2000 -- The Kannada story
Fifty-two weeks. Sixty films. A Rs 120-crore turnover.
Eight to ten hits, ten to 12 cost recovery films and a whopping 80 per cent flops in 2000 is the Kannada cinema in a nutshell. The industry went through extremes with the abduction of its mascot, the matinee idol Dr Rajakumar.
Dr Rajakumar, who made a comeback with his home production, Shabdavedhi early this year, had the box office registers ringing.
But his abduction on August 31 by sandalwood smuggler Veerappan from his farmhouse in Gajanur, Tamil Nadu, brought the Kannada film industry to a grinding halt for two months.
The loss was estimated at approximately Rs 15 crores by the Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce.
The issue of the safety of movie legends gained importance among the star turned politicians, catapulting into national and international heights. Not to mention the local support that Dr Rajakumar received: Be it a homa at the film chamber or dramatic urulu seve from the female sect of Kannada filmdom or a lone man’s bicycle journey across the state.
His sons' unshaven faces -- wife Parvatamma's hospitalisation and the touching pleas on All India Radio -- all had the making of a reel life drama.
Today, the president of the Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce, K C N Chandrashekar, is a happy man.
In spite of an incident that paralysed the film industry, ten films have touched the superhit list, another ten to 12 films recovered their cost and the percentage of flops remained at 80 per cent.
The industry, with a turnover of Rs 120 crores per annum on an average, has had 60 film releases. The lack of professional approach and individualism has it reeling under losses and looking for subsidies every now and then.
The year 2000 has been no different.
Yet the Kannada industry has managed to grow, at a snail’s pace, from the meagre 20 films in the 1980s to 60 films per year now. The production cost touches a magical figure of Rs 4.5 crores as compared to one lakh earlier.
Dr Rajakumar made his comeback to the silver screen as Sandeep, an honest police officer at war with the drug menace in Shabdavedi. This big budget film ran for over 25 weeks. N R Venkatesh's music was apt during the kidnap episode and swayed the masses at large.
Naagadevate, a film based on prejudice and mythology, settled at second position.
The unpredictable choice of the audience in the Kannada film industry is responsible for the hotchpotch of themes that usually click with the masses. The industry failed to register a trend like its counterpart, Bollywood.
The success of Naagadevate was largely to its terrific graphics, thanks to the advanced technology in South Indian films. The film had Soundarya and Saikumar in the lead roles, with Prema in a supporting role.
Proving the unpredictability of the industry, the film in the third place is a triangular love story, Preetse, which is a remake of the Hindi film Darr.
The film stars Sonali Bendre as Kiran, while top rated stars, Shivrajkumar (son of Rajakumar), and Upendra don the roles of Sunny Deol and Shah Rukh Khan respectively.
The non-commercial film segment of the Kannada industry, which is usually the small budget film section, had its own share of limelight.
This year, Deveri, a film by debutant Kavita Lankesh, based on a novel, Akka, of her late father, P Lankesh, stood out for more reasons than one.
The film had Hindi film actress Nandita Das (of Fire and 1947 Earth fame), in the role of a prostitute. The film received much critical acclaim and was nominated for international screenings.
The other two films under this category, mooted for awards are Barguru Ramchandrappa’s Hagalu Veesha and director Sheshadri’s presentation of Kunji Mohammed's Malayalam novel, Munnudi.
Hagalu Veesha deals with a folk artiste who takes on the might of the British Raj, with Shivrajkumar playing the male lead. Munnudi has national award-winning actress Tara, projecting the cause of women empowerment in the secluded and tradition-bound Mangalorean community.
The film deals with marriage market of a Mangalorean community flooded by migratory grooms from the Gulf countries.
Spicing up the show business is sex. The controversial College Kanyaru, which changed its title due to the censors to Bombay Halwa to Bombat Halwa to Wah Wah Halwa is an obvious example.
Many such suggestive titles abound -- indicative of the content of the 80 per cent flops that are made in lure of a few quick big bucks:
Yarige Salutte Sambala: A comic galore on the middle class borrowing habits.
Maya Bazaar: Far from the fantasy, it depicts the lure and kidnap of Maya.
Hats of India: I guess the Kannada version of Iski Topi Uske Sar -- Uske Topi Iske Sar.
Ghup Chip: A thriller that flopped in silence.
Tickets Tickets: A corollary that a ticket is a necessity from birth to death.
Independence Day: Totally unlike its Hollywood name alike.
Perhaps the most telling one is Swalpa Adjust Madkolli.
This year's highlights also include a tremendously popular hit film Sparsha, a love story with newcomer Sudeep and Rekha, that stole hearts but left the producers with empty pockets!
On the other hand, Uttara Druvadin Dakshina Druvaku is another tale of romance driving home the real life story of the screen hero.
It grew in popularity because of its unique promotional campaign. In addition to posters and hoardings, autorickshaws, public transport buses and even bullock carts were made the means of propaganda. It was local politician MLA Chanapatna, Yogeshwar's brain wave -- "an idea that emerged out of concern to beautify and keep Bangalore clean," he quipped.
Good films like Deepavali and Indradhanush, didn't do too well, as they were victims of the unpredictable wave.
Three of Vishnuvardhan’s films Suryavamsha, Surappa and Yajamana, share a similar theme of a respectable man sacrificing his ideals and principles, to face bad times. They did well.
But the biggest surprise was the launch of an untitled Kannada film -- launched by the eccentric Upendra, known for his penchant for high drama. Huge, colourful glossy invitation cards, portraying two armour clad warriors announced the launch.
But posters proclaiming a release with no name at all stretched the propoganda too far. It caught the eye of Bangalore City Corporation and was scrapped from the walls.
Dr Rajakumar: He not only took the Kannada industry by storm but also found fame with the international audience with his infamous kidnap episode.
S Narayan: This young director had a home run with his second film Nannavalu Nannavalu. The first was Rajakumar’s
comeback film Shahdavedhi.
Vishnuvardhan: He was just plain lucky, as he held his ground against his arch competitors' popularity with Yajamana and Surappa.
Ravi Chandran: He made a comeback with O Nanna Nalle this year after a string of eight flops.
Tara: This actress is expecting yet another award for Munnudi this year.
Kavita Lankesh: A promising new entrant, though there was hardly any glamour in Deveri.
Sudharani: She still has the glitter to her name. She rose from a disastrous marriage to another union. Now she stands tall with Sparsha.
Malashri: This lady commissioner’s comeback trail with Chamundi was a whimper.
Ramesh: This popular star had no major credits.
Hollywood - Star Struck: This film hoped to rope in Aishwarya Rai, Manisha Koirala and the like for some glitz and glamour. But the project was shelved.
A first in the history of Kannada cinema: Producer - politician HD Kumaraswamy (Son of Ex PMHD Devegowda) had a long stint outdoor.
An entire team of 52 was in Marautius for a month to shoot 70 per cent of the film, Galate Aliandaru.
Kannada cinema has imported glamour from Bollywood this year. All major projects had its female lead from Bombay -- from Sonali Bendre in Preetse to Jayaprada in Shabdaveedhi.
Kannada cinema has introduced quite a few new faces in 2000:
Abhisarika in Indradanush.,
Reshama in Hagaluveesha,
Divya Pallate in Uttara Druvadind Dakshina Druvaku,
Isha Gopikar in O Nanna Nalle, and
Rachana in Preetesuvadalli Tappe Nilla.