes gets steady
Bengaluru International Film Festival (Biffes), organised by the Karnataka government, has become an annual film carnival over the past 10 years, though it began at the end of the past decade. The 12th edition of Biffes is schedule to be held in February 2020.
With the decade coming to an end, Girish Kasaravalli has completed shooting of his latest film Illiralaare Allige Hogalaare , based on Jayanth Kaikini’s short story Haalina Meese.
(This is part of a series on how Bengaluru has changed in the last decade)