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Bottleneck effect: The state of Kannada film releases

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Kannada film industry faces a problem of plenty and poor management where releases are concerned

Kannada film industry faces a problem of plenty and poor management where releases are concerned

One of the best things about the festival season in India is the barrage of movies released around that time, often making it difficult to choose which ones to watch first. However, for the Kannada film industry, this problem of plenty results in films being released in a haphazard manner — much to the woe of small budget movie makers.

It is the practice for big-time producers to block release dates in advance, while those with humbler means struggle for publicity. “This is certainly detrimental to the interests of small budget films which get edged out not only by big budget Kannada movies but also by other language films dubbed in Kannada, sporting a stellar star cast,” says M. Jagadeesh, one of the major film distributors in the State.

Dog-eat-dog world

It seems technology has a role to play in this sorry state of affairs. With the advent of new digital filmmaking technology and the streaming films, it is challenging to regularise and streamline releases. A leading filmmaker, who spoke on condition of anonymity said, “Most production houses want to collect as much revenue as possible in the first week itself by releasing their films in as many theatres as possible.”

As a fallout of this unstructured method of releasing movies, only five big-budget movies of the 110 films released in the last eight months succeeded at the box office, says N R Nanjunde Gowda, President of Karnataka Film Directors’ Association.

Film fans gather at Santhosh theatre for Kannada film Robert in March 2021. PHOTO : SUDHAKARA JAIN / THE HINDU.

The problem is not unique to Kannada cinema; it is a pan-Indian phenomenon, says Thomas D’Souza, a member of the South Indian Film Chamber of Commerce (SIFCC). “Despite streaming platforms gaining acceptance, most filmmakers and stars prefer a theatrical release as a validation of their stardom and consider digital platforms to be beneath them.”

To counter this, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Hindi movie producers, announce the release date on the day of the muhurtam (the first shot). However, filmmakers in Karnataka still announce the release date only after the completion of the film, making it tougher for films made on a shoestring-to-moderate budget to fix the dates of their releases.

Solution at hand

The Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce (KFCC) has formed a committee, roping in former KFCC presidents to formulate a plan for the release of films. “The committee will streamline releases keeping in mind big, small and medium scale films. Besides preventing a glut which will confuse audiences, this system will protect the interest of producers too. However, the committee will only advise and not impose its idea,” said Ba Ma. Harish, President KFCC.

PHOTO : SUDHAKARA JAIN / THE HINDU.

PHOTO : SUDHAKARA JAIN / THE HINDU.

There is a good lineup of Kannada movies awaiting release in late September and October.  Gandhada Gudi, Puneet Rajkumar’s last film (a docudrama directed by Amoghavarsha ), Benaras by Jayateertha,  Guru Shishyaru with Sharan in the lead role, Rishabh Shetty’s Kanthaara and  Headbush starring Dolly Dhananjaya. Besides all these, there is the much-awaited  Ponniyin Selvan  Part 1, the epic period film by Mani Rathnam, set to hit screens on September 30.

Many believe the streamlining of releases will also help filmmakers, giving their films enough time to reach audiences. “Over 200 films have been lined up for release till December. A proper release formula will help every kind of producer,” says Praveen Kumar M, President Karnataka Film Producers’ Association (KFPA).

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