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Somashekars' Analysis

I hope all Kannadigas would spend their time to read this extended mail or at least take the printout of this article or save it in your local machine and please read it in your leisure time.

Film is a powerful media in todays world. Its no more just an entertainment hub. Films have become very significant for a language to get recognized. Although there are other fields such as literature, Art and music, which can also strengthen a language, its ultimately the films, which reach a common man. So the status of film industry certainly reflects the eminence of the language. This is clear in the case of Kannada. So it is very important to be serious about the on goings of Kannada film world and not neglect it, so that, the social and economical life of we Kannadigas improve, which is under a serious threat as the foreigners are taking advantage of our weaknesses.

Why Kannada films have such a bad reputation?

Although the quality of other language films is more or less the same as Kannada films, Kannada films are receiving humiliating opinions all around. Let me try and pop out my opinions on this fate of ours.

The quality of Kannada movies is declining with time. It was at its peak in the 50s, 60s and 70s. In the 80s and 90s it showed frailty with considerable percentage of bad movies, then came a golden (???) era in the Kannada film industry in the late 90s and 21st century where the quality of films became poor, lacking good stories, actors, directors and technicians with influx of too many remake movies, has put us in such a hopeless position now. The situation is no different in other languages too.

But ours is a peculiar case. Here we Kannada people forget our self-value, surrender to foreigners, strictly follow their principles and continue to live like slaves in our own land. The governments, which ruled Karnataka after it became republic, lacked the ideas, thoughts and diplomacy. All the parties that ruled Karnataka are national parties, which have powers in North India. The national parties always have the tendency to show disinterest in South Indian states. While states like West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, have strong regional parties, Karnataka has always been the sufferer. The regional parties need not necessarily be clean and clear, but at least there has been considerable amount of development of languages in the above-mentioned states. A regional party at least thinks about local culture better than a national party. Why cant Karnataka be in the same league? This shows that there is lack of self-motivation within Kannadigas. By saying this I am not advertising the emerging regional party in the coming up election, as I feel it might just be too late for a regional party to start doing wonders immediately. But if they are determined, have honest ideas and right goals, they are welcome and good luck to them. Definitely it's not just in the hands of government; the common people must also show concern on their own language and culture. Some how we went wrong with all these.

Now the main topic: Kannada films

The first and foremost thing: why are we remaking popular films from the neighboring languages when they are already released and have become popular here? "Why the other language films are released here and why not our films released in other states" is a different problem altogether, so let us live that for another day.

When the original movies in Kannada are not running here, how much gut does a producer have to remake a popular movie of other language, when he knows that there is a poor market here? The problem is not with the market; it is with the filmmakers themselves. They dont have proper plans, thoughts or attitude. When good original Kannada films are not running in Karnataka, films like "Swathimutthu (Swathimuttyam in Telugu), Raktha kanneeru (Raktha kanneer in Tamil), Yejamaana (Vaanathail pola in Tamil), Ondhagona baa (kalisundham raa in Telugu), Huchcha (Sethu in Tamil), Nanna preethiya raamu (a film from Malayalam), Ninagaagi (a film from Malayalam), Preethse (Dhar in Hindi), Gokarna (Annamalai in Tamil), Nanu nane (Raja Hindustani in Hindi), Nagarahavu (Baazigar in Hindi), Asura (Amarkalam in Tamil) etc., " should not have run a single day here. But the fact is almost all of them have run successfully here and strangely the same Kannada newspapers which criticize good original Kannada films like "Om", "A" have given all praises to these movies blindly, even though they know that they are remade. The newspapers too act amazingly. Thats where the problem is complicated.

We know that other languages also remake movies and also that some of the Kannada movies are remade in other languages. But the fact is, in other languages, the number of films remade (especially in the last 2 to 3 years) is not as big as in Kannada. Some of the films in other languages are just language dubbed or quickly remade not living such a huge gap as in the case of Swathimutthu and Raktha kanneeru. More importantly in other states people are seldom aware of foreign language movies and hence the remade or dubbed movie looks fresh to them, so they watch. Thus, remaking a film in other languages is sensible, as people should not miss quality movies. But in Kannada it is pure business as the filmmakers are feeding the people with rotten items.

When remake movies are becoming hit, it puzzles, as good films are not successful here. Who can tell that we have no market here when the remake movies are becoming hit? So the problem is really complicated. The bottom-line is that the remake films are actually dampening the effect of good films.

Why remake movies become hit and good movies flop? Here is my assessment for this:

There is one category of Kannadigas who have become frustrated with Kannada remake movies as they have already watched the original movies in other languages (note again: this is not the case in other states, as their people perhaps don't even know the names of the original movies of their remake films). They could not wait for the remake Kannada films when the other language original films are in front of them, as they have cultivated the habit of watching other language movies. Hence, these categories of people have permanently stopped watching Kannada movies, even if good films like "Mathadhana" are around.

