Cinema Cinematography is the illusion of movement by he rapid projection of many still photographic pictures on a screen. A product of 19th century scientific endeavour, it has become an industry employing thousands of people and a medium of mass entertainment and communication. No one person invented cinema. However, in 1893 the Edison Company successfully demonstrated the Kinetoscope, which enabled one person at a time to view moving pictures. The first to present projected, moving photographic pictures to a playing audience were the Lumiere brothers in 1895. At first, films were very short, sometimes only a few minutes. They were shown at fairgrounds, music halls or anywhere a screen could be set up and a room darkened. Subjects included views of foreign lands, short comedies and events considered newsworthy. The films were accompanied by lecturers, music and a lot of audience participation – although they did not have synchronized dialogue they were not ‘silent’ as they are sometimes described.
The first 30 years of cinema were characterized by the growth and consolidation of an industrial base, the establishment of the narrative form and refinement of technology. Colour was first added to black-and-white movies through tinting and stencilling. By 1906, the principles of colour separation were used to produce “full colour” moving images.
Early processes were cumbersome and expensive and colour was not widely used until the introduction of the three-colour Technicolor process in 1932. The first attempts to add synchronized sound to projected pictures used phonographic cylinders or discs. The first feature-length movie incorporating synchronized dialogue, The Jazz Singer (USAj 1927), used the Vitaphone system which employed a separate disc to replay the sound. The system proved unreliable and was soon replaced by an optical, variable density sound track along the edge of the film. By the early 1930s, nearly all feature-length movies were presented with synchronized sound and by the mid-1930s many were in full colour too. The advent of sound secured the dominant role of the American industry, and gave rise to the so-called ‘Golden Age of Hollywood’.
KANNADA CINEMA THROUGH THE AGES.
The history of Kannada films which almost found its routs along with that of world cinema is an enthralling saga of ups and downs, successes and failures and a climb to the pinnacle of glory. There was a time when the entire nation looked forward to the happening of the Kannada cinema. That there was a legend that if there is an entry of a Kannada cinema into to the fray of central annual film awards no other film would get an award, speaks volumes of the phenomenal success of Kannada cinema.
The first Kannada-talking picture “Sati Sulochana” was made in 1934. Earlier there was some activity in Bangalore during the silent film era, contributed by Surya Film Company and the legendary personality Gubbi Veeranna. However the progress of Kannada cinema in its early years was haltingly slow. The early Kannada talkie films were not made in Karnataka for there were no studio facilities in Mysore State to produce talking pictures. Bangalore did have a few studios but they did not last long. When the first two Kannada talking pictures “ Sati Sulochana” and “Bhakta Druva” were made in 1934 their producers had to go to outside places like Bombay and Kolhapur for production. Indeed for many years the Kannada film industry was centered in Madras and only during the recent decades the scene of action began to shift away from Madras to its native home. Surprisingly Bangalore, the state capital, did not have a motion picture studio infrastructure until recently. Mysore city had some studios like Navajyothi and Premier. “Bhaktha Druva” directed by the audiographer-turned- filmmaker P. Y. Altekar was begun earlier but due to several reasons it was released a month later in April 1934, thus becoming the second Kannada talkie. The honour of being the first film was bagged by “Sati Sulochana” directed by Y. V. Rao.
Nellore-born Yeragudipatti Varada Rao, hailing from an affluent family began as a stage actor and took off to Kolhapur and Bombay where he played roles in silent films and also learnt the ropes of filmmaking. Late in 1920’s he relocated in Madras and worked as assistant under pioneer filmmaker Raghupathy Prakash. Y.V.Rao acted as hero in many silent films made by R. Prakash and he also directed some. “Sati Sulochana” was his first talkie.
Rattihalli Nagendra Rao who played Ravana in Sati Sulochana. “The founding father of Kannada cinema was another legendary personality of Karnataka. A prominent theatre person he made his way to Bombay when movies began to talk in India in 1931 and acted in Raja Sandow’s films “Parijatha Pushpaharanam” (1932, as Narada). Kovalan (1933 as Kovalan) and “Ramadas” Telugu 1933 as Ramdas, all of them produced by the film pioneer Ardeshir Irani. Soon he made a mark in Kannada cinema not only as an actor but also as producer-director with his films “Jathaka Phala”(1953) and “Premada Putri”(1957).
