A suspense thriller, Rangi Taranga hit the screens in Sandalwood on July 3rd 2015. The movie was rated 9.5/10 by the movie reviewing website IMDb (Internet Movie Database) and received highly positive reviews from those who watched it. Directed by debutant director Anup Bhandari, with cinematography by Lance Kaplan and William David, who have worked for many Hollywood movies, the cinema attracted the audience just through the word of mouth, in the absence of positive media reviews.
However, the theatres in Bengaluru ousted the movie with the release of multi-language film Bahubali. The movie was not given enough shows, and display of film posters was not allowed in some multiplexes and theatres.
This sparked a controversy. The reluctance to offer theatres to the movie evoked a critical response from many quarters, and the debate on the nature of Kannada movie market resurrected again. Many audience who were impressed by the cinema even vented their ire against the industry through social media and blogposts. One such fan wrote a blogpost where he said:
Anup, Please go back to USA, go back to making Hollywood short movies and winning awards. Kannada Movies are not for you, Yes you heard it right ‘not for you!’ May be even consider moving to Mumbai, Chennai or Hyderabad, but don’t be in Bengaluru. Kannada Film Industry doesn’t deserve you…
Kannada Film Industry is run by bunch of hypocrites, No one’s worried about Kannada, it’s all business. How would you expect such low IQ people to understand the meaning of Passion, determination and love for the Language?….
Think about this: A good Kannada Cinema which had houseful shows despite of having off timings in the first week gets 3 screens and Bahubali, a Telugu cinema gets 209 screens. Are we really in Bengaluru ?
However, the outbursts of fans on social media made way for a positive outcome. As the audience started turning up for RangiTaranga, it was given more shows in multiplexes and theatres, and continues to be screened in prominent theatres.
In the backdrop of the controversy surrounding the release of ‘RangiTaranga,’ Citizen Matters tried to find out what this new brigade of creative directors think about Kannada film industry, movie making, challenges they face, movie reviews, expectations from audience etc. Do they, at any point get frustrated with the industry and lose their hopes? What are their aspirations and how do they intend to reach larger audience for their cinema?
Audience opening up?
Be it ‘Lucia’ fame Pawan Kumar, or ‘Ulidavaru Kandanthe’s Rakshit Shetty, or the latest entry into the club Anup Bhandari, they all concede that it is not at all an easy job to do original script-based movies and prosper in this industry. However, initial apprehension apart, the kind of support they have garnered from the audience for their movies, has made them continue their journey.
Anup Bhandari who has been hailed for making a technically strong movie with equally strong, original story ‘RangiTaranaga’ says that he made the movie with the sole intention to offer a good cinema experience to the audience and bring back a section of audience who have stayed away from theatres due to lack of quality cinema. The movie which had not created a buzz pre-release, did not attract audience on the first two days. That is when Anup thanks the social media users for spreading the word of appreciation which drew an increasing number of audience to the theatres in the following weeks.
“With one movie in hand, I have realised that we had underestimated our audience. Their support proved that there are hidden audience to good cinemas in Kannada. Onus is on the film industry to come up with good movies,” he says.
When there’s no producer, raise the funds from the audience!
Pawan Kumar who had created a new wave by making an unconventional movie ‘Lucia’ in 2013, is now working on his third movie. He made an experiment not only in the making of cinema, but also in its production. Eventhough he was one-movie old while working on Project Lucia, he did not find a producer for the second time. It lead him to pitch in the idea of crowdfunding. (It can be recalled that Citizen Matters had supported this initiative.)
Thus, with Rs 50 lakh budget in hand, the first Kannada crowd funded movie was made. “The movie had created a hype even before its release. “Since we did not have a mega star or commercial aspects in Lucia, we had to look for alternative ways to create hype and it succeeded,” says Pawan while explaining how the movie grabbed the attention.
He goes on to say that amidst mindless entertainment, a bit of art is happening and there is a section of people who appreciate such an art form. “We should earn those audience, specially youngsters,” he reflects.
Yet another director Rakshit Shetty, who was hailed for his directorial debut ‘Ulidavaru Kandanthe’ and had undergone a troubled phase after the release of his movie, too sees a potential for larger audience for qualitative Kannada films.
“Good movies produced in 1980’s and 90’s were watched and liked by vast audience. Unfortunately, we have lost that section of audience who have gradually stopped visiting theatres to watch Kannada cinema. Following the release of Ulidavaru Kandanthe, the kind of appreciation that I received from audience and the industry, has rekindled my hope of bringing the lost audience back into the fold of theatres,” he says.
Challenges? Oh, they have it in plenty!
While the spirit of these youngsters is high, what is that makes the process of making and releasing a movie difficult? Pawan Kumar, even after the success of ‘Lucia,’ has relied on crowdfunding option for his third movie ‘C10H14N2.’ Explaining the challenges faced by a creative director in the industry, he says it is very difficult to find a producer for a good script. “But then, you cannot even blame a producer, because at the end of the day they have to look for their profit. When there is no guarantee of audience turn up for a quality movie, how can we expect producers to vouch on us?” he asks.