Another category of Kannadigas doesn't watch other language movies, as they don't follow other languages. These people watch Kannada movies as long as they are good, even if they are remade. The remake films are derived from good movies from other languages, so certainly they appear good for these people, as they wouldnt have watched the original movie. So these categories of viewers continue watching remake movies.

The third category are the people who just blindly follow other language films going by the opinions of their non-Kannadiga counterparts or newspapers & media or by just becoming the victims of the attack of foreign culture and languages in Karnataka.

If the second category viewers can watch remake movies, why they do not watch good Kannada movies? This is because, along with the loss of first category viewers, the good movies (whose number is very less) must compete with large number of remake movies plus foreign language movies (Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, English, Malayalam) plus intrinsic problems caused by government, people, distributors, film-makers, theatres etc., etc., So understandably they fail, where as the remake movies at least enjoy the viewer-ship of second category Kannadigas.

I think this assessment is clear. So, the remake films should be stopped completely or at least their number should be reduced, so that Kannada films get the viewer-ship of all three categories. If this happens then there is another surprise for the filmmakers. If remake films are stopped and very good Kannada films replace them, then these films could also reach a fourth category (non-Kannadigas). I think this category is also very important. Instead of criticizing these people, if we can earn their support, then they can actually become a bonus to us.

To be honest, even I have stopped watching new Kannada movies for the last 2 to 3 years, except for one or two good movies here and there. So filmmakers please hear this: "Please give us less remake films, more original movies (good original movies)".

I am totally against remake films because there is no substitute for the hard work done in the original movie. If you remake a movie, nothing is going to be gained by you, except for some money. Kannada directors and producers talk proudly about their remake films raising their shoulders as if they have won Oscars. Some people say that it is more difficult to remake a film than doing an original film, ridiculous; I don't know what logic is there behind that. If they think like that, then let them stop remaking films and do some original films, that's what we want. It bamboozles me when people do utter foolish things. For instance, the newly released Swathi mutthu had received national award for its Telugu version long back. Since we Kannadigas keep track of other language movies, we all should probably have seen the original movie. But now it is remade. What the hell the producer, director, actors and everyone involved in this movie is going to gain by doing this sort of a devastating assault on the sentiments of Kannadigas. I have seen Kannada film viewers tortured by non-Kannadigas, they harass us again and again reminding about the amount of remake films made in Kannada. You know it becomes a matter of prestige when one language movie is remade in the other language. This ego problem has reduced quite a number of Kannada film viewers. Veteran actor like Vishnuvardhan should at least be not pushed to act in remake films. If they dont have faith in his abilities, then let God save our film industry.

Now the remake movies have reduced a bit because of the fear that they would not receive much subsidy from the government. So it finally requires an economical threat to stop this nuisance. I think it is too late now, because the damage is already done. Only very high quality movies produced consistently through out the year can salvage us.

When the movie land is in such a drastic condition, there is every reason for the filmmakers to be more united. But here they seem to quarrel more than anybody.  They either do a remake film or make a hapless movie. The same thing may exist in other languages too. But then ours' is a peculiar world. Some how, we are in a disastrous situation, so all the more reason for the filmmakers to get united and have some innovative ideas like,

Why not more and more multi-starred films be made without altering the budget (let the actors share their earns and not demand huge sums).

Every director, actor, producer, etc., either he is winning or loosing he should take part in a limited number of movies so that he could concentrate on his work better.

Catching tails of winning horses should be avoided. It should be a combined effort; one or two people cannot do wonders.

Why can't there be a body made within the movie land and be given the power to ban at least one or two poor movies every year ruthlessly and ban remaking movies for at least 1 or 2 years, so that there is enough pressure and responsibility on the film-makers. I know that it is a bit harsh on them as other language moviemakers are no different from ours, but then it needs something extra-ordinary to come out of this jinx.

Now let me tell something good about Kannada films:

Well, by no stretch of imagination can one say that Kannada film industry is null and void. As in any languages, we too have had a handful of great artistes, technicians and personalities in our land. To name my favorites among the actors: Dr. Rajkumar is right at the top of the chart simply for his supremacy. Vishnuvardhan is another veteran who has groomed the industry so well, still standing tall and leading from the front. Ananthnag is a gem, as his acting is simply superb. All of his films are entertaining. Ambharish had his moments, but when he was on song, he looked impeccable and dependable as his films were filling producers' pockets. Ravichandran gave a new dimension to Kannada cinema. Although most of his films are remade, he has a unique touch in them. These five are the premier actors for me, while some of the other actors like Kalyan kumar, Uday kumar, Rajesh, Gangadhar in the earlier era, Prabhakar, Shankar Nag, Shreenath, Shivarajkumar, Shashikumar in the middle era and Upendra, Sudeep, Dharshan, Puneet in the present era are also worth mentioning.

