The Kannada film industry has traditionally been the least talked film industry in the South India. While the Telugu film industry had the power of sheer ‘Mass’ cinema, Tamil and Malayalam always had technically superior methods of storytelling, compared to the rest of India, the Kannada Film Industry was always sandwiched between these cinematic superpowers of the country.
The limited resources, lack of visionary filmmakers, and borrowed concepts harmed the content coming from Karnataka immensely. 2022 was the year when the shackles had to be broken, and boy it happened in some style!
The Hindi film industry is looked at as the biggest movie industry in India. Since the last few years, the Mumbai-based film industry has suffered because of several on and off-screen reasons. The advent of OTT, the superabundant nature of the remakes, borrowed storylines, complacency, and nepotism affected the business in a way that no one would have gauged. The decline in content and public admiration for Hindi cinema went parallel to the rise of popularity of South Indian movies.
The year of the Kannada Film Industry
In a year when the likes of Mani Ratnam and SS Rajamouli released their magnum opuses and Kamal Haasan made his comeback, who would have thought that a small movie made on the culture of a remote village in coastal Karnataka would steal all the limelight?
Interestingly, the unparalleled success of Kantara was not a one-off from the industry, and that makes for a great case study!
The Appu Phenomenon
The Kannada film Industry lost its beloved Puneeth Rajkumar in 2021. The sudden death of the actor was a shock to his fans. Puneeth Rajkumar had several projects lined up as an actor and a producer, all of which released after his demise. His last two projects as an actor were released this year and opened up to unimaginable success. While James was a huge commercial success, ‘Gandadha Gudi’ was an ode to the natural prowess of Karnataka.
These projects had the stamp of the legendary actor on them, which made them travel outside Karnataka through social media. Besides being a fine actor, Puneeth Rajkumar was also known to assist the creators in need of resources and backing, which he did with his production house. After the demise of the actor, several non-Kannada viewers went down the projects the star had been involved in and spread the word regarding the same.
The favourite Kannada film of the year for many – 777 Charlie
Rakshit Shetty is one of the most interesting film personalities in the Kannada Film Industry. The actor has blended topics from different areas of the state and successfully made several entertaining projects from the same. The concept of a man having an animal as his best friend is a dated formula in Indian cinema, there have been several movies made on this topic since ‘Haathi Mere Saathi’ (1971) to Entertainment (2014). Rakshit Shetty dived into an archaic concept and yet delivered a novel piece.
In the day and age of overindulgence in PAN India movies, K Kiranraj firmly stuck to his belief and collaborated with a fine crew to make it work. Although ‘vision’ is usually attached to scale in the Indian film industry, Kiranraj proved that a high-concept movie could be made with an emotional core.
The success of ‘777 Charlie’ could largely be attributed to the commitment of Rakshit Shetty and the marketing strategy of the team. The team arranged for paid previews of the movie, across the country. The strategy worked very well as it hit the chord with pet lovers from across the country and also helped the positive word spread.
KGF 2 – The Peak
Prashanth Neel’s KGF 2 was a global success. Numbers aside, the movie dived deep into the old-school formula of Mass filmmaking, which the rest of the industry had been struggling with for the longest period. KGF 1 was a super hit for the Kannada film industry, but otherwise, it was a sleeper hit.
The success of KGF 2 is very different from the success of Baahubali 2. Unlike the Telugu Hit, the Kannada film could not rely on the general public’s memory of an iconic cliffhanger. The success of KGF 2 should be attributed to the number of effort and resources put into the marketing of the film, on a national scale.
Yash, who was responsible for scaling the movie up, bridged the gap between the North and the South. The KGF series has not only made Yash, a bonafide superstar but also put a vision of an industry that had given only one 100-crore-plus movie before this year, at the forefront.
Surprise of the year – Kantara
Kantara has been the most talked about movie of the year, across languages and regions. Made on a budget of a mere 16 crore (which Rishabh Shetty termed as ‘high budget’) made over 400 crores across the globe. The movie was a testament to the fact that ‘Local is Global’ not just in terms of actors and approaches but also the story. The movie was entirely shot in a village in Coastal Karnataka. It utilised the current wave of hyped regionalism very well, as it merged mythology and history with powerful music and an entertaining story.
Rishab Shetty is known for making movies that come from the roots of Karnataka. Although he has received such humongous success with Kantara, he is a seasoned player in telling such stories.
The Kannada film industry is truly in its golden age as the urban-centric KGF and 777 Charlie and a hyperlocal Kantara can all sustain and flourish well, paving the path ahead.