Two Kannada hits bring cheer to movie biz

Clash that wasn't

People gather in large numbers to watch an evening show of 'Salaga' in Triveni theatre in Gandhinagar. DH PHOTO BY SK Dinesh

Producer Soorappa Babu is still reeling and responds in a feeble voice when asked about the controversy over the release of his Kannada action-drama ‘Kotigobba 3’. “I have learnt from this that I can’t trust anyone anymore blindly,” he told Showtime.  

In an unprecedented fiasco, a Kiccha Sudeep-blockbuster failed to hit the screens on the opening day (October 14) because of a financial dispute between Babu and his distributors. The film eventually got fresh distributors. 

Thus the much-hyped Dasara clash between ‘Salaga’ and ‘Kotigobba 3’ got a big twist when the former enjoyed a free run for a day. ‘Kotigobba 3’ was released on Saturday. A week later, the buzz in Sandalwood is that both films are hits.

Babu wants to take the legal route to recover his first-day losses. "I am facing the pain and consequences of the issue but by God’s grace, by looking at the film’s collections so far, I can say I am safe,” he says.

The last time Kannada cinema witnessed a box-office tussle was in 2016 when the Upendra-Sudeep starrer ‘Mukunda Murari’ took on Yash’s ‘Santhu Straight Forward’. Though the latter won the battle, its producer K Manju felt it could have fared better had it enjoyed a solo run. 

What happens when two big films are released on the same day? Does one eat into the other’s business? In this case, the perception of a massive clash was manufactured by the media, says senior film writer S Shiva Kumar. 

“In terms of the market, there is absolutely no comparison or competition between Sudeep and Duniya Vijay as we know who the bigger star is,” says Shiva Kumar.

This explains the solid run of ‘Kotigobba 3’ despite its starting trouble. Of course, conspiracy theories worked in its favour. “Fans showered extra love on the film. Women and children have loved the film,” says Babu.

Despite being the underdog, ‘Salaga’ has held its own and industry insiders say Duniya Vijay’s directorial could pull off a surprise by emerging as the box-office winner. ‘Salaga’ definitely beat ‘Kotigobba 3’ in planning. Producer K P Sreekanth, known for his promotional tactics, is posting happy messages on social media. 

Months before the film’s release, he put out videos of youngsters grooving to the songs of ‘Salaga’. “I have a strong network across Karnataka. ‘Dhodmane’ (Dr Rajkumar family) fans were with me in all promotional events,” he says. Vijay’s decision to release a promotional song, sung by the Siddhi tribe, was a masterstroke. Composed by Charan Raj, the high-energy number became a hit. 

Sreekanth was confident of tasting success. “Thankfully, we didn’t run into big non-Kannada releases. Both films found theatres,” he explains.

Both ‘Salaga’ and ‘Kotigobba 3’ have got more shows after the first weekend. “Many theatres screening Telugu films started playing ‘Salaga’ from Sunday. We got 20-25 extra shows. I haven’t signed an OTT deal yet as I am confident of ‘Salaga’ running well in theatres,” says Srikanth.  

People are flocking to the theatres braving heavy rains. With the pandemic relenting and the big-budget ‘Bhajarangi 2’ lined up next, the Kannada film industry is buzzing with activity again.

Gloom lifts for theatre owners

Two big Kannada films running to packed houses across Karnataka is good news for theatre owners, many of whom were on the verge of closing down.

“Both films enjoying full occupancy at 90 per cent of all centres for five days is a big development,” says K V Chandrashekar, chairman of Kannada Exhibitors Association. 

Big-ticket films like ‘Pogaru’, ‘Roberrt’ and ‘Yuvarathnaa’ released after the first wave of the pandemic. “‘Salaga’ and ‘Kotigobba 3’ opened better than those big films. This is mainly because of the long five-day Dasara weekend. Such a positive response took theatre owners by surprise,” he says.   

Darling Krishna’s ‘Shrikrishna@gmail.com’, the third Kannada film to release in the Dasara weekend, has tanked. “It was a big blunder because it is tough to get noticed amid two biggies. The film could have come a week later,” says Chandrashekar. 

Shivarajkumar-starrer ‘Bhajarangi 2’ is slated to hit the screens on October 29. “These two films are doing well. Maybe only around 10-20 per cent of their theatres will make way for ‘Bhajarangi 2’. Regular releases from the big stars  are good for exhibitors,” he says.