Kannada cinema

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Kannada cinema
India film clapperboard.svg
No. of screens
  • 650 Single screens
  • 260 multiplex screens[1]
 • Per capita1.3 per 1,00,000
Main distributorsMahatma Pictures
Sri Vajreshwari Combines
Sri Eswari Combines
KCN Movies
Rockline Entertainments
Jayanna Combines
Thoogudeepa Distributors
Paramvah Studios
Pushkar Films
Hombale Films
Produced feature films (2019)[2]

Kannada cinema, also known as Sandalwood, Kannada Film Industry or Chandanavana,[3] is the segment of Indian cinema[4] dedicated to the production of motion pictures in the Kannada language widely spoken in the state of Karnataka.[5][6][7] The 1934 film Sati Sulochana directed by Y. V. Rao was the first talkie film in the Kannada language.[8][9][10] It was also the first film starring Subbaiah Naidu and Tripuramba, and was the first motion picture screened in the erstwhile Mysore Kingdom.[11] The film was produced by Chamanlal Doongaji, who in 1932 founded South India Movietone in Bangalore.[12][13]

Major literary works have been adapted to the Kannada screen such as B. V. Karanth's Chomana Dudi (1975), Girish Karnad's Kaadu (1973), Pattabhirama Reddy's Samskara (1970) (based on a novel by U. R. Ananthamurthy), which won the Bronze Leopard at Locarno International Film Festival,[14] and T. S. Nagabharana's Mysuru Mallige (based on the works of acclaimed poet K. S. Narasimhaswamy).[15]

Kannada cinema is known for producing experimental works such as Girish Kasaravalli's Ghatashraddha (1977), which won the Ducats Award at the Manneham Film Festival Germany,[16] Dweepa (2002), which won Best Film at Moscow International Film Festival,[17][18] Singeetam Srinivasa Rao's silent film Pushpaka Vimana (1987), screened at the Cannes Film Festival and Prashanth Neel's historical drama, K.G.F: Chapter 1 (2018),[19][20] which became the first Kannada language film to have grossed ₹250 crores worldwide at the box office.[21]


Early history[edit]

Kannada film doyen Honnappa Bhagavathar
Rajkumar on a 2009 stamp in India

In 1934, the first Kannada talkie, Sati Sulochana,[22] appeared in theatres, followed by Bhakta Dhruva (aka Dhruva Kumar). Sati Sulochana, starring Subbaiah Naidu and Tripuramba in lead roles, was shot in Kolhapur at the Chatrapathi studio; most filming, sound recording, and post-production was done in Chennai.[23]

In 1949, Honnappa Bhagavathar, who had earlier acted in Gubbi Veeranna's films, produced Bhakta Kumbara and starred in the lead role along with Pandaribai. In 1955, Bhagavathar again produced a Kannada film, Mahakavi Kalidasa, in which he introduced actress B. Saroja Devi.[23] B. S. Ranga was an Indian photographer, actor, writer, producer and director made many landmark movies in Kannada, under Vikram Studios.[24]


Matinee idol, Rajkumar entered Kannada cinema after his long stint as a dramatist with Gubbi Veeranna's Gubbi Drama Company, which he joined at the age of eight, before he got his first break as a lead in the 1954 film Bedara Kannappa.[25]

He went on to essay a variety of roles and excelling in portraying mythological and historical characters in films such as Bhakta Kanakadasa (1960), Ranadheera Kanteerava (1960), Satya Harishchandra (1965), Immadi Pulikeshi (1967), Sri Krishnadevaraya (1970), Bhakta Kumbara (1974), Mayura (1975), Babruvahana (1977) and Bhakta Prahlada (1983). His wife Parvathamma Rajkumar founded Film production and distribution company, Vajreshwari Combines.[25]

Method actor Shankar Nag received the inaugural IFFI Best Actor Award (Male): Silver Peacock Award" at the 7th International Film Festival of India for his work in the film Ondanondu Kaladalli.[26] He is the younger brother of actor Anant Nag.[27][28] M. V. Vasudeva Rao, the first Kannada actor to win National Film Award for Best Actor, was starred in over 200 films in his career; however, post Chomana Dudi, he only played minor roles.[29]

Vishnuvardhan entered Kannada cinema with the National Award-winning movie Vamshavruksha (1972) directed by Girish Karnad based on the novel written by S. L. Bhyrappa. His first lead role was in Naagarahaavu, directed by Puttanna Kanagal and based on a novel by T. R. Subba Rao. It was the first in Kannada film history to complete 100 days in three main theatres of Bangalore. In his 37-year career, he has played a variety of roles in more than 200 films.[30]

