Sandalwood is bidding adieu to the decade after offering 220 plus films this year and this includes Tulu movies too. The number is comparatively less than last year, since over 230 films were released in 2018. With November being the busiest month -- with 34 releases -- the Kannada film industry did create a talk at the national level, and had its share of controversies. The year also had a decent number of star-studded films and new-age cinema. The industry also gave rise to the dubbing of films in other languages into Kannada, and the release of KGF Chapter 1 in 2018 influenced a lot of filmmakers to go for a pan-India release. City Express digs into how Sandalwood fared in 2019:
Box office success rate: 7/205
Though the count of total Kannada films made was 205, the success rate was as low as seven films. They were Yajamana, Kurukshetra, Bell Bottom, Kavaludaari, I Love You, Pailwaan, and the latest addition being Avane Srimannaryaana.
The year 2019 belonged to Challenging Star Darshan, who had three releases in the year. While Yajamana, which marked the directorial debut of music composer V Harikrishna, was declared a super hit at the box office, the actor’s landmark 50th film, the mythological drama, Muniratna Kurukshetra, was a blockbuster, and his latest film, Odeya is currently having a good run in theatres.
Sudeep also created a buzz with Pailwaan, and the film directed by S Krishna saw a pan-India release. The actor, who was seen in a pivotal role in the Telugu film, Sye Ras Narasimha Reddy, returned to Bollywood after a gap of 10 years with Salman Khan-starrer Dabangg 3. Sudeep is currently busy hosting the much-talked about reality show, Bigg Boss Kannada Season 7.
It was a unique year for Puneeth Rajkumar, who started his production house -- PRK -- and the first film made was Hemanth M Rao’s Kavalu Daari. The actor also launched an audio company under the same name. However, he had only one release -- Natasarvabhouma, a film made under the banner of Rockline Production and directed by Pavan Wadeyar. He also got back to the small screen and hosted the reality show, Kannadada Kotiyadhipathi.
Rishab Shetty, the well-known director, got noted for his acting too. Jayathirtha’s directorial, Bell Bottom, featured him as a full-fledged hero, and garnered a stupendous response at the box office. Another experiment from Rishab Shetty was Katha Sangama, an anthology comprising seven directors -- Chandrajith Belliappa, Shashi Kumar P, Jamadagni Manoj, Karan Anant, Rahul PK, Kiranraj K, and Jayashankar.
Rakshit Shetty’s Avane Srimannarayana was the last release of the year. The film, directed by Sachin Ravi, is running to packed houses. This is yet another film from Sandalwood which is having a pan-India presence with multiple release dates.
The other actors who made their presence felt were Upendra with I Love You, and Shivarajkumar, whose films -- Kavacha, Rusthum, and Aayushman Bhava -- got average results. Ganesh was seen in 99, Gimmick and Geetha, while Ravichandran was seen in Paddehuli, Aa Drushya, and Dasharatha, Jaggesh scored well with Premier Padmini, and Kalidasa Kannada Meshtru. Bharaate was the only release for Sriimurali, and it was the case with Nikhil Kumar, with Seetharama Kalyana.
Among the 21 films, which had an average hit, and made a break even were Singhaa, Adhyasha in America, Brahmachari Birbal Trilogy.finding Vajramuni, Bazaar, Chemistry of Kariyappa, Panchatantra, Yaana, Singhaa, Aadi Lakshmi Purana, Ellide Elli Tanaka, KISS, Gantumoote, Rangayanaki, Mane Marattakkide, Damayathi, and Mookajjiya Kanasugalu.
A few heroines too made some noise in Sandalwood. It was a significant year for Rachita Ram, Hariprriya and Aditi Prabhudeva who had more than a couple of releases this year. While Rachita caught viewers’ attention with films like Seetharama Kalyana, Natasarvabowma, Rustum, I Love You and Aayushman Bhava, it was a busy year also for Aditi Prabhudeva, who had five releases -- Operation Nakshatra, Bazaar, Ranganayaki, Brahmachari, and Singhaa.
It was a good year for Hariprriya too. The actor made a cameo appearance in Kurukshetra, and her other releases for 2019 were Bell Bottom Soojidaara, Daughter of Parvathamma, Ellidde Illi Tanaka, Kannad Goththilla, and Katha Sangama.
