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|July 1, 2000||
Kannada film industry goes online
M D Riti
My father got a lakh of hits in a very short while," says Puneet Rajakumar, son of Kannada cinema icon Dr Rajakumar. He was, of course, referring to the number of people who visited the website on his father that Puneet has created quite recently. It is perhaps appropriate that Karnataka's greatest film legend should have become the first to go online.
The Kannada film industry continues to remain off line as of now. Journalists from Internet magazines who contact artistes or directors usually meet with a lukewarm response as most people in the industry know nothing about the Internet apart from its name and have never even used a PC or, for that matter, e-mail. Less than half a dozen of them, like leading hero Ramesh, who is an engineer by education, and Upendra, have e-mail accounts.
Almost two years ago, film producer Sanjay Desai's film Shanti Shanti Shanti became the first to put up its own website, largely due to the endeavours of its director T B Srinivas. But neither the website nor the film were particularly impressive and the Kannada film industry did not pick up on this trend.
In this rather daunting atmosphere, well-known film photographer and journalist K M Veeresh has recently launched the first Kannada film Net magazine called Chitraloka.com. It was formally launched by Parvathamma Rajakumar, wife of matinee idol Rajakumar, and can be read both in English and in Kannada.
It has several well defined sections like Action Cut which carries on-location reports of shooting, Wait And Watch on new releases, Encounters or interviews with film stars and others, Zoom In featuring new talent, Thillana featuring film music, Stock Shots which contains profiles of film people and so on. There is even a section called Portfolio, which carries a huge number of photographs from Veeresh's unique collection which spans decades of film journalism.
"It all began when I went to Singapore on holiday a couple of years ago," says Veeresh. "I found I was completely cut off from the Kannada film industry news there and was forced to call up friends here every day to find out what was happening. My friends abroad too seemed starved of Kannada film news and wanted me to spend hours every day briefing them. I thought the time was right to fill this lacuna through the Net."
Back home, Veeresh too bought a PC just like everyone else. Initially, he used it to get himself connectivity, to streamline his own accounts and records. Then he thought it was worth trying to start a film magazine online. Only, nobody in the film industry could even fully comprehend what exactly Veeresh was trying to do. Still, most film producers, directors and artistes promised to back him fully, not in terms of finance, but with information inputs and coverage assistance.
Vereesh was, in any case, probably the person best equipped to attempt such a venture as he is usually the first film journalist to get to know every kind of film news. When Sanket electronic dubbing studio, started by Anant Nag and his brother Shankar almost two decades ago and now deeply in the red after Shankar's death many years ago, was to be demolished late at night, Veeresh got to know about it and was the only person to photograph the demolition at midnight.
Initially, Chitraloka will be updated twice a week. By mid-July, Veeresh hopes to update it on a daily basis and graduate to hourly updates by next year. In two years time, he hopes to increase its scope to include the whole of the south Indian film industry. The first edition is up now. Its content is good content and portends well for the future.
Surprisingly, Veeresh found it tough going to get suitable software for the Kannada version of his website. "Although Karnataka has such an IT-oriented chief minister like S M Krishna, Veeresh simply could not find any good software to put up his magazine in Kannada," confides a friend, who is helping him with the website. (As of now, Chitraloka.com is a one man show. He has invested nominally in the venture from his own savings, has accepted no finance from anyone else and is helped in the writing and information-gathering processes for his magazine by journalist friends.) Finally, he became the very first buyer and user of CDAC's Kannada software, which he now swears by.
He hopes to make the website much more interactive shortly and hopes to enable readers to send in story ideas for commercial films to producers and directors. He also intends to create email ids for willing film stars, publicise them in his magazine and help readers to directly contact their favourite stars.
Meanwhile Karnataka's leading audio house Akash Audio, owned by former Chief Minister S Bangarappa's sons, minister Vasant and his brother film producer Madhu Chandra, is working on putting up its own website, through which it also hopes to do e-commerce. "We hope to make it possible for readers to listen to our new film and other albums digitally, order directly from us and also get to know all kinds of news about the Kannada music industry from our website," says Madhu Bangarappa.
All these websites are primarily targetting the Kannadiga overseas, especially those in the US and the Gulf. Meanwhile, they are sensible enough as to make these film dotcoms a secondary business and will continue to concentrate on what they have been doing all these years. Veeresh will continue to take pictures for a plethora of film and mainstream publications in Bangalore and Madhu will continue to produce hot-selling music albums.
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