With his debut in Puttanna Kanagal's National Award-winning Kannada film Naagarahaavu (1972), Ambareesh's acting career commenced with a brief phase of portraying antagonistic and supporting characters. After establishing himself as a lead actor portraying rebellious characters on screen in a number of commercially successful films, he earned the moniker "rebel star".[31] He also earned the nickname Mandyada Gandu (English: Man of Mandya)[32]

B. Saroja Devi is One of the most successful female leads in the history of Indian cinema, she acted in around 200 films in over six decades.[33][34] She is known by the epithets "Abinaya Saraswathi" (Saraswati of acting) in Kannada and "Kannadathu Paingili" (Kannada's Parrot) in Tamil.[34]

Neo-realistic cinema[edit]

Kannada Cinema majorly contributed to the Parallel Cinema movement of India.[35] Directors like Girish Kasaravalli,[35] Girish Karnad,[36] G. V. Iyer[36] were the early names to join the movement. T. S. Nagabharana[37] and BV Karanth were also popular names in the movement. Puttanna Kanagal's films were however considered a bridge between Mainstream and Parallel Cinema.

Modern era[edit]

Prakash Raj began his acting career with Doordarshan serials such as Bisilu Kudure (Kannada) and Guddada Bhootha (Tulu and Kannada).[38] He later took up supporting roles in Kannada films such as Ramachari, Ranadheera, Nishkarsha and Lockup Death. He was known for his dialogue delivery and histrionics. His breakthrough role came in Harakeya Kuri, directed by K. S. L. Swamy starring Vishnuvardhan, with whom he had acted in other films such as Mithileya Seetheyaru, Muthina Haara and Nishkarsha. Prakash re-entered Kannada films through Nagamandala in 1997, directed by T. S. Nagabharana.[39] Veteran Kannada actor Shakti Prasad's son Arjun Sarja is known for his work in South Indian cinema.[40] He starred in movies such as Prasad; the film was screened at the Berlin Film Festival and Arjun received the Karnataka State Award for his performance in it.[41]

Sanchari Vijay's portrayal of a transgender won him the National Best Actor Award.[42][43][44] With the award, Vijay became the third actor after M. V. Vasudeva Rao, and Charuhasan to win the National Award for Best Actor for a performance in a Kannada film.[45]

Shiva Rajkumar is known for his work in Janumada Jodi, Anand, Ratha Sapthami, Nammoora Mandara Hoove, Om, Simhada Mari and Chigurida Kanasu. He acted in Sugreeva, which was shot in 18 hours. His Om, directed by Upendra, set a trend of gangster movies in Kannada and other film industries in India. It continues to be shown even to this day.[46]

Rockline Venkatesh founded Rockline Entertainments which has produced over twenty five films as of 2012.[47] New age actors - Yash, Darshan, Puneeth Rajkumar, Rakshith Shetty and Sudeep are some of the highest paid actors in Sandalwood.[48][49][50] The Rakshith Shetty starrer Kirik Party went on to become one of the highest-grossing Kannada films by collecting ₹ 50 crores[51] against a production budget ₹ 4 crores[52] and completed 150 days in the main cities of Karnataka.[53]

The 2015 release RangiTaranga starring Nirup Bhandari and directed by Anup Bhandari, created overseas market for Kannada cinema with a mega release, amassing $318,000 in USA alone. It went on to become the first Kannada film to enter the New York Box office listing, the first Kannada film to complete 50 days in USA and the first Kannada movie ever to release in several countries across the world. It ran for 365 days in Bangalore.

In 2018, Yash starrer K.G.F: Chapter 1 became the first Kannada film to gross ₹100 crores and ₹200 crores at the box office. Its sequel, K.G.F: Chapter 2, slated to release in 2021, gained more than 197 million views on YouTube as of July 2021.[54][55]

Film scores[edit]

Composer Hamsalekha is usually referred to by the title Naadha Brahma (English: The Brahma of Music) who is considered to be the major cause for the change in the music composing and lyric writing style which would appeal much to the younger generation. He integrated folk and introduced western musical sensibilities into the Kannada cinema.[56][57]

