As far as Kannada cinema goes, comedians have to be part of a film project to make it a wholesome one. Just mentioning the likes Narasimha Raju and Musuri Krishnamurthy, at one time, brought on laughter.
These actors captured the hearts of millions of filmgoers with their comic timing, jokes and witty-one liners. In later years, the mantle was passed onto Jaggesh, Doddanna, Komal, Sharan and Tennis Krishna.
Today, when humour has become essential to scripts, heroes are turning comedians too. Though unlike other film industries, where comic characters have been sidelined, in Sandalwood, it’s the comedians who are turning heroes. Films Chaddi Dost and Victory are testimony to this. Where in Chaddi Dost Rangayana Raghu and Sadhu Kokila have the lead roles, in Victory Sharan will rule the roost.
Chaddi Dost director P C Shekhar says, “Though it is a comedy, the film also talks about friendship. Comedy is the medium through which a serious script is handled in a light-hearted way. That’s why comedy is so big in main stream cinema.”
Shekhar considers Sadhu Kokila and Rangayana Raghu as top comedians of the Kannada industry. “My film needed somebody aged between 35 to 40 years. While Rangayana is known for his dialogue delivery, Sadhu has the perfect body language. The two distinct personalities make a good combination.”
For Rangayana, comedy is yet to get its due. “We are at only five to ten per cent of what we can do,” says while agreeing that heroes taking on comic portions is beginning to overshadow the space set aside especially for comedians. “Comedians usually don’t get the opportunity to make it big in the industry. But, please don’t call me a comic hero. Sadhu and I have been doing comic tracks and also doing supporting roles. Actually, we have done a bit of everything. It’s a good sign is that directors and producers feel Sadhu and I have the potential to do more and can reach the audiences.”
According to Shekar, script is king. “Take Sharan, for example. Today directors are trying to build comic scripts to match Sharan's abilities. He has become a brand. If Rambo was not a success for Sharan, then he wouldn’t have got Victory or Smt Jayalalitha,” he says.
Sharan admits that he is getting typecast as a comic actor. “Playing the lead role definitely puts you in a different category all together. For me the chance to do so has come after 100 movies and 10 years in the industry. Yet, for the audience, I am still the Sharan who entertained with my comic timing. I am not a hero smashing cars and jumping from building to building. I am a hero who can make people laugh,” he says.
Both Sharan and Rangayana are of the opinion that the industry is not lacking young comedians. Rangayana says, “A comedian should stick to comedy provided he is a hero today. Sharan, Komal, Bullet Prakash and Raju Talikote are industry examples who didn't forego their calling.”
Sharan adds, “I don’t agree that there is a lack of comedians in Kannada industry. I can list many. Comedians like Prathap and Chikkanna are very promising. They are young and highly talented. This industry has always welcomed good talent, so young comedians can be assured of a good future in Kannada industry. I am an example of that,” he says.