The actresses are not behind. The top five actresses to me are: Aarathi, Kalpana, Jayanthi, Laxmi and Malashri (taking into account both their talent and popularity) Although our industry is known to import actress from outside, there is quite a big list of our own actresses. We have/had more talents like Bharathi, Leelavathi, Manjula, Saritha, Shruthi, Sudha rani, Prema, Bhavana, Anu prabhakar, Radhika, Rakshitha and many more. We also have/had some great actors/actress in supporting roles such as Ashwath, Sampath, Pandaribhai, Lokanath etc., What about the comedians, we have a monster list of it: Narasimha raju, Balakrishna, Dhwarakish, Musuri, Umesh, Dinesh, Dodanna, Tennis Krishna, Mukyamanthri chandru, Bank janardhan and also Jaggesh (I think Jaggesh doesnt deserve criticism made by some people. I think he can make viewers laugh with sheer comedy and not necessarily just vulgar dialogues, his movies are branded with his unique style, not full of class, but they do reach some exclusive viewers. In simple terms, I think he can be treated as pickles with meals). These comedians have not had enough opportunities with good comic sequences, but they have enough in them to make audience laugh like a hell. Also we have great directors list like Puttanna Kanagal, G.V.Iyer, Panthalu, Vijay, Rajendra singh babu, Girish Kasaravalli, Sunil kumar desai, Nagabharana, Upendra, Nagathahalli etc. Music directors like G.K. Venkatesh, Rajan-nagendra, Rangarao, Shankar-Ganesh, Vijayabhaskar, Upendrakumar, Hamsalekha, V.Manohar, Gurukiran have given some nice tunes. So with all these people and plenty more we are not a small kingdom. But still, I think they are not fully utilized or they themselves have not estimated what power they have in them.

The best movie that I have seen (in any language) is a Kannada film called "Kantheredhu nodu" directed by G.V.Iyer. Critics of Kannada films (if also happen to be true film lovers) should once watch this movie and then they will just shut their mouths. This is a film full of class, humanism, and moreover a beautiful screenplay and brilliant acting. Only G.V.Iyer in the world could have directed a movie like that. Only Rajkumar, Leelavathi, Balakrishna, Narasimharaju could have acted the way they have in this movie in the entire universe (even if there is life in Mars or in any other galaxy) Rajkumar shines in an innocent role, while Leelavathi is at her fluent best. Narasimha raju shows humanity in the comic way of his own, while Balakrishna is simply outstanding in a comedy villain role. It's a treat to eyes watching these greats act together. I bet Charlie Chaplin is not even half as good as Balakrishna (Mind you Balakrishna is a born deaf). But they are all unnoticed and unknown to many. Any Kannada film lover should make an arrangement to watch this movie. It's not a patriotic film, not a devotional movie, not an action movie, not a science fiction, not a thriller or murder mystery, but a simple social film, which touches the heart deep inside and expresses human values. Each and every song in the movie is so meaningful and so relevant to the movie (not shot in USA or Europe definitely) I wonder if most of the films are actually derived from this film. It contains all ingredients of the present cinema like love proposals, love disappointments, love triangles, misuse of innocence etc., etc., But this movie was made long back. As the name suggests, its an eye opener. For the critics, they should just open their eyes they will see the truth. Some other movies I liked are Kasthuri nivasa, Satya Harishchandra, Chandhavalli thota, School master, Swarna Gowri, Babruvahana, Raja nanna raja, Bangaaradha panjara, Manasa sarovara, Elu sutthina kote, Ranadheera, Nishkarsha, Beladhingala bale, Janumadha jodi, Nagamandala, Om, A. If you have missed any of these movies I suggest they are worth watching. If you are a music lover, listen to the songs of Swarna Gowri, they are simply outstanding. Of course there are many more films to watch and many more songs to listen in Kannada.

Although we don't have a locally owned TV channel, some TV serials like Mayamruga, Manvanthara (By T.N.Seetharam) Apartment (By Nagathahalli) Guddadha Bhootha (Once upon a time in Doordharshan), Kavyanjali and many more were worth watching.

Every cloud has a silver line. None of the person that I have asked, be it a Kannadiga, non-Kannadiga, utter Kannada film critic, newspaper or just about any body have said a single word against a film called "Beladhingala bale" (Of course those who have watched it). They have all praised the movie.

So the problem is more complicated. Even though the industry is full of such greats still we are struggling why???

I can find some answers.

1) Too many remakes at present. (Root cause). In the past, even though people didnt watch Kannada films, at least they were not criticizing them.

