Kannada girls back in a big way

Once dominated by imported heroines, the Kannada film industry is now ruled by talented beauties from Karnataka. A special Rajyotsava feature
Last Updated 25 October 2019, 13:54 IST

If you follow South Indian films, you will have seen how many of our heroines hail from Mumbai and Delhi. While Telugu and Tamil industries continue to bank on leading ladies from the northern states, the Kannada industry is now banking largely on Karnataka talent.

At least till the 1980s, the big Kannada hits had heroines hailing from Karnataka. Kalpana (‘Sharapanjara’, ‘Eradu Kanasu’), Arathi (‘Shubhamangala’, ‘Ranganayaki’), Manjula (‘Sampattige Saval’, ‘Mayura’) and Jayanthi (‘Edakallu Guddada Mele’, ‘Bahaddur Gandu’) were among the most sought-after artistes in the industry.

Kannada heroines have scored big across many languages. B Saroja Devi and Bharathi are among those who acted not just in Kannada but also in Hindi and Tamil blockbusters, and opposite the top stars in those languages.

In the 1990s, Sandalwood began importing heroines from the north in a big way, and the trend continued for nearly two decades. But the tide has turned. For the past two years, top heroines are from Karnataka. They are also in the top league in Telugu.

Ashika Ranganath, often called Karnataka’s crush, hails from Netravati in Dakshina Kannada district. She rose to fame in ‘Mugulu Nage’ and then went on to do ‘Rambo’ and ‘Raju Kannada Medium’. With a huge fan following on social media, she has stuck to Kannada films and not ventured out. Her upcoming films include ‘Avatara Purusha’ and ‘Raymo’. She had a Telugu film offer, but the dates didn’t work out.

Known to give Kannada films priority, Ashika says, “This is the language I grew up speaking and I’m confident and comfortable in it. I’m a Kannadathi and I love my mother tongue. When I see other industries produce good films, I feel we should do likewise. Also, when Kannada films like ‘KGF’ do well across the country, I feel so proud,” she says.

Another Kannadathi who’s rocking the big screen with her diverse roles is Hariprriya. She is one who can carry an entire movie on her shoulders. Her upcoming film ‘Kannad Gothilla’ sees her playing a cop.

“I always wanted someone with the body language of a police officer. Not all heroines can pull off a glam cop’s role, so I chose Hariprriya. It also helps that she’s a Kannadathi well-versed with the language,” says director Mayura Raghavendra.

Many heroines from the North have made a name here. Juhi Chawla (‘Premaloka’, 1987), Khushboo (‘Ranadheera’, 1988) and Shilpa Shetty (‘Auto Shankar’, 2005) were among Kannada cinema’s glamorous imports.

Later, Pooja Gandhi (‘Mungaru Male’, 2006), Nikitha Thukral, Parul Yadav and Shanvi Srivastava made a mark here.

Ramya, Rakshitha and Radhika Pandit, all native actors, took over and delivered big hits in the years that followed. They were followed by another crop of talented heroines. Rashmika Mandanna, whose brand value has shot up after her tryst with Telugu films, made her debut in Kannada with the blockbuster hit ‘Kirik Party’ (2016). She later acted in ‘Chamak’ (2017) and ‘Yajamana’ (2019), and is now acting in ‘Pogaru’ opposite Dhruva Sarja.

The Kodava beauty continues to do films in her home state despite her massive success in Telugu.

She is in demand in the Tamil industry, too.

“Like Ashika, Rachita Ram is another actress seen only in Kannada films so far. She’s a hardcore Kannadathi,” says
Mayura, of the heroine of ‘Ranna’ (2015) and ‘Natasarvabhouma’ (2019).

Among those on the rise is Manvitha Kamath from Mangaluru. She shot to fame with ‘Kenda Sampige’, and went on to act in ‘Tagaru’. She will be seen in ‘India vs England’ and ‘Daari Thappida Maga’, among other projects.

The feisty Shraddha Srinath was born in J&K and has lived across India, thanks to her family’s army background, but her heart is Bengalurean and her mother tongue is Kannada.

Shraddha is known both for her acting skills and her intellect. After making her debut in ‘U-Turn’ and appearing in ‘Urvi’, she went on to do ‘Operation Alamelamma’. She will next be seen in Rishabh Shetty’s ‘Rudraprayag’. Shraddha has also found fame in the Tamil and Telugu industries.

With Karnataka beauties ruling the big screen, it’s a matter of pride that they are also much sought after in other languages. The challenge, now, for Kannada cinema is to offer them scripts that bring out the best in them.

(Published 25 October 2019, 13:54 IST)

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