Tulu film industry riding high

Ever since the first Tulu film was produced in 1971, 63 films have been released and 10 of them were released in 2015!

At a time when many film producers / actors are struggling to survive and even the best films fail to cross 50-day mark, a Tulu film has managed to complete 430 days in Mangaluru and still continues to run, an unprecedented success, as far as a Tulu movie is concerned (or perhaps any language movie is concerned with exceptions like Sholay in Hindi starring Amitab Bachchan).

Produced by Prakash Pandeshwar under the banner Jayakirana Films and directed by Veerendra Shetty Kavoor, a novice, the movie Chaalipolilu (Rascals), a family entertainer which was completed with an investment of about Rs 60 lakhs has already collected a couple of crores at the box office.

The team has shown that there are viewers for Tulu movies too.

In fact, Chaalipolilu is the 52nd Tulu film to be produced in the history of Tulu film industry, starting from the first Tulu film Enna Thangadi (1971), produced by a non-Tuluva (S R Rajan, a Tamilian from Chennai).

Quite interestingly, Tulu film industry, like any other film industry, has seen many ups and downs right from its infancy days in the 1970s.

Ever since the first Tulu film was released in 1971, 63 films have been released and 10 of them were released in 2015!

They include: Soombe, Yekka Saka, Dand, Oriyan Thunda Oriyag Aapuji, Super Marmaye, Chandi Kori, Right Bokka Left, Ice Cream, Yeregla Panodchi and Dhaniklena Jokulu.

“You simply can’t compare or imagine those days,” recalls Dr P Sanjeev Dandakeri, an Ayurvedic doctor by profession, who had produced two evergreen movies (Bayya Mallige (Evening Jasmine) in 1974 and Bolli Thota (Silver Garden) in 1977 and written 26 plays. “We had to go to Madras for everything, right from registration in the chamber to even get one role, leave alone the Censor Board, as no facilities were available in Bangalore then,” he said.

Dr Dandakeri, who remembers even the money he spent on films (Rs 2,64,500 for Bayya Mallige and Rs 1,05,000 for Bolli Thota), said that he had paid only Rs 3,000 each to lead actress Jayamala (former president of Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce and now sitting MLC), and Pandaribai (Kannada actress) for their acting in the movie. “These days actors have to be paid anywhere between Rs 5 lakh and Rs 10 lakh besides flight tickets and accommodation in star hotels,” he said.

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All the five songs of Bayya Mallige are still the favourite of many, even after 40 years. They include Brahmana Baravu (writing of Lord), Appe Manas Bangara (mother’s mind is like gold), Tuluvere Ponnu (Tuluva girl), Irlda Piravud (behind the dark) and Dingri Mama.

On the other hand, actress Jayamala began her career in Tulu films. “I had gone to watch a play with my sister when film director Geetha Priya saw me and insisted that I act in his film. As I was just 13 years old then I could not take any decision. Since my sister and parents agreed, I acted in the Tulu film Kaasdaye Kandani (Rich Husband). This was followed by three more Tulu movies Yaan Sanyasi Aaape (I will become a monk), Yer Malthina Thappu (Who did the mischief?) and Bayya Mallige (Evening Jasmine). “Before I completed my SSLC, I had acted in six films” (two others were Kannada films Bhoothayyana Maga Aiyyu and Yaaru Hithavaru).

“But for my acting in Tulu films, I would have not been an actress today,” she said and added that she never realised the importance of acting when she acted in Tulu films, but now feels proud that she was part of Tulu cinema in the initial days of Tulu films.

Kulal real hero...?

One of the USPs of Tulu films in the past was the music in the Tulu films and their lyrics. One of the prominent lyricists is M K Seetharam Kulal, former president of Karnataka Tulu Sahithya Academy, who had penned lyrics for most of the early Tulu movies.

Be it Mokeda Singari (Pagetha Puge in 1972), Saaro varsala sukane padela (Udalda Tudar in1973), Appe Manas Bangara and Brahmana baravu majande ponda (both from Bayya Mallige in 1974), and Parashuramana kudarig puttina tulunaad (Bolli Dota in 1977) among others.

