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Sunday, July 5, 2020

Good cinema space has shrunk


GIRISH KASARAVALLI, FILMMAKER, BENGALURU | Issue Dated: July 8, 2012, Bangalore

I do not accept the art and commerce divide in cinema. I maintain that you either have a good film or a bad film. All other divisions are redundant. Take the Kannada film Cyanide. It had quality and yet it was essentially a mainstream production.

I do not want my films to be slotted in a category. I would be happy if they are  described as good cinema.
Puttana Kanagal’s Belli Moda (1966), though a melodrama, was close to reality. The film was shot on location and it adopted a style that was a marked departure from the norms of commercial Kannada cinema.

We should not forget N Laxmi Narayan, who made Naandi and Uyyale. He paved the way for a different kind of cinema in the state. Uyyale is regarded as one of best ever movies produced in.

Kannada cinema has suffered because too many bad films are passed off by filmmakers and critics alike as specimens of art cinema.

The new wave came to Kannada cinema after Samskara (1970), directed by Pattabhi Rama Reddy and based on a novella by UR Ananthamurthy. It changed the rules of the game.

For nearly two decades, Kannada films attracted the attention of the rest of the country and the world and won accolades. Films like Kaadu, Vamshavriksha and Ghatashradha probed sensitive social issues in a style that was directly at odds with the melodramatic methods of mainstream Kannada movies.

Before the release of Samskara, Kannada films told stories that revolved around individuals dealing with personal issues. Social concerns took centrestage thereafter, changing the look and feel of films coming out of the state.
Unfortunately, many filmmakers sought to cash in on the growing nationwide interest in quality Kannada films by making so-called new wave films that were of a rather poor quality.

Instead of calling their bluff, the media hailed these films simply because these were in black and white, had a rural backdrop and eschewed mainstream stars and songs. A film cannot be judged on the basis of its exterior qualities. Intrinsic artistic merit is of paramount interest. This was forgotten by many critics.

When Kannada’s parallel cinema was flying high on the national scene, Satyajit Ray was so impressed with some of the films that he said: “The future lies in Kannada cinema.” He was obviously referring to the social core of these films, which addressed the inequities of the caste system and questioned received wisdom. In fact, critics suggest that Ray was inspired by Kannada films to make Sadgati, his masterly adaptation of a Munshi Premchand story.

Unfortunately, the fertile phase of Kannada cinema lasted only 15-20 years. Now there are no theatres in the state willing to screen quality films. We once had 1200-1300 theatres for an yearly output of 30-40 films. Now we produce 150 films and have only 600-700 theatres for which Kannada films have to compete. Even in small centers, movies in other languages are released in theatres which were earlier reserved for Kannada films.

Needless to say, the crisis facing our cinema is quite grave at this juncture.

(As told to NK Suprabha)

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017