Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Can Kannada Cinema be the ambassador for the language?

This question has been in mind for quite some time now. There have been lots of debates on the issue of language. I was thinking how Hindi as a language has spread all over India. I don’t think all who speak Hindi will be well versed in reading and writing the language. But that does not stop anybody to start conversing in Hindi in almost any part of India. What is the ingredient then for largest speaking language in India to find its foothold? Yes, here I am talking of the Hindi cinema or Bollywood which has played a larger role in spreading the language. Though learning Hindi as third language in schools in most states has helped its cause to some extent, it is the charisma of Hindi films which make it easy for any person to learn and speak the language. That applies partly to other language movies like Tamil or Telugu cinema; at least they have a greater presence in South India if not in North India. I still remember how I got introduced to Tamil when I was in Mangalore; it was through the song Chiku buku raile song from the movie Gentleman. Kaadalan, Roja, Bombay were next in line to cast their spell. People also say they learn the language by watching movies.

Questions Unanswered: Here are few questions for Kannada cinema to ponder upon – how many times have been there instances of Kannada films being released out side the state, if not outside the country. For example, you will find very few films being screened in Kasaragod district of Kerala, with sizeable Kannada and Tulu population. Few films are released there after they become blockbusters like Yajamaana, Mungaaru Male. Big cities like Mumbai, Pune and Chennai too have good number of Kannadigas and what about border districts of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu where Kannada is spoken. Why can’t we screen our films there? In Bangalore, a cosmopolitan city, there are shows of 6 different language films everyday. Can’t we screen Kannada movies in places where there is a significant presence of Kannadigas? Tamil and Telugu films travel to places where there is little presence of Tamilians, Telugus or not even that. Marketing would have made sure that it reaches places unheard of in mainstream media. Can we have the same marketing for namma Kannada films too?Script and the language: Echoing what Prakash Belavadi, well known director of ‘Stumble’, English and Kannada plays said in a seminar organized by, we Kannadigas are lot more emotional about the script we follow. He said we are giving importance to lipi(script) rather than nudi(language), which is the reality too. Have you observed that Hindi ad punch lines are always written English? Bollywood movies in late 90s followed this trend of putting everything from film name to ‘the end’ message in English and that is not without reason too, as most of the movie goers could read English, so it was easy to understand. Can we have the similar thing for Kannada cinema? Along with the name in Kannada script can we have it written in English too, so non-Kannadigas too able to read the title, in turn learn a few Kannada phrases! Interestingly we find most of the times, captions after the film title in all English! Big hoardings in Bangalore now have Kannada written in English sometimes. If only they could be more meaningful it would serve the purpose. I am making it clear that it is not to replace the beautiful Kannada script but it is a temporary solution to ‘don’t know Kannada’ problem.

Recent Developments: Few days back, I was asked by one of my non-Kannadiga colleagues to translate ‘Ninnindale’ song from the movie,‘Milana’ to English. Good things are always appreciated devoid of language barriers. ‘Beduvanu Varavannu’ from 'Jogi',’Anisuthido Yaako Indu’ from ‘Mungaaru Male’ and most recently ‘Jinke Marina’ from ‘Nanda loves Nanditha’ was liked by every Bangalorean no matter whether he was a Kannadiga or not. Well, FM stations sudden rush to play Kannada songs also played its part here. Having said all that we have to make more good movies and market lesser popular but technically good movies, one Mungaaru Male or one Duniya is not enough to make a huge difference. Firstly filmmakers have to come out of their Bangalore centered approach while making films. There should be good marketing strategies to explore new markets and in turn spreading the language of the land.

Passing Note: Well known faces in film world like Maniratnam, Anil Kapoor(debut as director and hero respectively in Pallavi Anupallavi) and Juhi Chawla (debut in Premaloka) started their film careers in Kannada cinema.


This article also got published on Churumuri


  1. much more info:

  2. Hi Thejesh,

    The link you provided indeed contains more info about Kannada cinema, most of which were unknown. Thanks for sharing.


  3. Good article..
    I agree with you Raveesh. The Kannada film's songs are consistently becoming better and making the people attracted towards it. May be, its the time to open up without loosing our individuality..

  4. Hi vjc-01,

    Thank you for the comments. Kannada songs are back to the melody, which used to be the case at peak of Kannada cinema in 1980s. Its the hour of reckoning for Sandalwood/Gandhinagar.

  5. good topic to discuss.

    Marketing the movie alone won't do much favour to the language. The movie might get the initial openings but from there it entirely depends on the content.

    We have to accept the fact the percentage of migrants in Bangalore is higher than any other city in India. Also there aren't much Kannidigas outside Karnataka compared to migrants in Bangalore.
    So I feel, to be on safer side the producers/distributors screen only the movies which are already a hit in Karnataka.

    Having titles in English script is a good idea. In this many non kanndigas can related to a poster or a hoarding.

    In addition to this I feel producers should screen movies with subtitles in upmarket areas(multiplexes) and outside Karnataka.

  6. Hi Shande,

    I can't simply accept that migrants in Bangalore is higher than any other city without any facts and figures. Mumbai comes to my mind when you say about migration to big cities. Add to that in Bangalore significant %age of population speak Kannada even though their mother tongue is different. So, if we make more good movies people will definitely will flock to the theaters as recent films like Milana have shown. Also, there is a good number of Kannadigas outside Karnataka - just look at these figures at wiki - Kannada has native speakers of 3.5 crores and other 90 lakhs people learn it as second language. But nowadays people in Gandhinagar consider film, a hit only if it runs in Bangalore. But there are instances where movies which were not hit or moderate hit became huge hit in border areas of Karnataka with less no of native Kannada speakers - one example would be of Chandra Chakori which became a big hit in Belgaum! Also, there are areas in Karnataka where Kannada films are not released at all - particularly the eastern border areas of Karnataka.

    Screen movies with subtitles is also a good idea - it will arose interest in non-Kannada speakers about Kannada cinema



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