Women-centric films had their share of success at the box office, and the list included Priyanka Upendra’s Devaki directed by H Lohith, Vrithra helmed by Gautam Iyer, and Mahesh Gowda’s directorial, Mahira.
Buzz at national level
Mansore’s directorial, Nathicharami, created a buzz at the 66th National Film Awards by bagging five awards -- best regional film in Kannada, best lyrics for Maayavi Manage, best writing (Mansore), best editing (Nagendra K Ujjani), and best female playback singer (Bindhu Malini). The jury also made a special mention of actor Sruthi Hariharan’s performance. However, the court ordered a stay on the makers Nathicharama before the award ceremony in Delhi, since one of the jury members was a part of the project. The other films which bagged awards were KGF Chapter I, starring Yash and directed by Prashanth Neel; the social comedy, Ondalla Eradalla, directed by D Satya Prakash; Rishab Shetty’s socio-political satire, Sarkari Hi. Pra. Shale, Kasaragodu, Koduge Ramanna Rai, a socio-political satire, and P Seshadri’s Mukkajiya Kanasugalu, among others.
Dubbed films bomb at box office
The ongoing debate about films in other languages not getting dubbed in Kannada got resolved with the release of a handful of films. Oru Aadhar Love, which was titled as Kirik Love Story, was the first Malayalam film to be simultaneously dubbed and released in Kannada. Also released were Ajith’s Jagamalla, Raghava Lawerence, Kanchana 3, Ram Vharan-starrer, Rangasthalam; Vijay Devarakonda and Rashmika Mandanna-starrer Dear Comrade; and megastar Chiranjeevi’s Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy, that also featured Kannada actor Sudeep in a prominent role. The Hollywood film, Arnold Schwarzenegger Terminator Dark Fate, also had a simultaneous release in Kannada, and the latest one to be out was Salman Khan and Sudeep-starrer, Dabangg 3, which was also dubbed in Kannada. However, these films got a poor response at the box office and did not fare as well as expected.
Kannada films establish presence on digital platform
Kananda films made their existence known on the OTT platform, with a lot of movies bagging digital rights. Interestingly, Bhinna director Adarsh H Eshwarppa went a step ahead by not going with a theatrical release for his film, and instead opting to screen it on Zee 5. The industry is also laying its hands on web series, and a couple of series, including Hate You Romeo, Honey moon, are in the making.
Fresh faces galore
While Shreyas and Abhishek Ambareesh made their debut with Paddehuli and Amar, respectively, among the newcomer heroines were Rukmini Vasanth, Anupama Parameshwaran, Sanjana Anand, Archana Jayakrishna, Sai Dansika, Shruthi Prakash, Chaitra Reddy, Avanthika Mohan Kruthika, Sanjana Barli, Saakshi Chowdry, Prakruthi, Vaisiri, Vybhavi, Vainidi, Virginia Rodrigues, Chaitra Achar Ronika Singh, Apoorva Srinivas, Akanksha Singh Parvathi Arun, Prayaga Martin, Radhika Rao, Nithyasri, Teju Belawadi, Krishna Bhat, Ananya Kashyap and Sanah Thimmayya.
Share of controversies
The year 2019 came with its own set of controversies, and the one that caught all the attention involved Sumalatha Ambareesh, during the parliamentary election at Mandya. The actor-politician was supported by two actors -- Darshan and Yash -- and standing opposite Sumalatha in Mandya was JDS contestant and actor Nikhil Kumaraswamy. With brickbats exchanged between the two parties, the Jodethu tag and Nikhil Ellidiyappa were trolled a lot. I Love You song from Mathanade Mayavade, featuring Upendra and Rachita Ram, was the most talked-about track. The long-pending Vishnu Memorial got a green signal, but fans wanted a memorial in Bengaluru. Big films like Yajamana, Pailwaan, and Natasarvabowma faced the piracy threat. Regional Censor board rejected Dandupalyam 4, however, a certificate was given by the revising committee. Kotigobba 3 also invited controversy, when the manager was detained by the tour operators at Poland. The issue was later resolved by actor Jaggesh and Union Minister Sadananda Gowda.
Kannada film industry lost a few gems. Jnanpith Award winning director and actor Girish Karnad, Master Hirannaiah, dialogue writer K Nanjunda, producer Samarth Prasad, director Kodi Ramakrishna, and actor SK Padmadevi passed away this year.