During the period 1935-45 only 13 movies were produced in Kannada and for three years from 1938 no films was made. However during the lean period some significant movies were produced. “Samsara Nowka” (1936) was milestone movie in the history of South Indian Cinema. It was the first Kannada picture to have contemporary theme about ordinary mortals. In short it was the first ‘Social picture in Kannada’. Based on a highly successful Kannada play by the well known play-wright and theatre person H.L.N. Simha who directed the film, it was shot in Madras and had B.R. Panthulu and M.V. Rajamma in lead roles. Both beca me stars after the success of “Samsara Nowka” and they moved into Tamil Cinema where they enjoyed greater success. Panthulu emerged as a leading producer director with many memorable films in Tamil, Kannada and Hindi. “Samsara Nowka” was a box office success.
SADARAME, VASANTHASENA, were the two notable productions of the first decade of Kannada cinema, and in away they were the torch bearers of the trend of Kannada Cinema.
However the progress of Kannada cinema was slow. During its first 20 years less than 50 films were made mostly at Madras, and contentwise, mythology, folkmyth and fantasy dominated. Only occasionally contemporary themes were attempt to come to grips with social issues and problems affecting contemporary society and life.
The early stars of Kannada cinema also popular on stage were R. Nagendra Rao and M. V. subbaiah Naidu and acresses like Lakshmi Bai, Kamala Bai, B.Jayamma, Harini, Pratima Devi and Jayashree. Kemparaju Urs, belonging to the Mysore royal family was another popular hero who produced and directed films in Kannada and Tamil. C. Honna[[a Bhagavathar, a trained classical Carnatic musician also played lead roles in Kannada cinema but rather surprisingly he enjoyed better success in Tamil films.
Towards the late 1940’s D. Shankar Singh and B.Vittalacharya (later a successful trend-setting filmmaker in Telugu) emerged as a force and made films like “Naga Kannika” and “Jagan Mohini”.
In 1954 a struggling stage actor Singanallur Puttaswamaiah Muthuraj with a few minor roles in films to his credit made his debt in H.L.N. Simha’s successful film “Bedara Kannappa”. Over the years he rose to unprecedented heights of fame and became a living legend, and cult figure, an icon of Kannada Cinema. No other film person had enjoyed such popularity as this movie hero in this part of the country. His name Rajkumar works like magic in Karnataka. A phenomenon indeed. Over the last 40 years Rajkumar has acted in scores of pictures doing a variety of roles. One of his films “Bhangarada Manushya” (1972) established new box-office record in kannada cinema by running uninterruptedly for 75 weeks at a Bangalore city cinema.
Two other Kumars also became stars during the same period Kalyan Kumar and Udaya Kumar. Both played lead roles in several pictures with success. Kalyana Kumar acted in some Tamil films also.
Other actors who achieved stardom in Kannada cinema are Vishnuvardhan, Ravichandran, Ananth Nag, Shankar Nag, Ambarish, Srinath and Prabhakar. Shankar Nag revealed a versatile range of talents as actor filmmaker and creative person but sadly he died young 1990 in a tragic car accident. In his untimely death, Indain cinema lost a major talent.
Among the acresses of Kannada cinema who have made a mark as stars are M.V. Rajamma, Pandari Bai, B.Saroja Devi, Bharathi, Kalpana, Manjula, Jayanthi, Leelavathi, B.Jayamma, Harini, B.V.Radha, Arthi and Sandhya.
Interestingly many non Kannada actresses have made a mark in Kannada cinema.They include Sowkar Janaki, Raja Sulochana, Jamuna, Lakshmi, Saritha, Ambika, Radha and Padmapriya.
Kannada cinema has produced several directors over the last six decades and many of them attained great success. M.R. Vittal, Siddalingaiah, Shankar Singh, Y.R. Swami, T.V. Singh Takur, Hunsur Krishnamurthy, B.S. Ranga, Vijay Reddy, Ravi, Dorai-Bhagavan, Geethapriya, R . Ramamurthy, A.V. Seshagiri Rao, R .N. Jayagopal, N.Lakshmi Narayana and many others make up the list.
S.R. Puttanna Kanagal, is one of the few Kannada Filmakers whose works are known outside Karnataka. A strugguling stage actor he worked as an assistant director under B.R.Panthulu and surprisingly he got a break in Malayalam and Telugu cinema before he directed his first Kannada cinema “Belli Moda”, (1967).
