25 Greatest Kannada Films Of The Decade

Karthik Keramalu

Kannada cinema is slowly coming out of the rut it has been stuck in for the last few decades. However, it’ll take some more time before people from all over the world begin to wait with bated breath to catch the First Day First Show of a Kannada film, starring newbies. Nevertheless, the trend of well-made parallel films looks like it is here to stay in the Bengaluru-based industry. There seems to be no going back now. Onward and upward!

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Aptharakshaka (2010)

Director: P. Vasu

Vishnuvardhan breathed his last in December 2009, and this film showed up in theatres in February 2010. The mood of film-goers in Karnataka was surreal, to say the least. Most theatres in the State screened the movie to full houses, and the hype was worth it. Though, it didn’t move ahead of its predecessor (Apthamitra 2004), it had enough strength to stand on its own feet.

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Kanasembo Kudureyaneri (2010)

Director: Girish Kasaravalli

The word kanasu (dream) in the title is important to the narrative as the protagonists often get dreams that give them solutions to the problems they’re facing. While the husband’s a gravedigger and the wife’s a farmworker, their superstitious beliefs are what make the story interesting. Vaijanath Biradar and Umashree slip into the roles of a poor middle-aged couple whose faces have not seen a bucket of water in a long time, and whose clothes have lost their sheen. And what takes the film a few notches higher is the director’s idea of shuffling the order of scenes (non-linear, in a way).

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Sanju Weds Geetha (2011)

Director: Nagashekar

Sanju Weds Geetha is dedicated to the darling of 80s’ Kannada cinema, Shankar Nag. The movie became the talk of town when it released, for it had become another star in the galaxy of romantic tragedies (the first one was, obviously, Mungaru Male). And just like MM, this film, too, was mostly shot in the pristine hills of the Western Ghats. The greenery and the rains added sheen to the love story of two young people who had nothing but hope to cling on to as life tossed about various challenges at them.

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Govindaya Namaha (2012)

Director: Pawan Wadeyar

You may forget this film 20 or 30 years down the line, but you’ll never be able to keep yourself away from the trippy song, ‘Pyarge Aagbittaite’. Though Komal had starred as the lead in a few films before Govindaya Namaha, this comedy drama made the industry take notice of his growing popularity. Parul Yadav, too, became an instant sensation. Though the movie was remade by the same filmmaker in Telugu with bigger stars, it couldn’t replicate the magic of the original.


Krantiveera Sangolli Rayanna (2012)

Director: Naganna

History usually gets twisted and altered for consumption by the masses. This biographical film, like the recently released Telugu drama Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy, wasn’t just about patriotism. It was also about painting the British as villains that the Indians had to get rid of to take the country to greater heights. No other film from this decade is as explosively-determined as this in the idea of a free nation.

Ala Modalaindi

Bharath Stores (2013)

Director: P. Sheshadri

There’s a scene where a person, who once begged a grocery store owner to lend him goods on credit, offers him a job a couple of years later. The camera captures the dilemma, anger, and sheer helplessness of the owner vividly. After all, he used to mint money once upon a time. But, now, he can’t even pay the electricity bill to keep his shop up and running. This little moment becomes the crux of the movie, and that’s how you fully understand the impact of the entry of big-chain retailers in India.


Lucia (2013)

Director: Pawan Kumar

This film pushed the boundaries of parallel cinema. If the trend of new-wave is alive and thriving in Karnataka, it all started with this movie. The storytelling, cast and crew and the way the film was made were fresh. The best part? It was entirely crowd-funded and paved the way for young filmmakers to explore this route, across languages. The film was all about firsts and freshness.


6-5=2 (2013)

Director: K. S. Ashoka

Would you watch a movie that was shot by a person who died while trying to film his escape and that of some friends from a forest? This found footage horror thriller, which was advertised as a documentary shot by a guy named Late Ramesh, took the audience by storm. Many people initially thought that the advertisements were true! It didn’t take too much time to unearth the truth behind the quirky ad campaign, but the makers made it be known that they took the road less travelled.

