Kannada is India's No 1 film industry

The highest number of films were made in Sandalwood last year

In 2018, 243 Kannada films were released. About 15-20 films release in Bengaluru every week, and Kannada competes with the Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam industries.

India is the world’s biggest producer of films, and in India, the highest number of films were made in Kannada last year.

A total of 1,776 films were released in 2018, with Kannada being the most prolific language, followed by Hindi and Telugu.

Some filmmakers see this as a positive sign: people are willing to invest in cinema, despite the uncertain nature of the business. Others feel the numbers increase the clamour for theatres, and affect the chances of Kannada films competing effectively with other-language films.

Nagathihalli Chandrashekar, chairman of Suchitra Cinema and Cultural Academy, believes the market for Kannada films is growing, and digital platforms and overseas releases are adding to its reach, but numbers aren’t everything.

“As a filmmaker and representative of the state’s Chalanachitra Academy chairman, I am not happy. Numbers are not connected with quality,” he says.

About 15-20 films release in Bengaluru every week, and Kannada competes with the Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam industries. It shouldn’t scatter its energies, he suggests.

Subsidies and awards are encouraging new filmmakers, but that also means people come and go without thinking long-term. Directors and others in the industry could use their associations to restrict numbers, he says. 

D R Jairaj, president of the Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce, is against the idea of quality checks. “The chamber can’t do anything. We have experienced directors and producers and can offer suggestions, but beyond that, we can’t restrict anything,” he says.

Not everyone sees the numbers negatively. Hemanth Rao, director of critically acclaimed hit films such as Godhi Banna Sadharana Mykattu and Kavaludari, believes high numbers suggest good health. “It means there is enough money for films in the market,” he says.

What is not good is that even a fourth of the films don’t recover their money. 
“If people lose money, they won’t continue. It is thus important for one to prepare before venturing out,” he says. He is against regulation of quantity or even quality. 

“Not all films can be art films. It is dangerous to say one should get a script approved before shooting. On what parameters can one decide one film will work and another won’t? Times and formats change, and people accept change now,” says Hemanth. 

Director Jayathirtha, who recently made Bell Bottom, a comedy with a 1980s look, says falling production costs are encouraging new filmmakers.

“Nowadays, people have access to good cameras. Filmmakers feel they can compete with 4k resolution film quality. But quality matters a lot,” he says.

He says the way forward is to think of ‘world competition.’ “There are films in other languages and formats. One should strive to make films that work on any platform,” he says.

Bell Bottom made on a budget of Rs 3.5 crore (including publicity), and it has collected about Rs 15 crore. Released in February, it is still drawing crowds at the theatres. “It is a technician’s film and all we had hoped for was that it would recover the costs,” Jayathirtha says. 

Many aspiring filmmakers ask him for a chance to work with him.

“Within weeks they are inspired to start their own projects. I don’t think this is healthy. One should understand the nuances of filmmaking before setting out,” he says. 

Big 3

  • Kannada 243
  • Hindi 238
  • Telugu 23
    (Films made in 2018; total in India 1,776)

Quality films struggle
Girish Kasaravalli, known across India and elsewhere for his sensitive films, says the demand for screens gets more intense with increased numbers. 

“Filmmakers like me never get any support from the industry. Many of our films are not released because of a shortage of theatres,” he says.

Ballpark investments
When a Kannada film is made with big names like Shivarajkumar, Yash, Darshan, and Puneeth, it crosses a budget of Rs 20 crore. The minimum budget a serious production house puts in for a film is Rs 3.5 crore. Small films are made with as little as Rs 20 lakh. 
---Jayathirtha, director

Stats source
The numbers were collated for the FICCI-EY Media & Entertainment Report 2019. It is an annual report. This year’s edition provides insight to the media and entertainment industry and helps understand last year’s performance and takes stock of emerging market dynamics.

Why more films

  • Cameras are cheaper to buy and hire
  • Production costs have come down
  • Govt provides awards and subsidies
  • New filmmakers venture out without worry
  • Enough spare money in the market


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