What is unique about Kulal is that till date, he has not taken even a single penny for writing lyrics to any Tulu movie or plays. “Recently, a youth had come to pay me money for writing lyrics for two songs and I humbly refused to accept, saying that I consider it as a service to Tulu,” says a humble Kulal. Most of the songs penned by Kulal have been evergreen. “If anybody was in a hurry, I refuse to accept the invitation. However, if somebody has time, then I study the script and pen down lyrics which are suitable to the movie and situation,” he said and rued that the present generation cinema songs have little space for literature in songs.

“Those days, literature was given top priority while these days heavy music has taken over, leaving little room for literature,” he quipped.

If Kulal had penned the songs, they were sung by none other than the stalwarts such as P B Srinivas, S P Balasubramaniam and S Janaki.

Koti Chennayya

Any discussion on Tulu films is not complete without the mention of Koti-Chennayya (1973), produced by Muddu Suvarna and directed by Vishu Kumar. It is also the first Tulu movie to run for 100 days. The film with a strong storyline of the twin heroes of Tulunadu -- Koti and Chennayya-- who lived between 1556 and 1591, had excellent songs too. While one of them (Ekka Saka) was written by former vice-chancellor of KSOU Prof B A Vivek Rai, another (Jodu Nanda Deepa) was penned by well-known literary figure Prof Amruth Someshwar.

Bhishma of Tulu films, K N Tailor is one name which figures prominently among Tulu films as he was associated (produced / acted / scripted) with 10 Tulu films out of the first 15 films. There was a time when Tulu films meant K N Tailor and vice versa. Be it Tulu plays or Tulu films, his name was associated with almost every movie / play those days, recalled T A Srinivas, who was the only distributor for movies in Mangalore then. Incidentally, Srinivas started Chitrabharathi in the same year (1970) when the first Tulu film Enna Thangadi was produced by S R Rajan.

“Though the first Tulu film Enna Thangadi (My Sister) was technically a bad film (you could hear the sound of clap much after the clap and there was no synchronisation for action and speech), the credit of producing the first Tulu film goes to him.

Recalling that the third important person in the district during those days was a theatre owner after the Collector (now deputy commissioner) and superintendent of police, his eyes shine when he recalled those days of producing the movie and running a show in the theatre. “All that glory has lost now,” he said and added that these days even a theatre owner can run the show as all one has to do is “pay money and press the button.”

Srinivas, who still believes that a good movie can be produced with less than Rs 50 lakh, quipped at those who spend crores to produce a movie.

On the other hand, he said that there was a time when theatre owners were thinking twice before giving green signal to show a Tulu movie, wherein now theatres are waiting to screen a Tulu movie.

The credit for introducing Ram Shetty (stunt director) and Sadashiv Salian too goes to Srinivas in Bhagyavanthedi (Lucky lady) in 1981. He had also produced another movie Badkada Bile (1984) with actress Tara in the lead role.

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Tulu movies have not lagged behind in awards. Right from Bisatti Babu (Knife Babu) produced in 1972 which won the Best Tulu film by the State government to Suddha (The cleansing rites) (2006), which won the Best Film award in the Indian competition section at the Osian’s Cinefan festival of Asian and Arab cinema held in New Delhi in 2006, many Tulu films have won awards.

New wave

The second phase of Tulu cinema began with Richard Castelino, when his movie Bangar Patler (Gold-hearted Patel), produced in 1993 and starring Sudha Rani and Kasargod Chinna, bagged the highest national (President’s medal) and international awards including for Best Regional Film and State government’s Best film. It was also selected to be screened at Cannes, Cairo, Hong Kong and Kolkata film festivals that year.

His another film September 8 (1994) featuring Kannada actor Sunil and litterateur Dr Shivram Karanth was shot in 24 hours (from 6 am to next morning 5 am on September 8, 1994) entirely in Mangalore, perhaps a record in the world cinema (with the help of nine cameras with nine units).

Though a few Tulu films were produced between 1994 and 2011, they failed to make any impact until the then popular Tulu play Oriyardori Asal (One is better than the other) in 2011 by Vijaykumar Kodialbail was made into a film.

The film starring Tulu stage actors Naveen D Padil, Arvind Bolar and Rekha Das was a runaway success (the play had completed more than 300 shows then).

The latest film Chaalipolilu has broken all records in Tulu film industry (Chandi Kori, another Tulu movie completed 100 days on January 2 and is still running) and has been creating new records. The box-office success of these films augur well for Tulu film industry.

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