Prema Katha Chitram

Ugramm (2014)

Director: Prashanth Neel

Prashanth Neel’s directorial debut is loud, chaotic, and one-of-its-kind. This stylish action drama catapulted everybody associated with it to overnight stardom. Who would have thought that a bunch of ear-splitting dialogues could be stitched together to make a gripping film? You cannot stop quoting at least one line after watching this testosterone-fuelled bonanza. Here’s a sample: Vishnuvina thaalme irli, aadre Narasimhana kopa yaavathu maribeda (You can have the patience of Vishnu, but you should never forget the anger of Narasimha).

Swamy Ra Ra

Ulidavaru Kandanthe (2014)

Director: Rakshit Shetty

If you think that Rakshit Shetty belongs to an elite section of actor-writer-directors in Kannada cinema, you aren’t wrong. He may have begun his journey starring in forgettable films, but the path he chose after crossing those hurdles is commendable. The movie, which unfolds through the Rashomon effect, is a modern classic that’ll keep adding fans and theories as the decades roll on. The dialogues too, like in Ugramm, are worth remembering and being quoted in everyday conversations.

Oohalu Gusagusalade

RangiTaranga (2015)

Director: Anup Bhandari

The Bhandari brothers, with Anup as director and Nirup as actor, created a fun thriller where the deceits were cleverly hidden. Though the newcomers – Anup, Radhika Narayan, and Avantika Shetty – delivered solid performances, Sai Kumar’s chilling one-man show in the final half hour was the highlight of the film. The scene where he asks his wife about the other man in her life is hilarious and scary in equal measure. He brings the roof down with his cries and non-stop babbling. It’s a master-class in acting.


Kendasampige (2015)

Director: Soori

What can go wrong when two young lovers take to their heels? Well, everything (not in the movie, though)! With Jayant Kaikini’s mellifluous lyrics driving the story, Kendasampige slowly opens up to the viewers, like the lines on a brown leaf that begin to become visible under the gaze of the morning sun. The best performer in the film, Manvitha Harish, should have gone places by now for her superb turn as the starry-eyed girlfriend, but she hasn’t hit that peak yet.


Kiragoorina Gayyaligalu (2016)

Director: D. Sumana Kittur

This is a pretty straightforward tale about how Indians easily get divided in the name of caste and superstition, but I wish the film had focussed a bit more on the bonhomie among the women folk of Kiragooru. If the beliefs in Kanasembo Kudureyaneri made the couple recheck its way of handling day-to-day activities, in Kiragoorina Gayyaligalu, some fake swamis get a taste of their own medicine for spreading hatred. Actually, this is also a “message” movie, but you’ll not notice it until the climactic shot.


Thithi (2016)

Director: Raam Reddy

The best dialogue of Thithi, apart from the dozen-odd ones that talk about the greedy nature of the younger generation, is the one that involves the love for meat in small towns, “There’s meat for lunch… If more people join us, we’ll get less meat.” You have to remember that this is the thithi (funeral) lunch of the talkative Century Gowda. Of course, nobody is worried about the fact that the old man, who lived more than a hundred years, is dead. They’re only bothered about diving into a plate of spicy mutton as soon as possible.

Krishna Gaadi Veera Prema Gaadha

Godhi Banna Sadharana Mykattu (2016)

Director: Hemanth M. Rao

Anant Nag should have rightfully won all the Kannada – and Indian – cinema awards for his role in this movie. He’s one of the best actors of the nation, at the moment. Watch it, and you’ll definitely tear up when he pauses and stutters while narrating his love story, remembering bits and pieces from his muddled memory. It made for among the grandest moments of acting and directing (the scene breathes, waits for you to take it all in) in this decade. It’s a coming together of great forces.


Kirik Party (2016)

Director: Rishab Shetty

College romances were a cliché in the 80s and 90s, but Kirik Party didn’t follow the rules set up by them. The usual bits, related to ragging and falling in love with seniors, were there, but it went beyond those zones wonderfully. From ‘Katheyonda Helide’ to ‘Kaagadada Doniyalli’, you can find a song for every mood. Or, if you prefer a song for every day of the week from the album, that’d work, too.


Shuddhi (2017)

Director: Adarsh Eshwarappa

A non-linear screenplay that keeps you guessing the beginning, middle and end might have sounded good on paper. But translating that grandness, without losing any of the grittiness of a crime thriller, to the screen is an even more meticulous task, and that’s where Adarsh scores brownie points. Shuddhi shattered many notions of how a woman-centric film could be and boldly ventured into uncharted territory without having any A-list star in the cast.

