Crucial two months for Kannada film industry

Crucial two months for Kannada film industry

'777 Charlie', starring Rakshit Shetty, will release on the last day of 2021.

In mid-April this year, a couple of weeks after the release of late Puneeth Rajkumar’s ‘Yuvarathnaa’, theatres were locked up for the second time. For the next couple of months, there were no Kannada releases and although theatres opened up with 50% occupancy in August, because of the remnant Covid fear and the low profile releases, most of these movie halls were just rows of empty seats.

September had two releases with known faces — ‘Lanke’ and ‘Puksatte Lifu’ — but even they failed to turn things around despite the latter garnering some appreciation.

All eyes were set on October and the much-awaited 100% occupancy. ‘Ninna Sanihake’, which had sufficient celebrity push, may not have rung the cash register hard enough but did help the audience warm-up a wee bit for the biggies like ‘Kotigobba 3’ (K3) and ‘Salaga’.

The floodgates have opened and apparently around 50 films have lined up for release before the year ends — shocking!

Naturally, this has been the season of press meets, pre-events and success meets. Everything is fair in business and its promotions. But it also makes business sense, to define success more objectively, for its own profitable sustenance. How wise is it to just bank on ‘the first weekend’ phenomenon?

‘Salaga’ and ‘K3’ were not unanimously accepted. They catered only to certain sets of the audience and as expected, did well in the long weekend of five days. However, if the seat availability in ticketing websites is to be believed, the reception over the weekdays, atleast in Bengaluru, has been average.

The ‘A’ certified ‘Salaga’ was obviously not family-friendly. It may have turned out to be a profitable outing for the producer but that’s primarily because it had edgy stuff that, pardon the generalisation, the ‘B’ and ‘C’ centre audience may have enjoyed.

On the contrary, ‘K3’ was the typical formulaic family entertainer, which received mixed responses and didn’t blow the roof off contrary to expectations. 

Considering the positive reception for ‘Ikkat’, a lockdown comedy released in July and the blockbuster success of the latest release ‘Rathnan Prapancha’, OTT platforms could soon become viable for Kannada films as well.

It may just take one big star’s film to release directly on OTT to make some major needle-shifts. And when that happens, a film like ‘Puksatte Lifu’ may get its due at least on OTT platforms. Also, the industry can avoid unwanted theatrical clashes and the consequent conspiracy theories.

Looking at the upcoming releases, October will close with Shivarajkumar’s ‘Bhajarangi 2’, touted as an action fantasy. In November, there is ‘Premam Poojyam’ with ‘love revisited’ as the tagline, Suni’s ‘Sakkath’, the promising ‘Garuda Gamana Vrishabha Vahana’, and in December, Rakshit Shetty’s ‘777 Charlie’ and Dhananjaya’s ‘Badava Rascal’. We may also see Suni’s other film ‘Avatar Purusha’ and the big-budgeted ‘Madagaja’ joining the race.

Most of these films, if not all, were started pre-Covid, so the kind of content and genre may not be very unfamiliar to us. However, if the Kannada film industry (KFI) is attentive and intentional, the last quarter of this year may offer some critical learnings.

In this OTT age, it is very important that both the creators and the funders not only assess the merit of their content but also correctly lineup ‘horses for courses’. If KFI continues to rely on the old-school theatre-pride and promotions, unfortunately the outcome could be similar to what happened with Darling Krishna’s ‘’, which got lost in the crowd.

It may be worthy to note that in November, a good chunk of the shows will be grabbed by Rajinikanth’s ‘Annaatthe’ and Akshay Kumar’s ‘Sooryavanshi’, and in December by Allu Arjun’s ‘Pushpa’ and sports biographical film ‘83’.

(The author is a freelancer who writes on film and entertainment). 

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