Tulu cinema unplugged

Regional films

Tulu cinema unplugged

At a time when many film producers and actors are struggling to survive and even the best films fail to cross the 50-day mark, a Tulu film has managed to complete 100 days in three theatres, 75 days in five theatres, and still continues to run in Mangaluru, Udupi and Mumbai theatres, a first as far as a Tulu movie is concerned.

Produced by Prakash Pandeshwar and directed by Veerendra Shetty Kavoor, the movie Chaalipolilu, a family entertainer which was completed with an investment of about Rs 60 lakh, has already collected more than Rs 2 crore at the box-office. In fact, Chaalipolilu is the 52nd Tulu film to be produced in the history of the Tulu film industry, starting from the first Tulu film Enna Thangadi.

Close on the heels of Chaalipolilu, Madime by Vijay Kumar Kodialbail also completed 100 days on February 27, 2015.

The Tulu film industry has seen many ups and downs right from its infancy in the 1970s. “You simply can’t compare or imagine those days,” recalls P Sanjeev Dandakeri, who had produced two evergreen movies (Bayya Mallige and Bolli Thota). “We had to go to Madras for everything, right from registration in the chamber, as no facilities were available in Bengaluru then,” he recalls.

Dandakeri is now reproducing Bayya Mallige, which is scheduled to be released in a couple of months. “This year also marks the 50th year of writing the story of Bayya Mallige,” an elated Dandakeri says.

Incidentally, popular actress Jayamala began her career in Tulu films. “I had gone to watch a play with my sister when film director Geetha Priya saw me and insisted that I act in his film. I was just 13 years old then. I acted in a Tulu film — Kaasdaye Kandani. This was followed by three more Tulu films — Yaan Sanyasi Aaape, Yer Malthina Thappu and Bayya Mallige.”

One of the USPs of Tulu films in the yesteryears are the songs, which are evergreen even to this day. One of the prominent names of lyricists is that of M K Seetharam Kulal, who had penned songs for most of the early Tulu movies.

Be it “Mokeda Singari” (Pagetha Puge), “Saaro varsala sukane padela” (Udalda Tudar), “Appe Manas Bangara” and “Brahmana baravu majande ponda” (both from Bayya Mallige), and “Parashuramana kudarig puttina tulunaad” (Bolli Dota) among others.

Interestingly, Kulal has not taken a single penny for writing lyrics for any Tulu movie or play. “Recently, a young man had come to pay me for writing two songs and I humbly refused, since I consider it as a service to the language,” says a humble Kulal. “Those days, poetry was given top priority, while these days heavy music has taken over, leaving little room for literature,” he adds.

A discussion on Tulu films is incomplete without the mention of Koti-Chennayya, produced by Muddu Suvarna and directed by Vishu Kumar. It is also the first Tulu movie to run for 100 days. The film with a strong storyline of the twin heroes of Tulunadu — Koti and Chennayya, who lived between 1556 and 1591, had excellent songs too.

K N Taylor is one name which figures prominently in the world of Tulu films as he was associated (produced/acted/scripted) with 10 Tulu films. “Be it Tulu plays or films, Taylor’s name figured on every platform those days,” recalls T A Srinivas, who was the only distributor for movies in Mangaluru then.

Srinivas still believes that a good movie can be produced for less than Rs 50 lakh. On the other hand, he said that there was a time when theatre owners would think twice before screening a Tulu movie, wherein now theatres are waiting to screen a Tulu movie.

Tulu movies have not lagged behind in winning awards. Right from Bisatti Babu, produced in 1972, which won the ‘Best Tulu film’ awarded by the State government, to Suddha, which won the Best Film award in the Indian competition section at the Osian’s Cinefan Festival of Asian and Arab cinema, many Tulu films have won awards.

The second phase of Tulu cinema began with Richard Castelino, when his movie Bangar Patler, produced in 1993 and starring Sudha Rani and Kasargod Chinna, bagged the highest national and international awards. His other film September 8 (1994) featuring Kannada actor Sunil and litterateur Shivram Karanth was shot in 24 hours in Mangalore, perhaps a record in world cinema.

Though a few Tulu films were produced between 1994 and 2011, they failed to make any impact until the then-popular Tulu play Oriyardori Asal (2011) by Vijaykumar Kodialbail was made into a film. The film starring popular Tulu stage actors Devdas Kapikad, Naveen D Padil, Arvind Bolar and Rekha Das was a runaway success. This only goes to show that there is a future for Tulu movies, if it can be handled properly.

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