Nearly 230 Kannada films hit the big screen this year. Of these, less than 10 made a profit, as per industry estimates. Some recovered their investment while most others fell by the wayside. And then, there were the films that earned goodwill for their ability to hand-hold the audience to the place where the story was set, make them feel one with the characters and root for them to succeed.
The biggest of them all, in terms of budget and scale, Yash's KGF, released on December 21 in Kannada, and four other languages — Tamil, Telugu, Hindi and Malayalam. It has been raking in the moolah at the box office and its Hindi version is said to have fared better than SRK's Zero. While KGF Chapter I has taken Kannada cinema to a pan-India audience, what the five films listed below have done is delve deep into pockets of the State to create films that are high on performance and heart.
Director Senna Hegde's slice-of-life love story set in a resort by the Konkan coast is just what the doctor ordered in terms of 'feel good'. The visuals help majorly – the waves trigger deep-rooted emotions and soothe at the same time. As for the actors, all played their parts perfectly. This helped the audience invest in the stories of Tarun (Diganth), Tanya (Pooja Devariya), Murthy Uncle, Radha Aunty, Pedro and Swarna, who are either aware of their love or in search of it.
The film speaks of the heartbreak that love can cause, the healing it can provide and the general sense of well-being and completeness that love bestows on those lucky enough to experience it. And, there's the music, soaring, contemplative and soothing. The film also went on to make money, through theatricals, digital and satellite rights. In case you missed it in theatres, catch it on Amazon Prime.
Sarkari Hiriya Prathama Shaale, Kasargodu. Koduge: Ramanna Rai
The story of a Kannada medium Government school in the border town of Kasargod in Kerala is the kind of film we need at a time when linguistic plurality is under threat. Directed by Rishab Shetty, the film stars a bunch of talented child actors and the charismatic Anant Nag as 'Peacock' Padmanabha. He bats for the children who yearn to be educated in their mother tongue, and concludes his argument saying that even if one child wishes to be educated in his/her mother tongue, it should be permitted. As with any other film set by the shore, this one too is a visual treat. The tender love story playing in the background, the scintillating music, the focus on traditional dance and performance art and the native humour make for a great experience.
When many exited the theatre after watching this film that's high on heart, all they wanted to do was catch hold of the precocious Sameera (played by Rohith), and hug him. For he showed them that despite all the divisions around, there is hope; that there is an India that runs only on love, and where the only religion that matters is humaneness. D Satya Prakash's film is not without fault – it does get melodramatic – but Sameera's story makes you overlook everything else. A little wide-eyed boy loses his pet cow Bhanu and goes all over town in search for it, even as his family and neighbours set out in search of him. Among the best scenes is when Sameera enters a temple and addresses the priest as 'Maulvi Sahab', and is bestowed with a kind smile. Watch it setting aside cynicism; this film is all white.
Ammachi Yemba Nenapu
Director Champa Shetty's film, drawn from the play Akku and three short stories of Vaidehi, brings together the stories of Ammachi, Akku and Puttamatte, who live in Kundapura. Through her writing, Sahitya Akademi awardee Vaidehi brings alive three women let down by the men in their lives, and Champa translates it beautifully on screen. If Puttamatte (theatre and folk artiste Radhakrishna Urala) accepts her lot and does not fight fate but tries her best to survive, Akku (Deepika Aradhya) loses her mind when she's left behind at her marital home. Ammachi (Vyjayanti Adiga) is the fighter, eternally optimistic and hopeful that she is the author of her story. Through their stories, set in the 1970s and 1980s, you are transported to a land where traditions still rule, but where change is standing at the threshold, waiting to step in.
Karthik Saragur's film about a bunch of schoolgirls and the determination of one of them to resist child marriage won the Best Children's Film at the 2016 Karnataka State Film Awards. It released this November to much critical acclaim.
The village of Byakalahalli is just 78 km from Bengaluru, but light years behind in terms of development. Girls are not willingly sent to school, and even when they are, they are married off early. Rudri's friend Dakshi is not taught the traditional dance form by her father, because she's a girl. But Rudri (Sri Vanalli) will have none of it. She decides she wants to get an education and become someone in life. Inspiring her is Nivedita (Suman Nagarkar), who shows the girls the possibilities on the horizon. The film deals with real issues and while some scenes might seem exaggerated, sometimes, you have to forget the loudness of the scenes and look at the intent. And, Jeerjimbe has its heart in the right place.
Other films that impressed
The year began on a good note with Humble Politician Nograj, starring Danish Sait and directed by Saad Khan. The satire about a narcissistic politician struck all the right chords and managed to do well at the box office too. It's now being shown on Amazon Prime.
Then, there was director Janardhan Chikanna's Gultoo, the cyber thriller that evocatively spoke about online data theft. Crime thriller Tagaru was yet another success in Shiva Rajkumar's long list of hits. Sudeep's production Ambi Ning Vayassaytho, a remake of the Tamil hit Pa. Paandi, starring him and the late Ambareesh rode high on nostalgia and fared reasonably well too.