The rise and rise of Tulu cinema

In the first eight months of 2016, the Indian film industry witnessed the release of more than 70 movies in Hindi, India’s most-spoken language. In comparison, during the same period, Karnataka saw the release of nine movies in Tulu, which, as per the 2001 census report, was spoken by less than 2 million people. At least six more Tulu films are in the offing.

Films in Tulu, spoken prominently in Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts of Karnataka as well as the northern part of Kasaragod district in Kerala, have never been made in such numbers.

Tulu cinema completed 45 years on February 19, 2016 – a period that generated only about 70 films. It was in 1971 on that day that T.A. Srinivas, bought the distribution rights of the first Tulu film Enna Tangadi and released it in Jyothi theatre in Mangaluru.

For a long time, only one or two movies got released each year.

Then, the momentum changed with the success of Oriyardori Asal (One is smarter than the Other) — a comedy movie that released in 2011. It emerged emerging as a trend setter. It was one among only two films — the other one being Kanchilda Bale (Blessed Girl) — released that year.

Until then, Tulu cinema revolved around only serious subjects. Produced by theatre artiste Vijay Kumar Kodialbail, the movie was based on a popular Tulu drama by the same name, and it set off a spate of films in the industry.

After the success of Oriyardori Asal, four films hit the screen in 2012. Though the industry could produce only one movie in 2013, it picked up momentum again in 2014 with seven movies. Last year (2015), 10 films made it to the theatres.

Tulu films are being screened every day in Kudla (as Mangaluru is locally called) in one theatre or the other now, for the last two years.

“Now, Tulu cinema can stand on a par with other language cinemas,” said Tamma Lakshmana, an art director.

Of the 10 films released in 2015, seven were made by first-time producers, and six were directed by first-time directors. A significant feature is that a large number of them are comedies, he said.

Mr. Kodiabail said that the trend of producing only comedy films should change, and that filmmakers should focus on cinema with serious content too. “It is now following the readymade comedy formula.” But it was possible to make a film based on a strong story in a reasonable budget, he said.

“Now, the Tulu cinema industry is relying only on four or five comedy actors, who came from Tulu theatre,” Mr. Kodialbail said, adding that the audience would soon grow weary of them.

Stating that Tulu films were in their golden era, Mr. Kodialbail said that the release of 10 films in 2015 year alone itself had proved it.

But at the same time, Mr. Kodialbail said, the success of Tulu cinema cannot be measured only in numbers. “There were films screened for more than 50 or 100 days. At the same time, there have been films which were taken off from the theatres after a week.”

According to Mr. Lakshmana the budget of Tulu films range from Rs. 40 lakh to Rs. 1.20 crore. The budgets of films made during 2016 were in the range of Rs. 60 lakh and Rs. 80 lakh. “It requires Rs. 50 lakh to Rs. 60 lakh to make a Tulu film,” he said.

A Tulu film, Madime (Marriage), directed by Mr. Kodialbail and released in 2014, is being remade in Marathi now. He told The Hindu that Marathi and Hindi actors have acted in the remake. Its shooting has been completed and post-production is under way. The story, screenplay and dialogue (in Marathi) are by Mr. Kodialbail.

At a workshop organised by the Karnataka Tulu Sahitya Academy on Tulu cinema recently, Giriraj B., a Kannada director, hoped that quality cinema in Tulu would be a reality. According to him, only the Marathi and Tamil industries were producing movies that have a feel for the local language and culture now. Tulu had enough potential to produce such movies, he said.

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Printable version | Feb 18, 2020 12:24:31 PM |

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