A season of slick thrillers

Five Kannada films have made money in 2018 so far and more exciting fare is lined up in the coming months

Tagaru

With a subdued showing in the first half of the year, the Kannada film industry is looking forward to more excitement in the next six months.

It’s been a slow start with only five films managing to taste big success without compromising on quality.

Some films showed promise, but didn’t go on to become hits: execution, and not the content, was the problem. However, films lined up for the rest of the year could become game-changers for the industry.

Suri’s Tagaru has been the biggest hit so far. When the talented director’s Doddmane Hudga disappeared without a trace, it was hard to understand what he was up to. Just after giving us Kendasampige, an intelligent thriller, he made Doddmane, an aimless film conforming to a trademark formula.

A good film-maker reinvents himself. Suri has done that. A master at screenplay writing, he got back to the drawing board and learnt more about world cinema. And then Tagaru happened.

Tagaru is a tough film to make. Suri’s non-linear narration and Deepu S Kumar’s top class editing kept the audience hooked. While Maasthi’s dialogues were a huge hit with the youngsters, Charan Raj’s music showed what a composer could do when given complete freedom. The underrated Dhananjay, who hit it out of the park as the wicked Dolly, finally got his due. Shivarajkumar, the ageless actor, effortlessly added value to his role of a troubled cop. Tagaru has crossed the 125-day mark. With vision and hard work, Suri’s team proves that it is possible to produce massive hits, even in an era of piracy and online streaming.

Theme: ID theft

Refreshingly, 2018 has also been a year of newcomers. But no debutant film made as much impact as Janardhan Chikkanna’s Gultoo. Towards the end of the first half of this cyber thriller, I was puzzled about all the hype around it. Gultoo takes its own sweet time to get to the crux of the story. You are restless till the interval. After that, Chikkanna turns the film on its head. Gultoo transforms into a first-rate thriller with a satisfying dose of drama. I was amazed at the control in the narration and Chikkanna’s unique direction style. Without dumbing down the story, he ends Gultoo on a high.

With Gultoo, it became evident that word-of-mouth plays a big role in a film’s success. It also reiterates the importance of promoting films ahead of their release. The casting of Pawan Kumar, pioneer of a fresh new wave of Kannada cinema, was a masterstroke. His presence gave Gultoo the required traction.

Chikkanna must thank the Kannada audience for being receptive to an out-of-the-box story. Smaller gems like Churikatte, Krishna Tulasi and Vanilla missed out because of their inability to reach out and promote their films before their release.

Set in the ’80s

Dayal Padmanabhan’s Aa Karaala Ratri, a thriller set in the 1980s, is a reminder that book-to-screen adaptations can click even in the mainstream setting. Kendasampige’s popularity, three years ago, is a case in point.

Aa Karaala Ratri, adapted from Mohan Habbu’s play of the same name, is an engaging film. Dayal’s screenplay doesn’t meander. Barring a song, there isn’t a dull moment, thanks largely to Naveen Krishna’s crisp dialogue. Rangayana Raghu, an actor fighting the curse of stereotype, pulls out another trick from his bag.

Anupama Gowda has made a good transition from the small screen. She is brilliant and it would be interesting to see if any actress will match up to her assured performance this year.

Other hits like Rambo 2 and Raju Kannada Medium deserve mention. The re-release of Nagarahavu (1972), Puttana Kanagal’s classic, has given Sandalwood the perfect momentum as it goes into the second half of the year. “We are getting good crowds even on weekdays,” said the man at the ticket counter at Veeresh theatre.

Nagarahavu is one of Kannada cinema’s proudest creations. Its characters are immortal. The film’s theme and subtexts are still relevant. A big shout-out to actor V Balaji for restoring the film! Nagarahavu turns out to be a pleasantly nostalgic experience with the new 7.1 surround sound and smart re-recording of the background score.

Anup’s big miss

The year’s biggest miss is Anup Bhandari’s Rajaratha. His near-flawless Rangitharanga had raised massive expectations but he faltered with Rajaratha, a middling road film. Tarak didn’t help Darshan regain his status of box-office king.

Kannada cinema broke new ground and made other industries look up to it in 2016 with films like U Turn, Thithi, Godhi Banna Sadharana Mykattu and Rama Rama Re. Looking at the films lined up this year, there is good potential this year as well.

What’s Coming

First up is Katheyondu Shuruvagide, produced by the quality-hungry Pushkara Mallikarjunaiah. Prem, one of Sandalwood’s biggest blockbuster directors, is ready with The Villain, starring Shivarajkumar and Sudeep. KGF, the magnum opus starring Yash, is nearing completion. Rishab Shetty’s Sarkari Hi.Pra.Shaale, Kasaragodu and Avane Srimannarayana, with Rakshit Shetty in the lead, have also generated curiosity. For now, fans of Kannada films are keeping their fingers crossed.

Hits so far

Tagaru (Suri)
Gultoo (JanardhanChikkanna)
Aa Karaala Ratri (Dayal Padmanabhan)
Rambo 2 (Anil Kumar)
Nagarahavu (Puttanna Kanagal)

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A season of slick thrillers

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