“Belli Moda “was a major box-office success and launched the careers of Puttanna and Kalpana. The film was based on a popular novel by a well known Kannada writer Triveni. Her stories dealt with middle class woman her position in a tradition-bound male dominated society, her tribulations. After the success of his debut Puttanna made films taking his core story from novels and literary works of leading Kannada writers. Indeed he was the first Kannada filmmaker to give Kannada cinema touch of its own literature and this factor made him different from his fellow filmmakers. In Puttana’s celluloid creation one saw something of Karnataka, its culture, tradition, customs and people. This aspect of his cinema endeared him to the educated, the intelligentsia, and more discerning movie moviegoers of Karnataka. His films like “Gejje Pooje” (1970) “Shara Panjara” (1975), Nagara Havu (1972) are box-office hits hailed as classics of Kannada cinema. Puttanna directed films in Telugu, Malayalam, Tamil and Hindi too.
UP ON THE NATIONAL SCENE
In 1970 a new and significant development took place, the birth of parallel Kannada cinema. The film “Samskara: based on a novel by the Kannada writer U.R. Anantha Murthy and directed by Thikkavarapu Pattabhirama Reddy created sensation. It had no songs, no romantic duets and no fancy sets. The Kannada playwright and literary figure Girish Karnad wrote the screenplay and also played the lead role. Snehalatha Reddi, also acred in an important part.
The film ran into censorship problems and raised heated controversy. When released after much struggle it received wide attention in India and abroad, and won a National Award. “Samskara” initiated a new movement in Kannada cinema inspiring filmmakers like Girish Karnad, B.V. Karanth, G.V.Iyer, Girish Kasaravalli, Chandrashekar Kambara, P. Lankesh, T .S.Nagabharana, Bargur Ramachandrappa, M.S. Sathyu, N.Lakshminaryana and other to make off-beat films. Many of these efforts won awards and acclaim.
“Chomana Dhudi” (1975, B.V. Karanth), “Hamsa Geethe” (1975, G.V. Iyer), “Vamsa Vriksha” (1972 Girish Karnad and B.V. Karanth), “Ghata Shraddha” (1977, Girish Kasaravalli), “Ondanondu Kaladalli” (1978, Girish Karnad) “Abachurina Post Office (1973, N.L akshmi Narayana) Kaadu (1974, Girish Karnad), “Maadi Madidavaru” (1974, K .M.Shankarappa ) “ Kanneshwara Rama( 1977, M .S. Sathyu) “Chanda Maruth” (1977, Pattabhirama Reddy), (Muyyi” (1979, N. Lakshminarayana), “Ellindalo Bandavaru” (1980, P.Lankesh), Phaniyamma (1983, Prema Karanth), and such films won awards and high praise. [The Government of Karnataka played an instrumental and unique role in the growth of Kannada Cinema. For the first time in the country, the Karnataka State Govt. announced a scheme of subsidy to films that have been produced in Karnataka]
With the encouragement offered by the Karnataka State Government by way of subsidies, entertainment tax reliefs and other incentives the parallel Cinema movement became a feature the Kannada movie world. However it did not survive long. The films were technically poor, slow paced and only a section of the society patronised them. Besides over a period the films became repetitive and clicheridden. Initially such films were made in black and white on low-budgets and when colour became the order of the day making such films proved economically not viable and investors shied away gradually.
This dormant and influential industry has been dogged with many problems like the stiff competition from the neighbouring language films, video piracy, dubbing menace, lack of theatres lack of story lines, lack of actresses and plethora of other problems. It has also had to face acrimonious criticism from other quarters too. The critics who put forth their argument saying our culture, nativity, and nuance of the language has been spoilt by the medium of cinema had to bite their tongue by the impact of certain films and film personalities, both of which are in their own right are the harbingers of goodness and protectors of this great kannada samskruthi.
Interestingly Kannada cinema during the last decade has been riding on a new high and the stupendous success of certain films has both upheld the quality and content of Kannada cinema. Now is the time for this vibrant industry to open up to the new breeze.
The Phenomenal success of some films like MUNGARU MALE, JANUMADA JODI, JOGI, DUNIYA to name a few have uprooted the sarcastic criticism and have proven that there is no dearth of talent and original film makers in Kannada film land. In fact the films like AMERICA AMERICA, CHELUVINA CHITTARA, GAALIPATA, ARAMANE and many pictures of the same genre have not only created ripples in box office collections but have been succeeded in attracting viewers, who hitherto scorned the Kannada Cinema.
The new breed of directors which include PREM, YOGARAJ BHAT, SOORI, PRAKASH, NAGENDRA PRASAD, DWARKI, RATNAJA, M.D. SHRIDHAR, DINAKAR, CHAITANYA and others have enriched the Kannada tinsel world with their varied talents and creative geniuses.
Master KISHAN, the kid director who directed the film CARE OFF FOOTPATH has entered into the world of Guinness Records as the youngest film director in the world.
The Kannada film industry which has traversed these long years has all the promises in store to become one of the best creative industry..