Having found an alternative production method in the form of crowdfunding, Pawan Kumar says crowdfunding has its own merits and demerits. “While it reduces the financial burden through shared profit and shared loss basis, as a director, it makes me more accountable to all those who have funded the movie. Crowdfunding demands rigorous marketing by the director. It is not at all easy and it may not work for everyone,” he clarifies.
‘Choosing a right producer is a challenge’
Rakshit Shetty considers it a matter of luck for a creative director to find a like-minded producer. “A few producers agree to invest on a movie without even reading the story/script, but at one point when they realise that the movie is not completely commercial, they try to pressurise the director. Then the hapless director unwillingly compromises in the production. That being said, there are also handful of producers who keep faith in the director and do not interfere in the work,” Shetty says.
He adds that choosing a right producer (if there are producers who are ready to invest at all) is one of the major challenges for a director. “In the current scenario, a producer does not invest anything more than Rs 1 crore on a film by a new director who aspires to do experimental cinema. In fact to reduce the burden, most of the new directors work without any fee.”
Apart from the problem in finding a producer, Anup Bhandari shares the lessons he learnt through his own movie. “Movies of creative directors have to strive against star movies, films from other languages. Complete commercial movies grab all the shows, while a movie like RangiTaranga can get maximum 35 shows in multiplexes, despite the audience demand. I don’t see the same happening in other language film industries,” he says.
‘There was never an audience for content-driven cinema’
Director B M Giriraj who has been credited for giving sensible movies like ‘Jatta’ and ‘Mythri’ defers from the views of his counterparts on their aspiration to bring back the ‘lost audience’ of Kannada cinemas. “We cannot earn back the audience for good cinemas, because there were no audience for quality cinemas in Kannada even during the time of Puttanna Kanagal. The audience who have watched movies like ‘Ulidavaru Kandanthe’ ‘Mythri’ and ‘RangiTaranga’ are not reliable audience. They are not the audience who will pre-book the show even before the release of an experimental movie. They decide to come to theatres only after the first week of the release and not the one who will wait for our movies,” Giriraj argues.
He says that the minority group of audience who watch good movies do not play a decisive factor. “Even after having made four films, I find it difficult to get a producer who will come forward to invest on my movie.”
It is at this point, Giriraj says why creative directors take long gaps between the first and second movie. “Having realised that there are no takers for offbeat cinemas, I am now trying to do movies with good concept but in commercial style. Perhaps, that is the only way to reach the audience and convey them what we want to. ‘Thundhaikla Sahavasa’ is one such movie with commercial touch that I am working on at present,” he says.
Review v/s social media
This new breed of directors owes a lot to social media for helping them to reach out to audience. They use social media as a parallel tool to spread the word. While talking about movie reviews, Rakshit Shetty feels the need for standard Kannada movie reviewers. Most of the reviewers except one or two should attend film appreciation and criticism courses, he says. “They should understand what a good movie is and know the difference between good and bad movies. As a director I have survived in this industry because of social media,” he admits.
Anup Bhandari who too has experienced the same says that, while the media reviews negated ‘RangiTaranga,’ audience appreciated his work on social media. “I can take it if a reviewer criticises my movie for its actual loopholes, but writing negatively about the cinematography and background score, which was of high standard, is something that I do not agree with. On the contrary, the movie received immense support on social media,” Bhandari explains.
“Apart from two or three qualified reviewers, we lack the standard reviewing. It is perhaps because of the generation gap between the reviewers and the kind of movies that are made today,” opines Pawan.
Yet, they are all hopeful
With all ups and downs, these directors are extremely hopeful that their movies will be accepted by the audience and there will be enough space for good Kannada movies. “If a handful of creative directors can make quality movies keeping commercial content too in mind, and contribute at least 15-20 good movies a year, it can help to revive the lost audience for Kannada film industry. With the kind of emerging directors that we have today and the support that they have been receiving, I see it happen in another five years,” says Rakshit Shetty.
He also emphasises on the need for an increase in number of multiplexes and revival of local theatres with better sound system and projectors to draw audience back to the cinemas.
Giriraj says that his love for cinema and Kannada will not stop him from making good movies. “We are all doing good movies and will continue to do. I hope someday audience will open up to understand these movies,” he notes.
Recalling the moment when he once thought of not doing a Kannada cinema again, soon after the release of RangiTaranga, Anup says he was indeed disappointed. “But now, looking at the audience response, I am quite satisfied and I am working on the second project,” he says.
For Pawan, his frustration inspires him to do more good movies. “It is a constant process and I will continue to do my job irrespective of the disappointment,” he signs off.
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