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Ondu Motteya Kathe (2017)

Director: Raj B. Shetty

When a 20-something lecturer loses hope of getting married because of his balding pate, it’s time to play a Rajkumar song. Well, that’s what the hero thinks. This is a classic example of how tragedy can be milked for humour. The laughs are natural and not crass, since the duties of writing, acting, and directing are handled by Shetty himself. Allow me to stretch Generation Z’s favourite acronym “Lol” further; this is the “Lollest” film of the decade.


Humble Politician Nograj (2018)

Director: Saad Khan

Humble Politician Nograj isn’t a two-plus hour TikTok video, but it mostly looks like one, as the genre of satire isn’t a part of mainstream Indian cinema yet. Blaming Pakistan for whatever’s happening in our nation, enjoying drinks with members from other political parties, and planning coups to gain a foothold in the area of politics are just about a handful of things that our politicians do. Oops, scratch that! That’s what Nograj does; I wasn’t talking about Indian politicians.

Arjun Reddy

Tagaru (2018)

Director: Soori

You must have seen some videos of foreigners dancing to “Tagaru Banthu Tagaru” on Instagram/YouTube. It’s not just the song that became popular; the entire film has uber cool written all over it, albeit with guns and billhooks. Tagaru is the star-film of the decade (yes, it’s above KGF on the charts). I can’t think of another actor in Shiva Rajkumar’s shoes, who can mouth curses and smile at the same time, and, also not make it sound disgusting.


Sarkari Hi. Pra. Shaale, Kasaragodu, Koduge: Ramanna Rai (2018)

Director: Rishab Shetty

Did you take a moment to breathe after reading that title? Children’s films are usually made with an eye to attract both children and adults. This film, educational in its nature, comes across as a comedy drama, featuring a bunch of kids that’s struggling to save their school. That final uncut scene in the court, in which Anant Nag delivers a sermon about teaching students in their own mother tongue, should be taught in film schools. It’s a companion piece to the climactic showdown in Lijo Jose Pellissery’s Malayalam drama, Angamaly Diaries.


K.G.F: Chapter 1 (2018)

Director: Prashanth Neel

Neel’s directorial debut itself ran on the muscle power of its dialogues and action scenes. How, then, would his second film, mounted on a bigger scale, look? By opening up a world of possibilities for Kannada films, KGF has made history at the box office. And with Sanjay Dutt signing on for part two, it remains to be seen what his entry into the Kolar Gold Fields of KGF might mean for the hero Yash.


Nathicharami (2018)

Director: Mansore

Different people see different things in a widow – some see sympathy and some see an opportunity. Men usually don’t see her as just another person. Well, forget outsiders for a minute. The woman’s own father says, “An orchard without fence attracts strangers.” Look at the kind of support that Indian parents are ready to offer when their kids get married to the people they fall in love with. Maybe, the father would have uttered the same line with tears in his eyes if he had chosen the groom! The film is about how a widow copes with her sexual desire and love for her dead husband.

Care of Kancharapalem

Bell Bottom (2019)

Director: Jayatheertha

Not all those who munch on carrots become intelligent, but the detective in this film wants to sharpen his brain, so he always has a fresh stock of his favourite root vegetable with him. There’s a bit of Sherlock Holmes in his personality, but he’s mostly made up of all the pulp thrillers he reads. Detective Diwakara (Rishab Shetty) likes to show off; however, his heart is in the right place. Sometimes, he’ll take his own sweet time to crack the case, but he won’t rest till he does it.


Kavaludaari (2019)

Director: Hemanth M. Rao

This is a slow-burner. The protagonist and his spiritual master discuss various things other than what they’ve teamed up for — gather details about a crime. The montage scenes that show the two of them enjoying cups of coffee over smiles are as wonderful as those that have them chasing the villains. Also, when was the last time you saw an actor swat flies while tailing a suspect? Another film where Anant Nag is in top form again.

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Special Mentions

  • Rama Rama Re… (2016)
  • U Turn (2016)
  • Operation Alamelamma (2017)