The first in a homegrown James Bond series; a suspenseful thriller that starts off with an accident that sounds eerily familiar; a film crew that has to deal with demons both internal and external… Get ready to binge-watch this curated list over the weekend.
Jedara Bale (1968)
Available On YouTube
The first of four films in the ‘CID 999’ series starring Dr Rajkumar was also easily the best in the franchise. Kickstarting the ‘Desi Bond’ genre, perhaps for the first time in the South, this film had a crazy plot involving a secret formula that could convert metal into gold. But the film was more than just over-the-top gimmickry. It was plot driven, and the suspense works even 52 years after its release, even if some parts may seem dated.
Premada Kanike (1976)
Available On YouTube
After the success of a blockbuster like Sholay you don’t expect its writers Salim-Javed to write a smaller Kannada film the following year. But that’s what the duo did with Premada Kanike a commercial success that later got cult status. The film was remade in Tamil and Hindi and it had Dr Rajkumar play two characters that appear on opposing ends of the morality spectrum. And for a Kannada film of the period, it was a big deal for it to be shot in Kashmir with sights of snow thrown in for spectacle.
Available On Voot
In terms of production, this neither looks like a big commercial film nor does it have the subtleties of a parallel film. The closest would be to call it “TV like”, but this aspect did not take away anything from this nail-biting thriller. It begins when a man from the city visits a village in search of his friend. What happens when the friend takes too long to return? After its success, Suresh Heblikar became the poster boy for such mysteries and the final reveal remains shocking for first-time viewers. It was dubbed into many languages and the 1985 cult Telugu film Anveshana drew inspiration from this.
Available on MX Player and YouTube
Arguably the best in the list is this National Award-winning film directed by Shankar Nag. “As real as it can get” is something you find yourself saying even today upon revisiting this film that also stars Anant Nag. That’s because it revolves around a case that begins with a powerful person in an inebriated state running over people sleeping on the pavement. Long before the Jolly LLBs, this film placed a politician against the justice system (and the media) to reveal a drug mafia-politics nexus.
Available on Eros Now
It’s not too often that you see a Kannada thriller shot like Upendra’s second film as director. Set in a remote hillside, Sshh used the backdrop of a film shoot and its crew to unravel many mysteries surrounding a ‘onti mane estate’ (a single bungalow estate). With elements hinting at the supernatural, the final reveal was a big surprise, aided by the plot that holds on to its suspense with great skill.
Beladingala Bale (1995)
Available On Airtel XStream
No missing person. No hidden treasure. No murders. Yet this film remains a thriller unlike any other. The plot itself was simple. A Grandmaster (Anant Nag) starts getting calls from a female fan, kindling some sort of curiosity in him. The cat-and-mouse game that follows is as thrilling for us as this Grandmaster because we too are curious to learn more about this mysterious woman on the other side. And you will not see the ending coming.
Available On MX Player
This much-celebrated fantasy thriller was also the first crowd-funded Kannada movie. It inspired a new wave in the industry at a time when it was obsessed with commercial romcoms and gangster dramas. The idea of a bored man living an alternative life through his dreams may not be very novel, but it dealt with this theme with loads of freshness, especially in the way the two parallel worlds coexisted. Director Pavan Kumar repeated the magic yet again with U-Turn, which released later.
Ulidavaru Kandante (2014)
Available On Jio Cinema/ MX Player
Among the mysteries of this mystery thriller is why it didn’t go on to become a huge theatrical success. Such is the originality of this neo-noir set in the Dakshina Kannada region. Set along the coast and using the strong local culture and dialect, the film used the Rashomon effect to piece together an event as a reporter goes about investigating a story. Rakshit Shetty put in a great performance as the lead (he also directed the film). Not many films since then have been able to recreate the magic or the moods of Ulidavaru Kandante.
Available on ZEE5
A standard poor-boy-elopes-with-rich-girl plot takes a tricky turn when it becomes an adventure road drama, covering not-seen-before towns and villages of remote Karnataka. As they move from one place to another, they slowly discover, along with the audience, a dirty web of the drug trade, the mafia, corrupt police officials and a questionable judicial system. A real roller coaster ride. The film was directed by Duniya Soori and starred newcomers Vicky Varun and Manvitha Harish.
Available on Amazon Prime Video
Inspired by classic Hollywood film noir, this film dealt with deception in true atmospheric style. Its director Hemanth M Rao creates a well-made whodunit that is set off when an eager traffic police officer (an excellent Rishi) is curious about three skulls found near a construction site. Add a retired cop who investigated the case years ago to the mix, and you get a taut thriller plus some lessons in philosophy.