Movie business is a fairly competitive market, with multiple filmmakers in various languages trying to grab the audience’s attention. In Karnataka, big budget pan-India releases are proving to be a tough competition movies made in Kannada. Sandalwood cinema’s box office run is being affected by the pan-India movies that are getting an increased share in screen count and ticket revenue.
What is a pan-India Movie?
A movie that is made in one language but dubbed in various languages (usually 5 languages) to reach the viewers of the respective state is termed as a pan-India film. The making of such movies is are usually on a huge scale and the makers release them in maximum number of theaters across states.
Let’s take the example of the largest pan-India movie of our times: Baahubali. The Telugu original movie was dubbed into several languages, but it was released in Telugu in Karnataka. Karnataka has a large viewership for Telugu cinema. So a Telugu original movie will play on par or at times even larger than a Kannada movie here. When a big movie like Baahubali released in large number of theaters across Karnataka, several Kannada movies put their release dates on hold.
Seeing a theatrical release and having a box office win is still a big challenge for Kannada cine industry as pan-India movies occupy several theaters for a long time (sometimes weeks altogether like Baahubali). During this period, no other Kannada movie is able to draw a large crowd.
Pushpa is another movie that was widely promoted in Karnataka. Initially, the team said they will release the Kannada dubbed version of Pushpa in Karnataka, but they backed out last minute. All the theaters where Pushpa was released in Karnataka, screened the original Telugu version. Kannada movies who were planning a release, though lesser in number at that point of time, backed out since major theaters were booked by Pushpa. Given the Covid restrictions still in place with respect to cinema halls (50% occupancy) in Karnataka, releasing a movie in theaters is a huge risk for Kannada movies even now.
Trade experts suspect Pushpa producers saw the performance of Akhanda in Karnataka and took the non-risky path. Nandamuri Balakrishna’s Akhanda, released in Karnataka in Telugu, made Rs 12 to 15 crore in the state. Hence, instead of taking chances by releasing the dubbed version, Pushpa makers went for the Telugu version alone and won. This is said to have been a last minute decision by the team, to not release the Kannada version.
We can recall SS Rajamouli’s words here, “Pan India itself is a brand, no need of promoting it big." Any movie that is termed as pan-Indian has a different way of promoting itself. The promotion battle is half won with the term ‘pan-India’, according to the ace filmmaker.
Karnataka has around 600 theaters. If any pan-India movie arrives, the makers grab 300 to 400 theaters for the release which is a big blow for Kannada movie makers. If 3-4 pan-India movies are released in a year, Kannada movies will have no option but to put things on hold leading to huge loss.
Now with RRR on the way, no big movies will release on and around its release date. It’s a huge risk for any Kannada movie planning to release at the same time. One because theaters won’t be available for them to book. Secondly, even if someone dares to just release the movie in the lesser number of theaters available at that point of time, the audience will obviously go towards the richly made pan-India flick rather than the Kannada ones. So it’s a loss altogether.
Looking at all these developments, Kannada movie makers have zeroed in on a solution for the pan-India menace. They have decided to make pan India movies here so that they can spread their wings across borders. KGF, the first successful pan India movie from Karnataka, showed them how it is done.
Jaggesh starrer Totapuri, termed as the first comedy pan-India movie, is in the making. The makers have decided to dub the flick in Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam and Hindi. Prajwal Devaraj starrer ‘Mafia’ and another unnamed flick by Shivarajkumar, which was announced recently, have joined the pan-India bandwagon.
Shivarajkumar’s movie will be directed by R Jai and is said to have an underworld story told in retro style. But the smaller movies suffer a lot since they don’t have stars or the budget required to compete. If the above three movies succeed, a new league will show the way for Kannada cinema to survive.