Kannada cinema

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Kannada cinema
PVR cinema bangalore.jpg
PVR cinemas in Bangalore
No. of screens950[1][2]
 • 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)[3]

Kannada cinema, also known as Sandalwood or Chandanavana,[4] is the segment of Indian cinema[5] dedicated to the production of motion pictures in the Kannada language widely spoken in the state of Karnataka.[6][7][8] The 1934 film Sati Sulochana directed by Y. V. Rao was the first talkie film in the Kannada language.[9][10][11] It was also the first film starring Subbaiah Naidu and Tripuramba, and was the first motion picture screened in the erstwhile Mysore Kingdom.[12] The film was produced by Chamanlal Doongaji, who in 1932 founded South India Movietone in Bangalore.[13][14]

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,[15] and T. S. Nagabharana's Mysuru Mallige (based on the works of acclaimed poet K. S. Narasimhaswamy).[16]

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,[17] Dweepa (2002), which won Best Film at Moscow International Film Festival,[18][19] 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),[20][21] which became the first Kannada language film to have grossed ₹250 crores worldwide at the box office.[22]


Early history[edit]

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

In 1934, the first Kannada talkie, Sati Sulochana,[23] 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.[24]

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.[24] B. S. Ranga was an Indian photographer, actor, writer, producer and director made many landmark movies in Kannada, under Vikram Studios.[25]


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.[26]

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.[26]

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.[27] He is the younger brother of actor Anant Nag.[28][29] 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.[30]

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.[31]

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".[32] He also earned the nickname Mandyada Gandu (English: Man of Mandya)[33]

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.[34][35] She is known by the epithets "Abinaya Saraswathi" (Saraswathi of acting) in Kannada and "Kannadathu Paingili" (Kannada's Parrot) in Tamil.[35]

Neo-realistic cinema[edit]

Kannada Cinema majorly contributed to the Parallel Cinema movement of India.[36] Directors like Girish Kasaravalli,[36] Girish Karnad,[37] G. V. Iyer[37] were the early names to join the movement. T. S. Nagabharana[38] 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).[39] 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.[40] Veteran Kannada actor Shakti Prasad's son Arjun Sarja is known for his work in South Indian cinema.[41] 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.[42]

Sanchari Vijay's portrayal of a transgender won him the National Best Actor Award.[43][44][45] 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.[46]

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.[47]

Rockline Venkatesh founded Rockline Entertainments which has produced over twenty five films as of 2012.[48] New age actors Puneeth Rajkumar, Rakshith Shetty and Sudeep are some of the highest paid actors in Sandalwood.[49][50][51] The Rakshith Shetty starrer Kirik Party went on to become one of the highest-grossing Kannada films by collecting ₹ 50 crores[52] against a production budget ₹ 4 crores[53] and completed 150 days in the main cities of Karnataka.[54]

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 153 million views on YouTube as of January 2021.[55][56]

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.[57][58]

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.[59] 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.[60]

Film Institutions[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.[61]

Filmmaking Studios[edit]

Visual Effects and Animation Studios[edit]

  • PinakinFX
  • Unifi Media
  • Pinaka Studios



  • 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.[62]
  • The 1989 movie Idu Saadhya created a record by becoming the first Indian movie to be shot within a span of 36 hours.[63]
  • 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.[64]


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 awards[edit]

Karnataka Chalanachitra Kalavidara Sangha in Chamrajapet

State film festivals[edit]

Other awards[edit]

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)


2 Kurukshetra 2019 Naganna Vrushabhadri Productions 90 crore (US$13 million) [67]
3 Raajakumara 2017 Santhosh Ananddram Hombale Films 75 crore (US$11 million) [68]
4 The Villain 2018 Prem Thanvi Shanvi Films 60 crore (US$8.4 million) [69]
5 Pailwan 2019 S. Krishna RRR Motion Pictures 53 crore (US$7.4 million) [70]
6 Avane Srimannarayana 2019 Sachin Ravi Pushkar Films, Paramvah Studios and Sri Devi Entertainers 50 crore (US$7.0 million) [71]
7 Yajamana 2019 Pon Kumaran and V. Harikrishna Media House Studio 50 crore (US$7.0 million) [72]
8 Kirik Party 2016 Rishab Shetty Paramvah Studios 50 crore (US$7.0 million) [73]
9 Mr. and Mrs. Ramachari 2014 Santhosh Ananddram Jayanna Combines 50 crore (US$7.0 million) [74]
10 Mungaru Male 2006 Yograj Bhat E. K. Entertainers 50 crore (US$7.0 million) [75][76]
11 Doddmane Hudga 2016 Duniya Soori Ajay Pictures 40 crore (US$5.6 million) [77]
12 Uppi 2 2015 Upendra Upendra Productions 40 crore (US$5.6 million) [78]
13 Krantiveera Sangolli Rayanna 2012 Naganna Sri Sangolli Rayanna Cine Combines 40 crore (US$5.6 million) [79][80]

See also[edit]


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External links[edit]