Once finding audience only in the coastal districts of Karnataka, the Tulu film industry, popularly known as ‘Coastalwood’, has come a long way. Celebrating its 45th year, the industry has not only grown to a level where Tulu films are now simultaneously released in Mangaluru, Udupi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Dubai, but is also setting new records.
Chaali Polilu (2014) created box-office history by completing 511 days at PVR cinemas in Mangaluru on March 24. “Chaali not only broke the record of 175 days set by Oriyadori Asal (2011), but also became the longest running film in regional language by eclipsing Kannada film Mungaru Male’s record run of 375 days,’’ says PVR manager Deepak.
“While Kannada films fail to find space in multiplexes in Mumbai, Tulu films have managed to do it effortlessly,” Karnataka Film Academy President S V Rajendra Singh Babu had said at an event organised in August 2015 to celebrate the release of the 50th Tulu film. In the past two years, nearly 15 Tulu films have hit theatres.
Until 2011, beginning from the first black and white Tulu film, Yenna Thangadi, released in 1971, the films were released only in eight to 10 theatres in Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts. But Chaali Polilu, produced by Prakash Pandeshwar, was a hit in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai when it was released in December last year. Not only that, the film, with a simple storyline and message about betting, also became the first Tulu film to be screened at Cambridge Apple cinema in Boston, US, in January this year. “Owing to the efforts of overseas Tulu Kootas (associations), the film was screened in San Jose during January-February 2016,” says the producer.
Creating new global audiences, the film’s success has warmed cockles of other filmmakers. “Nicely planned Tulu films are now finding acceptance in other districts of Karnataka,” says actor-director Devdas Kapikad, whose 2015 blockbuster film Chandikori collected `2.5 lakh within two weeks of screening in Koppa (a centre which never had figured during previous releases).
A trend of simultaneous releases in Mangaluru and Bengaluru starting with Kodlu Ramakrishna’s 2015 film Yeregla Panodchi has now become a norm. “Earlier Tulu films were focusing only on traditions and cultures like Kambala (wetland buffalo race), Kori katta (cockfight), paddy fields etc. The novelty which the audience was looking for was missing,’’ says producer Vijaykumar Kodialbail.
Many films like Rathre Pagal (1991) made with an eye on the `10 lakh subsidy given by Karnataka government for regional films, had further alienated the audience, says Kodialbail.
As the industry continues to make waves, offers from regional film industries like Konkani, Marathi, Gujarati and Kannada has begun pouring in for its actors, artists and technicians. Marking another first for tulu films, Madime released in October 2014 will be soon released in Marathi.
During its fledgling years, no one was willing to produce Tulu films, owing to the uncertainty in recovering money. It was the commercial success of the second Tulu film Dareda Budedi (1971), with which began the trend of making films based on successful Tulu plays, and continues successfully. With Rambarooti to be screened across 13 theatres, including multiplexes in Mangaluru and Udupi on April 1, as many as 67 films have been released so far.