Glorious days again for Kannada films

It’s celebration time for Bengaluru film makers: Kannada films have won an all-time high of 12 National Awards, restoring to the industry the pride of the 1970s era

Film-makers in Bengaluru are elated: Kannada films have bagged 12 National Awards, including two for non-feature films. This is the highest ever the industry has won, they say.

In 2018, the Kannada film industry produced the highest number of films for any language in India, beating Bollywood and Telugu.

That statistic was welcomed with trepidation, with industry insiders saying quantity should not overtake quality. However, the honours at the national level show quality hasn’t been a casualty. 

Nagathihalli Chandrashekar, past president of the Karnataka Chalanachitra Academy and director of such hits as ‘America America’ and ‘Amritadhare’, is thrilled. “The awards show that Kannada film industry is capable of producing high quality films,” he told Metrolife.

The films now gaining recognition have been screened at all prominent film festivals across the country, he says. “We organised panel discussions and honoured these directors. These films highlight the cream of creativity in the Kannada film industry,” he says.

The 1970s were considered the golden era of Kannada cinema. Films made back then won acclaim at the national level. The glory has returned after a slump, many say. Girish Kasaravalli, director of critically acclaimed, award-winning films, says, “Most award winners this time are newcomers. This is also the first time ever that we have won an award in the editing category (‘Nathicharami’ won an award for Best Editing).” Kasaravalli thinks the recognition could pave the way overall for better films.  

Producer and director Rajendra Singh Babu seeks bigger subsidies for film-makers who have proved themselves by winning national awards. “How will you differentiate between regular filmmakers and the big award winners if you give them the same subsidy?” says Babu, who has also helmed the Karnataka Chalanachitra Academy.

He also makes out a case for exclusive cinema halls to screen unconventional cinema, ruing that among the award-winning films, only ‘Sarkari Hiriya Prathamika Shaale..’. ran for many days. 

‘Sarkari Hiriya Prathamika Shaale’ crossed the 100-day mark and proves that good cinema can also be commercially viable, many say.
 An elated Anant Nag, who essayed the role of a teacher in the film, believes it is the children who really carried it on their shoulders. “Director Rishab Shetty worked tirelessly on the film. A content-driven film running successfully for so many days was satisfying. It had the three Es---entertainment, education and enlightenment,” he told Metrolife. 

Anant recalls the ’70s when Karnataka made a series of well-received arthouse films. “We won so many national awards and gained worldwide recognition. But in the ’90s, we fell behind and people were wondering what was happening in the Kannada film industry. But now, that glorious past has been revived. Meaningful films are doing well,” he says.

What they are about

Ondalla Eradalla (Best film on national integration): Tells the story of a Muslim boy and a cow.

Nathicharami (*Best Kannada Film): A young techie is torn between her love for her dead husband and her sexual desire.

Sarkari Hiriya Prathamika Shaale, Kasaragodu (Best children’s film): A Kannada-medium school in Kasargod, across the Karnataka border in Kerala, struggles for survival. Its story is told in a comic, ironic mode.

Sarala Virala, a documentary by Ere Gowda on the life of recently deceased organic farmer Narayan Reddy, has bagged the best educational film award in the non-feature category.

Many risks involved

D Satya Prakash, director of Ondalla Eradalla, bagged the Nargis Dutt Award for Best Feature Film on National Integration. He was aware a story about a Muslim boy and a cow was enough to trigger controversy. “Narrating the story through the eyes of a seven-year-old child, keeping intact the sensitivity and retaining the innocence, was a huge challenge,” he says.

No repetitions and imitations

Mansore, director of Nathicharami, is thrilled it has won five awards. His film deals sensitively with the loneliness and sexual angst of a young widow. All Kannada films that won awards this year have bypassed regular formulas and tried new approaches, he told Metrolife. “There are no repetitions or imitations in any of the films. This award is also proof that the jury accepts content of this sort,” Mansore says. The award-winning films have worked with new actors and taken up stories that impact the lives of ordinary people, he says.

Heart-warming story

Director Rishab Shetty’s heartwarming film ‘Sarkari Hiriya Prathamika Shale...’ has won a national award for ‘best children’s film.’ He says winning a national award in India is like winning an Oscar. “It is the highest recognition any filmmaker can get. After the success of ‘Kirik Party’, I wanted to work on a project that stood out for its content and narrative. This is the conviction with which I worked on ‘Sarkari Hiriya Prathamika Shale,’ he says. He says that he would like to dedicate this award to children studying in Kannada medium government schools. “I studied in a government school in Keradi in Kundapura and relate to everything narrated in the script. This project took me back to my school days.” He points out that the situation shown in the film is prevalent in all government schools across the country. “I have narrated the story from the children’s point of view. I have also touched on serious questions of how children cope with new languages. We have looked into how English is taking the place of the mother tongue and how that affects culture in the long run.” He says.

The awards

Special Mention: Sruthi Hariharan (Nathicharami)

Best Kannada Film: Nathicharami

Best special effect: KGF: Chapter 1 (Kannada)

Best action: KGF: 
Chapter 1

Best lyrics: Manjutha for Nathicharami

Best editing: Nathicharami, directed by Mansore

Best Female Playback singer: Bindu Mani for Mayavi Manave from Nathicharami

Nargis Dutt Award for Best Feature Film on National Integration:  Ondalla Eradalla  by D Satya Prakash. 

Best educational film in the non-feature category: Sarala Virala by Ere Gowda.

Special mention in the short film category: Mahaan Hutatma, directed by Sagar Puranik

Best children’s film: Sarkari Hiriya Prathamika Shaale, Kasaragodu, directed by Rishab Shetty.

Selected for the National Film Archives: Mookajjiya Kanasugalu by P Sheshadri.

 

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