Sandalwood Saga

Random Reflections: A Kaleidoscopic Musings on Kannada Cinema takes readers into the realm of Kannada cinema through narratives that unfold within the pages of the book
A still from 'Sati Sulochana' – the first Kannada talkie film, released more than 89 years ago. (Photo | IMDb)
A still from 'Sati Sulochana' – the first Kannada talkie film, released more than 89 years ago. (Photo | IMDb)

BENGALURU: Since the release of 'Sati Sulochana' – the first Kannada talkie film, more than 89 years ago, Sandalwood has evolved into a vibrant industry that has not only produced a plethora of groundbreaking films across various genres but also provided a platform to some of the biggest names in Indian cinema. In his recent book Random Reflections: A Kaleidoscopic Musings on Kannada Cinema, renowned film critic S Viswanath explores the historical milestones, challenges, and turning points that have shaped the film industry’s rich and diverse history.

Co-authored with city-based journalist Muralidhara Khajane, Viswanath says a multitude of factors inspired him to pen the book. “The main catalyst was Kannada cinema completing more than 80 years. But also factors like the #MeToo movement, the dubbing debate and the Bangalore International Film Festival (BIFFes), which drew lots of young talent from across the country and abroad. I felt a book in English was needed to address these specific readers and give them an insight into the rich history of Kannada cinema,” he shares. 

A veteran of over three decades in film criticism, Viswanath fondly reminisces his initial encounter with the world of cinema, with matinee idol Rajkumar’s Bangarada Manushya being his gateway. Using his wealth of knowledge about the industry, Viswanath along with Khajane, meticulously tackles specific aspects of Sandalwood’s chequered history.

The book delves into the industry’s response to various developments such as digitalisation, state politics, dubbing and remakes, censorship, film festivals, and even the changing facets of Bengaluru. Notably, the book also shines a spotlight on women filmmakers and the impact of the #MeToo movement. It also pays homage to the legendary actor Rajkumar and his influential sons, the late actor Puneeth Rajkumar and actor Shivrajkumar. 

“Instead of the familiar milestone rendering of the history of Kannada cinema as is usually done in a book of this nature, the primary objective was to encapsulate how the industry was reacting to and changing its dynamics with these developments. As a witness to some of these events, I wanted to bring a critic’s perspective and understanding to it,” he says. 

Meanwhile, over the last decade, Sandalwood has witnessed a wave of fresh-faced filmmakers ushering in a new era for the industry through unconventional narratives and experimental genres. With films like Lucia, Ulidavaru Kandante, KGF and Kantara, for example, the perceived insularity about the industry is waning as motion pictures are regularly commanding national and even international attention.

At this junction, Viswanath says Random Reflections could give cinephiles a better understanding of the industry, thereby helping to also promote the industry. “Instead of appreciating a single Kantara or KGF in a vacuum, they will be better placed to appreciate and assimilate the various cinemas of India and its new emerging talents through books like Random Reflections that brings both a critic’s as also a historical perspective to the rise, growth and development of this film industry in India,” he adds.

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The New Indian Express