A year of highs and lows
SRIKANTH SRINIVASA looks in retrospect at the successes and failures of Kannada film industry this year
The year 2003 will probably go down as a watershed year in the history of a divided Kannada film industry. The year saw a record-high of 99 releases including a silent film – an unprecedented figure in its history. Industry sources say that the high number of releases do not bode well for the industry in terms of film economics and the quality of films. The industry maintained a steady success ratio of 10 per cent during the year, according to film statistician S Jayasimha.
Nine Kannada films – Kariya, Kutumba, Abhi, Preethi Prema Pranaya, Chandra Chakori, Raktakanneeru, Khushi, Dasa and Excuse Me have been adjudged as above-average commercial films. Mane Magalu celebrated a 100-day run in Hubli-Dharwad region after failing to register the same success in other parts of the State.
A number of films like Don, Laali Haadu (state award winner), Kaththegalu Saar Kaththegalu, Yaardo Duddu Yellammana Jathre, Sriram and Oo.. La.. La.. did average business at the box-office. The verdict is loud and clear. More than 70 films have been a washout accounting for more than Rs 50 crore loss to the industry, as per an estimate.
The success of Kutumba and Raktakanneeru gave Upendra a new lease of life. Darshan became the hottest star of the year. His closest competitor Sudeep was not lucky this year as his films Khichcha and Partha failed to click with the masses.
Debutant Directors Prakash (of Khushi), Prem (Kariya and Excuse Me), Kokila Sadhu (of Raktakanneeru), Hemant Hegde (of Oo..La..La..and Dhad Dhad) and Yograj Bhat (of Mani) have shown a lot of promise. Among the heroines, Ramya seems to be the most preferred and popular star with two hits in the year, while it has been downhill for actresses Prema and Radhika, though the former had acted in a ‘serious commercial film’ like Singaravva besides being seen in a few devotional films.
Radhika, the star of last year has been signing films left right and centre, which proved to be her nemesis. After the success of Tavarige Baa Thangi last year, her films like Thayi Illada Tabbali, Mane Magalu (excepting Hubli-Dharwad), Hudugigaagi and not so encouraging Mani have failed at the box-office.
Kavitha Lankesh’s Preeti Prema Pranaya showcased Anu Prabhakar as a glamourous actress though she has not been able to reap the same level of success after the film. Despite the coming together of Ravichandran and Hamsalekha with Ondagona Baa, the film had a bad run though industry sources say the film ran on the strength of Shilpa Shetty’s sleek waistline.
Corporate involvement in Kannada cinema seems to have risen with advertising agency Aadya making a foray into production with Dhad Dhad. A number of big budget films like Hello, Khichcha, Paris Pranaya, Nee Illade Naa Illa Kane, Nanjundi, Smile, Hrudayavantha, Chigurida Kanasu, Sri Renukadevi, Vijayadashami, Raja Narasimha, He Naan Bheeshma Kanno and Vijayasimha failed at the box-office.
Producers and directors who turned actors last year did not find acceptance with the audience this year. Gurukiran emerged as the hottest music director after belting hits like Abhi, Kutumba and Khushi.
Producer H D Kumaraswamy had the gumption to take on the industry by its horns and rub some big producers the wrong way and emerged successful by releasing Chandra Chakori at a time when the environment was not perceived to be conducive for releasing any new movies.
The role of Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce as an effective arbiter between the different segments of the industry – producers, exhibitors and distributors – has come to an end, given its lackadaisical and directionless functioning. The apex body has been reduced to a title registration body, industry observers feel. If KFCC failed to settle the row between the producers and exhibitors last year over the high rentals charged by some theatres, this year it could not take a stand on the service charge levy by the exhibitors. Besides, KFCC failed to manage well the much-hyped Cine Expo that was meant to raise funds for the new building. Instead of raising funds for constructing the new building, KFCC landed in huge debt and loss after the Cine Expo.
The year saw the passing away of doyen G V Iyer, music director Guna Singh, director Somashekar and actor Venky among others.
The film industry seems to be too happy to produce more remakes given that some of the remakes were huge successes at the box-office in 2003. Swathi Muthyam, Maro Charitra, Dalapathi have been remade in Kannada. More are likely to follow if these films are received well by the audience. Kannada film audience is hoping that more number of new and enterprising crop of producers make films with meaningful themes without venturing into acting. However, it remains to be seen if the year 2004 will see a similar trend in terms of number of releases as that of 2003 and a qualitative change in the film-making pattern.