Voices Monday, July 13, 2015 - 05:30
  Friday saw the release of the SS Raja Mouli’s epic movie, Baahubali. Meanwhile on twitter, #Kannada and #Removedubbingban were trending. What was the common link between all three? While Baahubali, released in four languages, Tamil, Telugu, Hindi and Malayalam on Friday, most Kannadigas were deprived of watching the epic movie in their mother tongue, leading to #Removedubbingban doing the rounds on Twitter. The issue of ban on dubbing is one that has plagued the Kannada film industry, more popularly known as Sandalwood, for long. In January 2014, many from Sandalwood, from spot boys, technicians to superstars like Shivraj Kumar and Ganesh held a massive rally in the capital against dubbing. The rally, which was also supported by several pro-Kannada organisations, termed dubbing as the biggest reason for Kannadigas not watching Kannada films and just choosing to watch other language films dubbed to Kannada. The protesters also claimed that dubbing was taking away the livelihood of many in the industry. While the ban is an unofficial one, only put forth by organisations like Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce and other unions, since it has been in place for over 50 years now, it has almost attained official status. With most movies being made or dubbed regularly in at least three languages now, most Kannadigas feel that by not allowing the same to be dubbed in Kannada is against their freedom of expression. And they might have a point too, as many say that the ban has no legal or constitutional holding. The producers of Sandalwood too, for financial reasons, have been clamouring for removal of the ban.  A more serious issue is being conveniently ignored by those who are opposing this dubbing. And that is the real issue that these people need to address if they have to save the Kannada film industry. The last couple of decades have seen a steep decline of the Kannada film industry. The quality of movies has been so rapidly deteriorating that most Kannadigas haven’t seen a Kannada movie in years. Since the late 90s, there are just a handful of movies made that most Kannadigas would feel comfortable watching with their families. With the exception of a smattering collection, like Aa Dinagalu, Lucia and Ulta Pulta, hardly any productions can be called wholesome entertainers.  The problems pestering the industry are numerous, their reasons deep rooted. While finance is not much of a problem, the source of it is. In the last few years, the thin line between a producer and financer has been virtually erased and the roles have been fused. And this has given complete control to people who have no inkling of cinema-making. When real estate agents, wine barons and builders become producers and dictate the direction in which the films are to be made, then the industry is bound to flounder.  A quick look at the movies made will make a few things clear about Sandalwood- most movies have a flimsy story line, if any, sub-standard actors, jarring cinematography, and to top it all, vulgar display of skin and boorish dialogues. Actors are not selected based on their merit but on how ‘accommodating’ they are with the producers. While most producers don’t baulk at paying actresses like Mallika Sherawat and Rakhi Sawanth an arm and a leg to just star in an ïtem song’ or get the entire crew to trot the globe to shoot just a 4-minute song, they become frugal when they have to invest in good talent.  Dearth of talent can just not pass off as the reason for shoddy state that the Kannada film industry is in. The state has given the country some of the best known names in Indian cinema- Saroja Devi to Deepika Padukone, Prakash Raj to Rajnikanth, Ramesh Aravind to Guru Dutt- all are natives of Karnataka. And due to either the conditions here or for better opportunities they have migrated to other states and struck gold. That apart, in its nascent stage, the industry has produced some revolutionary and path breaking works and at one time was considered one of the hubs for parallel cinema. While Girish Karnad and Girish Kasaravalli spearheaded the movement, others like BV Karanth, MS Sathyu too made strides in placing Kannada parallel films on par with some of the best in the country. Then came a time when even commercial films were influenced by the parallel movement and became more story-oriented and very close to realism, although not sans the success at the box office. Shankar Nag and Puttana Kangal were stalwarts of that bygone era who managed to strike the right chord between commercial and meaningful films.  But what went so wrong in the last two decades that today the Kannada film industry has failed to even win the loyalty of Kannadigas, let alone be a pioneer in the country. While it is easy to blame it on the cosmopolitan nature of the state, especially the capital and the humongous success of film industries in the neighbouring states, the issue at the core of it is the quality of what’s being offered to the audiences. While the industry has been lobbying for more benefits like subsidies, waiver of taxes and ban on dubbing, maybe a more productive approach would be to introspect and try to regain the lost glory of the Kannada industry to make the audience flock to them, and not deprive them of choices and thus force them to watch Kannada movies. Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this articles are the personal opinions of the author. The News Minute is not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, suitability or validity of any information in this article. The information, facts or opinions appearing in this article do not reflect the views of The News Minute and The News Minute does not assume any liability for the same.  
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