2) Lack of unity, awareness, and adoptability with time, among the filmmakers.

3) A big lull is created periodically, which becomes the right time for foreign movies to pick up. Consistency is important. Series of good movies like Om, Nammoora mandhara hoove, Janumadha Jodi, A, Upendra and then a big lull. This repeats. This is not good enough. We need to be consistent, alert and acrobatic with our work.

4) Lack of Government involvement.

5) And of course lack of Abhimaana.

Some solutions:

TV media is powerful media. It can alert people about their culture and language. But Doordharshan is guided by New Delhi. Other satellite channels are under the hands of our neighbors. We can just hope that some one opens a pure Kannada channel. But again it might just be too late as the current channels have already accomplished here. But strong guts can do.

I think with the emergence of satellite TV channels, the non-Kannadigas (even Kannadigas) were made to follow the foreign languages and culture more. These channels gave them the homely atmosphere and improved their language vocabulary. With the already dominance of non-Kannadigas, the TV channels just came in as blessings for them. I think the satellite channels have to be restricted. At least their numbers should be reduced. And why should they not give preference to local culture even if the language is foreign. For e.g., why does Sun news cover news confined to Tamil Nadu. If Tamil is a versatile language, why cant Sun news, broadcasted in Karnataka cover news happen around Karnataka?

Why can't Kannada be made a compulsory language in all Schools (State, ICSE, CBSE, and any medium), colleges, professional courses, and training period of employment? At least as a basic communicating language study.

Regarding films: Directors are the key. People like Upendra, Sunil Kumar Desai, Nagabharana, Nagathihalli Chandrashekar, and Rajendra Singh Babu could have sailed the ship quite easily. But unfortunately their career is moving in an abrupt way.

Upendra came up with some fantastic hits like Shhh, Om, A and Upendra. But then he tumbled with two flops: H2O and Superstar. Compared to his earlier films these two films were not up to the mark. Moreover why did he give up Direction after Upendra??? OK. Failures are possible. After this, he too got infected with the famous disease of Kannada film industry. He started to act in a series of remakes like Preethse, Nagarahavu, Nanu nane, Kutumba, Raktha kanneeru, Gokarna etc. etc., Certainly I was shocked by his move, and a promising talent is just lost and he too lost a lot of good fans. Although people were criticizing Upendra for his earlier films for their arrogance, ragged narration (actually Upendra was telling naked truths in his movies "A", "Upendra" and "Operation Antha" which are obviously bitter for which some people and press objected), but still I found very few flaws in him. But now he is just an ordinary actor.

Sunil Kumar Desai in the beginning of his career made some suspense, crime films Tharka, Utkarsha, (still they had nice theme and narration) then gave some superb films like Nishkarsha, Beladhingala bale, Nammoora mandhaara hoove. But now, he is struggling to make at least an average movie.

Nagabharana is unable to replicate the glories of Janumadha Jodi and Nagamandala.

Nagathihalli started his career doing some art films and children movies like Chinnari muttha, Prathama Usha kirana etc., and they did have some good theme. Then he suddenly reached skies by shooting films in US like America America, Nanna preethiya Hudugi. But then he too followed the same failure suit as others did.

Rajendra Singh Babu would have been an answer to Maniratnam & co., had he been more serious about his work. His films like Antha, Mutthina haara were of international quality. But then he made some disappointing movies like katthegalu, kothigalu, kurigalu, which certainly are not good enough for his caliber.

These five directors could have complemented each other very well with their different styles and approach. These along with other experienced and young directors would have served heavy meals to Kannada film viewers. Even now, if they can get their act together along with the actors and technicians, nothing is impossible. Not just the directors, even the producers, actors, technicians and all other people belonging to the industry are not responsible enough and all deserve criticism.

 So the final mantra:

Every person in Karnataka should show more abhimaana about his language and culture (Speaking English or other languages does not mean that we have conquered the entire world rather it means the whole world has conquered us), government should do its part; filmmakers should have proper plans and goals.

By no means are we dull. We should not underrate ourselves. There is plenty of good Kannada films and good talents and more to come. Let us be proud to be a Kannadiga.

I hope you have read this mail. I would be glad if you would spread this mail across your friends. Let us continue this activity on the net to encourage few good things to happen in the Kannada filmdom. I would be happier if such mails also reach people belonging to Kannada film industry.

Your mail was the first one that contained such revolutionary ideas and I too realized that such things could be done to bring about awareness among Kannada people. 

Interested friends can share their opinions...

(If any material in this mail has affected the sentiments of any person, directly or indirectly my regrets to them. This mail is intended only to bring about some revolution (KRANTHI) among the Kannada people)

English summary
Plight of Kannada and Kannada Cinema- An analysis by T. Somashekhar, Bangalore
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