Mano Murthy scored the blockbuster film Mungaru Male starring Ganesh and Pooja Gandhi. Upon the album's release, it topped the charts with the song "Anisuthide" receiving significant radio and TV air time.[58] The album emerged as a massive success topping every Kannada music chart. It was reported that by mid-May 2007, over 200,000 copies were sold in compact discs.[59]

International Recognition[edit]

The 1964 movie Naandi set a landmark by being the first ever Kannada film to be screened at an international film festival.[60][61][62][63] This film was screened at IFFI 1992 Kannada cinema Retrospect.[64]

The 1970 movie Samskara won the Bronze Leopard at Locarno International Film Festival[14] The 1977 movie Ghatashraddha which had the distinction of being shown at the Museum of Modern Art, New York,[65] became the only Indian film to be chosen by the National Archive of Paris among 100 others, during the centenary celebrations of cinema.[66][67] At the 2009 International Film Festival of India, it was announced one of the 20 best films in Indian cinema, having received 1.6 million votes.[68][69] The 1978 movie Ondanondu Kaladalli was released at The Guild Theatre, 50 Rockefeller Plaza on 17 May 1982. Vincent Canby, the chief film critic of The New York Times, called the movie "that is both exotic as well as surprising in view of all the bodies on the ground at the end, sweet natured!".[70] The film was subtitled into English for its American premiere on 18 October 1995 in Shriver Hall at the Johns Hopkins University as part of the 1995 Milton S. Eisenhower Symposium "Framing Society : A Century of Cinema".[71]

The 1987 film Pushpaka Vimana premiered at the International Film Festival of India, 1988 Cannes Film Festival in the International Critics' Week [72][73] and retrospective at the Shanghai International Film Festival, and Whistling Woods International.[74]

The 2000 movie Munnudi was screened at Palm Springs International Film Festival (2002).[75] The 2002 movie Atithi was screened at Cairo International Film Festival.[76] The 2004 movie Hasina was screened at Berlin's Asia Pacific Film Festival.[77] The 2006 movie Thutturi won the Best Audience Award at the 9th Dhaka International Film Festival.[78] and won the Earth Vision Award of 2005-06 at the 15th Tokyo Global Environmental Film Festival.[79] The 2006 movie Naayi Neralu was screened at six international film festivals including International Film Festival Rotterdam, Bangkok International Film Festival, Palm Springs International Film Festival , Osian's Film Festival and the Karachi International Film Festival.[77] The 2006 movie Care of Footpath was selected for the Kids for Kids Film Festival at Cyprus and the 2006 film Cyanide was selected for the London Film Festival.[80]

The 2010 movie Kanasemba Kudureyaneri won the NETPAC Award at the Asiatica Film Mediale (Italy) (2010).[81] The 2011 film Koormavatara was screened in 17 film festivals and won acclaims at the film festivals of Bangkok, New York and Vancouver.[82] The 2013 movie Lucia premiered at the London Indian Film Festival on 20 July 2013.[83][84] It won the Best Film Audience Choice award at the festival.[85] The 2015 movie Thithi won accolades at multiple international film festivals including the 68th Locarno International Film Festival.[86] The 2016 movie Railway Children won the Ecumenical Jury Award (special mention) at Zlín Film Festival.[87][88] The 2018 movie Nathicharami and Bale Kempa were screened at the MAMI Mumbai Film Festival.[89] The 2019 movie Arishadvarga also premiered at the London Indian Film Festival[90][91] followed by the Asian Premiere at the Singapore South Asian International Film Festival[92] and the North American Premiere at the Vancouver International South Asian Film Festival.[93]

In the post - pandemic era, Kannada cinema started making waves across the world in several international film festivals. Pinki Elli? which was a part of Indian Panorama, also opened the Busan International Film Festival and was screened at Hong Kong International Film Festival. It also won awards at the New York Indian Film Festival . Amruthamathi was screened at 9 international film festivals including Boston Film Festival , Atlanta Film Festival , Austria Film Festival and won multiple awards. Abhilash Shetty's Koli Taal premiered at the 21st New York Indian Film Festival.[94][95] It was then screened at various film festivals including the 18th Indian Film Festival of Stuttgart [96] and the 12th Indian Film Festival of Melbourne. Neeli Hakki was selected for multiple international Film festivals including the New York Indian Film Festival. Daari Yaavudayya Vaikunthakke ? won multiple awards at Rajasthan Film Festival and other international film festivals like Barcelona, Nawada and Golden Sparrow International Film Festivals.[97] Illiralaare Allige Hogalaare won the Director's Vision Award at the 18th Indian Film Festival of Stuggart.[98] It was earlier screened at the Dhaka International Film Festival[99] and had won an award at the Rome Film Festival.[100] Baraguru Ramachandrappa's Mooka Nayaka won the Best Picture of the Decade Award by competing with movies from different languages around the globe.[101] Jeevnane Nataka Samy (2021) was screened at Miami International Film Festival.[102] Avalakki Pavalakki won five awards in various categories at Uravatti International Film Festival, Indo Global International Film Festival, American Golden Pictures International Film Festival, Oniros Film Festival and the Sweden Film Festival.[103]

