The eight-decade-old Kannada film industry has seen a major shift in terms of new voices and narratives that blurred the lines between commercial, experimental, and parallel films.
This decade also saw filmmakers preferring to shoot digital and not on film. Nam Areal Ondina was shot in the digital format in 2010.
As a result, the heart of Sandalwood which used to be Gandhinagar, has slowly started moving to areas such as Naagarabhaavi and Raja Rajeshwari Nagar.
Remakes, which dominated the beginning of the decade, slowly made way for controversial dubbing. Though the narrative in films turned to socio-economic changes, filmmakers also earmarked a significant portion of the budget for marketing.
Of the 4,000 plus films made in the last 85 years, about 1,500 films have been made in this decade. Kannada cinema gained momentum in the last 10 years because of technological advancements, satellite-enabled last mile connectivity, overseas releases and rural penetration.
Clash with CBFC
In the last decade, makers of films such as Kirugurina Gayyaligalu , and Gantumoote , have been at odds with the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), Bengaluru Regional Office over what they described as “Operation Scissors”. Fearing retribution, they protested in the office of the Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce.
Kannada films such as The Villain , Kurukshetra and KGF-1 were released in many languages and made their way to other states, creating mass following in places such as Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.
Following the success of his Tamil, Telugu and Hindi films, including Phoonk, Rann , Eega , SyeRaa and Dabangg 3, Sudeep emerged as a pan-India actor. Despite his latest film, Pailwan, not performing well at the box office, it put him on a par with Bollywood stars. As far as the success of big-budget films go, The Villain failed to meet the expectations of Shivarajkumar and Sudeep fans. Kurukshetra also failed to make a splash.
The Yash starrer KGF-Chapter 1 (2018) took everyone by surprise, becoming one of the higher grossers in the Kannada film industry. Though the film garnered mixed reviews, it set a new standard for filmmaking, distribution and exhibition, apart from bagging National Awards for special effects and stunt choreography. Yash and director Prashanth Neel are busy with the sequel, having recently released the first look of the film.
- Kurmavataara (2011): Girish Kasaravalli creates a historical narrative of our times with this movie which draws from the experiences of Gandhi, but it is not about Mahatma Gandhi.
- Edegarike (2012): The underworld crime drama directed by Sumana Kittur is based on a novel by Agni Sridhar. Edegarike is set in the 90s and had Adithya in the lead.
- Lucia (2013): Pawan Kumar’s Lucia, tells the story of a film star suffering from insomnia who is tricked into buying a drug, Lucia, that makes his desires come true in his dreams.
- Thithi (2016): Raam Reddy’s Thithi is a tongue-in-cheek look at a family in a village seeking to grab property. A humane evocation of a time and place, the young director has coaxed stellar performances from a massive cast.
- Rama Rama Re (2016): D Satya Prakash’s roadie thriller is a delightful saga looking at life and death and everything in between. The raw look and feel of the film is impressive.
Avane Srimannarayana is set for a pan-India release. The much-awaited Rakshit Shetty starrer comes three years after his film, Kirik Party, one of the highest grossers of the year. It ran for 250 days and is being remade in Telugu.
Suri ( Duniya ) proved that he could churn out hits without stars with Kendasampige. The cast included Manivita Harish, Vicky Varun and Prakash Belwadi. His film, Tagaru starring Shivarajkumar became one of the actor’s biggest hits. Suri’s narrative technique clicked and audiences are now waiting for his coming film Popcorn Monkey Tiger and Kaage Bangara , which is the sequel Kendasampige .
The decade began with the lone flag-bearer of alternative cinema, Girish Kasarvalli’s Kanasemba Kudureyaneri and Kormavataara . With the decade coming to an end, Kasaravalli completed shooting of his latest film, Illiralaare Allige Hogalaare , based on Jayanth Kaikini’s short story Haalina Meese .
Journey after 'Lucia'
The journey for Kannada independent cinema began with Pawan Kumar’s Lucia , which raised money through a crowdfunding campaign. Its non-linear narration, was arresting.
After Lucia , came Rakshit’s Akira Kurosawa inspired Ulidavaru Kandante . It was followed by Rangi Taranga by the Bhandari brothers, which is rooted in local folk tradition. From the past four years, there has been an upswing in “off-beat” films.
Other films include Pawan Kumar’s urban thriller U-Turn , Hemanth M Rao’s Godhi Banna Sadharana Mykattu and Kavaludaari , D Sathya Prakash’s road thriller Rama Rama Re .
Women film makers including Sumana Kitturu, Champa Shetty, Roopa Rao, Vijayalakshmi Singh, and Kavitha Lankesh came out with Edegarike , Kiragoorina Gayyaligalu , Ammachi Emba Nenapu and Gantumoote.Yana and Crazy Loka .
But what really put Kannada cinema on the map, both nationally and internationally, was Raam Reddy’s Thithi . Pradeep Varma’s Urvi and Adarsh Eshwarappa’s Shuddhi put the spotlight on atrocities against women.