National Recognition[edit]

  • The song Baare Baare from the 1972 movie Naagarahaavu was the first slow-motion song of Indian cinema.[104]
  • The 1986 movie Anuraga Aralithu was the first Indian movie to be remade in six other languages.[105]
  • The 1986 movie Africadalli Sheela was the first Indian movie to be shot in African forests.[106]
  • The 1987 movie Ondu Muttina Kathe was the first Indian film to have an underwater action sequence shot in an ocean outside India without the help of oxygen mask.[107]
  • The 1989 movie Idu Saadhya created a record by becoming the first Indian movie to be shot within a span of 36 hours.[108]
  • The 1995 movie Om is the only Indian movie to have been re-released 550 times.[109]
  • The 2005 movie Shanti was the second Indian film to enter the Guinness Book of World Records in the Fewest actors in a narrative film category. It had only one actor with the other characters represented through voice and no physical appearance.[110]
  • The 2006 Kannada movie Mungaru Male was the first Indian movie to run for a year in a multiplex.[111]


Dadasaheb Phalke Awardees[edit]

Year Recipient Note(s)
1995 Rajkumar Actor

National Film Award for Best Feature Film[edit]

Year Film Director Producer
1970 Samskara Pattabhirama Reddy Pattabhirama Reddy
1975 Chomana Dudi B. V. Karanth Praja Films
1977 Ghatashraddha Girish Kasaravalli Sadanand Suvarna
1986 Tabarana Kathe Girish Kasaravalli Girish Kasaravalli
1997 Thaayi Saheba Girish Kasaravalli Jayamala
2001 Dweepa Girish Kasaravalli Soundarya

State Recognition[edit]

State film festivals[edit]

Other awards[edit]

Film schools[edit]

The first government institute in India to start technical courses related to films was established in 1941 named as occupational institute then called the Sri Jayachamarajendra (S J) Polytechnic in Bangalore. In September 1996, two specialized courses, Cinematography and Sound & Television were separated and the Government Film and Television Institute was started at Hesaraghatta, under the World Bank Assisted Project for Technician Development in India.[113]

Highest-grossing Kannada films[edit]

Rank Film Year Director(s) Studio(s) Gross Ref.
1 K.G.F: Chapter 1 2018 Prashanth Neel Hombale Films 250 crore (US$35 million) [114]
2 Kurukshetra 2019 Naganna Vrushabhadri Productions 90 crore (US$13 million) [114]
3 Roberrt 2021 Tharun Sudhir Umapathy Films 78.36 crore (US$11 million) [115]
4 Raajakumara 2017 Santhosh Ananddram Hombale Films 75 crore (US$11 million) [116]
5 Mungaru Male 2006 Yograj Bhat E. K. Entertainers 70 crore (US$9.8 million) [117]
6 The Villain 2018 Prem Thanvi Shanvi Films 60 crore (US$8.4 million) [118]
7 Avane Srimannarayana 2019 Sachin Ravi Pushkar Films, Paramvah Studios and Sri Devi Entertainers 56 crore (US$7.9 million) [114]
8 Pailwaan 2019 S. Krishna RRR Motion Pictures 53 crore (US$7.4 million) [119]
9 Yajamana 2019 Pon Kumaran and V. Harikrishna Media House Studio 50 crore (US$7.0 million) [120]
Kirik Party 2016 Rishab Shetty Paramvah Studios [121]
Mr. and Mrs. Ramachari 2014 Santhosh Ananddram Jayanna Combines [122]
10 Doddmane Hudga 2016 Duniya Soori Ajay Pictures 40 crore (US$5.6 million) [123]
Uppi 2 2015 Upendra Upendra Productions [124]
Krantiveera Sangolli Rayanna 2012 Naganna Sri Sangolli Rayanna Cine Combines [125]

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